These are the candid stories behind each of the images that appear in the limited edition 2019 calendar:The calendar cover features this capture by fellow Hong Kong photographer Vic Ma on his trusty Leica as I bolted from the starting line of the Oxfam Trailwalker in 2015. I was trying to stay ahead of Ras Kubir from the Nepalese team AWOO so I could get a shot. If I recall correctly, I turned to shout at him “this is a 100km race not a 100 metre race!” as he was going way too fast and getting carried away. There is actually a deeper meaning & sentiment to this photo as just behind Ras is Saman Gunan who died earlier this year while trying to rescue the schoolchildren in Thailand who were trapped in a cave. Saman often sent encouraging messages in support of my work & is dearly missed.As part of the ‘Blurring the Lines’ project where I blended styles of fashion and sports/art, I photographed talented Taiwanese dancer Chen Fang Wu in Sheung Wan. This is one of my favourite images as it shows her athleticism against a gritty urban backdrop. I shot this on with a Sigma 35mm at f1.8 in low light with no flash or other artificial light sources so it was a tricky shot to nail as Fang moved at speed.Aside from one year when I needed to be with family, I have photographed the Hong Kong 4 Trails Ultra Challenge every year since it started. It’s a privilege to volunteer my time for this old school event that is a rare breath of fresh air keepng true to it’s DNA of being uncluttered by commercialism. It is also without doubt one of the toughest events that I cover. Not only on a physical level as I follow those who take on the challenge over 3 days but also on a creative level as I shoot day and night through fatigue and logistical challenges over a 298m course. I have shot hundreds, if not thousands of images of this event over the years & this is my favourite shot. It is not how I would want it technically but it ws a pure instinctive response shot as I flicked the camera around at this moment with no time for adjusting settings. Capturing 4 Trails founder and friend Andre Blumberg celebrating in customary manner with champagne as Tom Robertshaw reached the green post box in Mui Wo & completing the challenge in 2017 under 60 hours. The pent up mixed emotions of joy & frustration that Andre & his wife Paper (in the background with camera) had dealt with over the course of the challenge come through this image as he was also running a nasty cold (but told nobody else about it) plus making sure the event ran well & all are safe. These emotions surfaced just as the champagne sprayed out of the bottle. I got absolutely covered in champagne as well but totally worth it for a shot like this.Martin Gaffuri on Mt Kinabalu [4,095m] – a shot from the Scott Kinabalu collection advertisement campaign during March 2017. After 5 days of shooting images for Scott on lower Kinabalu terrain where the weather was just not playing ball with low visibility and heavy rain, it was with a heavy heart (and a twisted ankle) that we made a push for the summit of Kinabalu. We (Ruth Croft & Martin Gafffuri) were desperately hoping that the weather would break and enable us to get the shots that we wanted so badly. We had no spare days to shoot. It was now or never. We started climbing at 3am to reach the summit by sunrise. It was a clear night & finally this bode well for a favourable sunrise. We waited in the dark and cold wind on the summit for the sun to break. As the sun rose and the spectacular colours from the valleys below revealed themselves, I couldn’t contain the relief & excitement at the sweet palette that I was finally going to work with and started capturing images like this that was one of the first fruits. I still feel utter relief & a buzz when I see this shot & other captures from the summit that morning.I shot this while on assignment for Scott Sports as one of the runners made his way up to the iconic Sancti Spiritu ridge that is about half way through the Zegama 2018 race in the Basque region of Northern Spain. I’ve been to more than my fair share of races around the world & this was on another level. If you love mountain running then you must go to Zegama. The people in this crowd had climbed to this point to cheer runners. But this was beyond cheering. This is what I imagine the mountain running version of the Tour de France to be like. Unbridled, raw energy from spectators where runners experience people screaming just inches from their face. Of all the shots I took during Zegama 2018, this is my favourite as it gives a sense of how the runners were outnumbered and the close proximity between crowd & runners.It is fair to say that I have shot quite a number of images of Mira Rai but this is the one she likes the most. I had this printed and mounted and gave it to her for her birthday 2 years ago & now this image hangs in her home in the mountains of Bhojpur. Taken in the mountains of Yading in south-western China at the end of 2015, I was chuffed with this as the wind was blowing madly and the prayer flags were flapping violently, so to be able to have a tidy framing with Mira in full flight was a good result.This shot I captured of John Ellis finishing the 9 Dragons Races in 2018 & claiming a hard fought victory is the one I chose to release first to the media rather than the predictable shot with John crossing the finishing line on his own. When you are dedicated to a craft whether it be running, or in my case photography, that requires countless hours of dedication & grafting, day & night, to achieve your goals then it is also those closest to you who sacrifice much & are key to whether you succeed or not. Hats off to all the families who may not be seen yet share every step of the journey.Every now & then you do a shoot where your gut tells you that something special is unfolding even before you check the LCD. This shot in Hong Kong in 2017 was one of those times where it all just flowed & clicked on creative & practical levels with Ruth Croft.This was another case of making the most out of what you have. I was pretty pissed off at the start of the UTMB 2017 race as I was only issued a media pass that unlike other photographers, gave limited access, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to join other media comfortably waiting in the finishing line zone with long lenses to capture that finishing line shot. Before UTMB started, I recall going to collect my media pass in Chamonix & watched as other photographers were guided to another area of the pass issue zone while I picked up my pass in a separate area. An oversight by a client or organiser? Who knows and it doesn’t really matter as you just get on with it & like so many aspects of life & shooting, if you are willing to graft hard then you can make things work in spite of these circumstances. I covered more ground running by foot & car than probably any other shooter out there as I followed the front runners and shot the race as it unfolded. As the race approached the finishing line in Chamonix, I crawled though an opening in the crowd & barriers to take this shot of Tim Tollefson as he saw his friend Jorge Maravilla in the last stretch. The raw unbridled joy captured here may not have been possible at the finishing line where many cameras awaited & possibility of a higher degree of self awareness.This capture is of Stone Tsang as he crested the climb under the Matterhorn as part of the 100 mile Ultra Trail Monte Rosa race in 2017 that he went on to win. It was one of those rare occasions when the weather, clouds & light played ball. To be honest, it was pretty difficult to mess this shot up as everything came together well. It was a matter of pressing my cheek into the ice & nailing the composition I had in mind.As part of the ‘Blurring the Lines’ project where I blended styles of fashion and sports/art, I photographed Samantha Chan in Sheung Wan. I hired a make up artist and Samantha brought a dress she had previously wore as a brides maid. This is one of my favourite images from that shoot as it shows her graceful athleticism against a gritty graffiti backdrop. I shot this on with a Sigma 35mm at f1.8 in low light with no flash or other artificial light sources so it was a tricky shot to nail as Samantha moved at speed.I only have 3 photos that I have taken, that have been printed and are currently hanging in my home. This is one of them. There is something about this shot that has left me staring at it for many a moment. It is also the place where it was shot: Dogs Teeth Ridge on Lantau Island. We all have a place to escape, regroup, recover & find ourselves. Dogs Teeth Ridge is that place for me. I first lived at the foot of Dogs Teeth as a teenager back in 1987 and it still draws me back. Time and time again. This shot was taken on assignment for Suunto in Hong Kong during 2017 where I was shooting ad images for a new model of watch they were releasing. Taken on a moody day with (left to right) Kevin Cheung, Shu Matsuo & TR Krier during a long 15 hours of shooting & climbing. I pre visualised the shot coming out like this and was chuffed to nail it as I saw it in my minds eye.This capture is from the scenic mountains of Yading in South West China. I was on assignment in 2015 to shoot ad images for an event organiser who sadly went on to let me down with their dishonest ways but working with (left to right) Scotty Hawker, Mira Rai, Stone Tsang, Ruth Croft and Yang Longfei was a lot of fun and we created some memorable images. This was one that stood out. After wading waist high into a glacier lake just below 4,000 metres, I skimmed the camera just above the surface to capture this shot then decided it was best to get out of the ice water before I completely lost all feeling in the bottom half of my body.
This back cover of the calendar is a capture from an assignment for Suunto in Hong Kong during 2017 where I was shooting ad images for a new model of watch they were releasing. Taken on Dogs Teeth Ridge of Shu Matsuo during a long 15 hours of shooting & climbing.