Year In Review – 2021

At the start of the year, I sat down and wrote a list of all the things I wanted to achieve with the thought that the worst of Covid was behind us and 2021 would be a new beginning. My plans included travel and a return to the mountains for work on a new book plus a list of the clients I would like to work with. It wasn’t long before those expectations evaporated as talk of the second wave and another lock down materialised. It was looking like 2021 was going to be another difficult year… but looking back now I can be really pleased with the work I’ve achieved and also the personal changes I’ve made.

In fact, 2021 has turned out to be my busiest year since I started as a photographer. More gratifying is the number of new clients I have started to work with this year and some of the older clients that have come back into the fold.

Here are some of the highlights from 2021.

Much of the work in the early part of the year was studio-based due to covid restrictions. There were portrait shoots for PwC and the French bank BNPP which bought in a new way of art directing remotely from Paris with the aid of Zoom.

PwC

The new way of working also required some lateral thinking for sports shoots which historically would have been on location. Most notable was an Eadweard Muybridge inspired shoot for Le Col which required a full room set build, a laser and some skilful riding on rollers by the model.

LeCol_x_McLaren

Once the restrictions lifted a little, we did venture outside, exploring the best of the UK countryside. Fortunately, we were blessed with some unusually fine weather in March as we brought the mountains of Europe to the beach in Hastings and the sand dunes of Camber Sands for Le Col.

Le Col

By the spring, things started to ease, and I got away to the Dolomites in Italy to cover a story for WIRED Magazine on global warming. The feature focused on the attempts by scientists to halt the summer melt by covering the glaciers with sun reflecting blankets. It felt like a futile effort and only highlighted the desperate situation facing the planet.

Presena Glacier

One of the new clients this year was Tempo, a fitness brand bringing technology into home gym training.

Tempo Fitness

Always a highlight in my year are the shoots I do for Zwift. Cycling plays a central role in much of my work so it’s always great to be asked to photograph some of its biggest stars, such as Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, Matthieu Van Der Poel and Anna Van Der Breggen.

Zwift Shoot Mark Cavendish

I guess the only disappointment this year was missing the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. Normally I would go to both races, to capture some of the mountain stages, but looking at the miserable weather which the riders experienced, I don’t think I missed much! To make up for it, I channelled my energy into a solo exhibition of my mountains work at the Riverhouse Barn in Walton-on-Thames. The month-long show also included a fascinating talk with former professional rider and Tour de France Polka Dot jersey winner, Philippa York, hosted by Ned Boulting and Matt Stephens.

Mountains Exhibition

With the onset of autumn, I was asked by ASSOS, one of the oldest and most respected brands in cycling, to photograph their new winter range in Iceland. As a landscape photographer it’s always been a place I’ve wanted to visit. The landscapes were out of this world and despite the unpredictable weather which varied from crazy winds to snow blizzards in the space of a day it was a very rewarding shoot. Below is a night shoot we did near the glaciers in the south.

Assos Glacier

The trip to Iceland also inspired a new range of landscape prints which are now available in the online shop.

Iceland print

November signalled the month for the Rouleur Live show in London and also a portrait shoot for the cover of Rouleur Magazine. It was a chance to photograph Anna Van Der Breggen once again, a rider retiring from the sport, and despite having all my photography kit stolen on the morning of the shoot we did manage to pull it off.

Rouleur Anna van der Bregger

One of the last and most interesting shoots of the year was another feature for WIRED magazine. This time, the assignment was to photograph a project to re-introduce bison into the Kent countryside. Working with animals is never easy and working with potentially dangerous animals comes with added complications. It took several attempts to get the right shots of the bison and some creative retouching of compositing two images together for the final shot.

WIRED Bison Shoot

Lastly, on a personal note and amongst a very busy year, we decided, as a family, to look for a new home. It’s always been an ambition of mine to find a plot of land and build a house. We finally found a plot near the coast in Sussex and made the move mid August. 2022 is already looking like a busy year as we start work on converting a barn into our dream home.

Barn

It doesn’t look like work will let up either!

Already booked in this coming year is an early season trip to Tenerife, some exciting studio work and road trip in California to photograph the best climbs the US has to offer.

If you have any projects you would like to discuss, please get in touch: photography@michaelblann.com

In the meantime, I’d like to thank everyone I’ve worked with for the support this year and I wish you a happy New Year!

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