2021 proved to be another challenging year for professional photographers, with restrictions due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic limiting events and social contact for much of the year. Despite the challenges, I found 2021 a busier year than 2020. I am fortunate to work with many fantastic people and businesses, many whom I have known for many years. My photography assignments are very varied including headshots, weddings, events, and products, which means that choosing one that may be defined as the ‘best’ is nearly impossible. However, choosing the photoshoots that were the ‘most’ challenging, inspiring, and fun was a little easier.
Trek for Tomorrow for Cancer Research Wales
The ‘most’ challenging photoshoot in 2021 was, undoubtedly, the Trek for Tomorrow fundraising event organised by the Welsh charity Cancer Research Wales. The brief was to photograph a brave group of fundraisers taking on a 15-mile hike over the Brecon Beacons in early October. The walkers were joined by celebrity supporters of Cancer Research Wales including former Wales footballers Danny Gabbidon and Joe Ledley.
- Find out more about Cancer Research Wales
As a keen walker, this was the perfect assignment for me. However, this is Wales and sometimes the weather is simply awful. I arrived at the ground of Brecon rugby club at 7am, prepared for the worst and armed with waterproofs (including a cape), and plastic waterproof covers for my camera. Even before we had left the car park, the rain had started to fall.
The trek was challenging enough, climbing the peaks of Fan-y-Big, Cribyn and Pen-y-Fan, but the atrocious weather made it ten times harder. The wind and rain were unrelenting and, irrespective of what you were wearing, everyone was sodden by the time we reached the first peak on Fan-y-Big.
Whilst walking I got to meet some amazing people, each with their own reason for taking on the challenge. Some walkers had been through cancer treatment, whilst others had lost close family members or friends. Supporting the Cancer Research Wales charity is of particular relevance to me having lost my Dad to cancer in April.
Many of the walkers were taking on a difficult Brecon Beacons walk for the very first time. I like to think that the weather actually brought us all closer together. Walkers, battered by the high winds and horizontal rain, helped and looked after each other as we walked up the mountain paths that often had a sheer drop on one side. Together, and under the watchful eye of our wonderful guides, we ensured that everyone reached the summits safely. The camaraderie was amazing and, despite the weather, all I photographed were smiles and laughter.
- Photo gallery – Trek for Tomorrow 2021 Cancer Research Wales
Taking photographs in such weather is really tough. Cameras and water are not a good combination and so keeping the camera as dry as possible was a priority. It was also impossible. I was faced with my lens misting over and rain water literally running down the face of the lens. Even reverting to the trusty mobile phone, with the much smaller lens face, was challenging. My Canon 90D camera was destined to spend a week drying out in my airing cupboard.
As we dropped down off the mountains, onto the road leading us back to Brecon, the rain suddenly abated. There was even some sun and blue skies. Everyone was exhausted, but equally elated. The 15-mile trek had been completed in just over 7 ½ hours, climbing up over 3,000 foot.
I want to thank Dale and the Cancer Research Wales team for asking me to be involved. Photographing the intrepid walkers was one of my highlights of 2021. Well done to everyone involved. You are all heroes!
Paul Fears is a professional photographer based in South Wales, specialising in commercial photography. To discuss a photography assignment, please contact Paul on firstname.lastname@example.org