Monkeys, helicopters and editing hell in Åre, Sweden

Scandinavian Photo Challenge, part 2

In this day and age, every monkey has a digital camera and can fill up Facebook album after Facebook album with binary bollocks. So it was about time that an actual monkey started shooting photographs. No doubt this week you’ve giggled and guffawed at the cheeky macaque monkey that took a wonderful photo of itself. But it begs an important question. If a creature that throws its own ‘brown eggs’ around for fun and probably doesn’t even have a Twitter account can take a photo that good, then what’s the point of the art and trade of photography?


Well, the difference is luck. I’m willing to bet a date with a rhino that that monkey couldn’t cross-process some Ilford 500 film without mouth-boinking a frog, let alone produce and compile a five-minute slideshow of great photographs. Anybody can get lucky with a shot but it takes an exceptional photographer to be able to compile five minutes’ worth of top quality photographs. I’m talking full-page, spread-eagle printed on decent stock quality, not POD shite. Well that’s the challenge that’s ahead of our five professional photographers at the Scandinavian Photo Challenge here in Åre, Sweden. Last night they finished shooting and today they’re all locked away in dark rooms editing (not the Ilford 500 kind) while Åre is bathed in sunshine and summer heat.

For three days the five teams have been doing 12-hour days in the mountains trying to get all the “nuggs” and “bangers”, as well as arty lifestyle shots, that will help them put together a five-minute slideshow. There’s been a variety of approaches to it, judging from what I’ve seen. Some have made a plan and stuck to it, while other teams have used the age old wild and lively approach. I’ve been scooting around the mountain to try to get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the slideshows. By Wednesday night, all of the teams and shooters looked exhausted (except maybe the shooter and rider who looked positively lively as they propped up Dahlbom bar until they were kicked out at closing time). Three days might not seem much, and to many people shooting photographs sounds like an easy gig, but the 30-yard stare and disheveled appearance of many teams says otherwise. If you spoke to any of these riders right now and dared utter the words, “one more time please”, you might end up getting a kick in the shins with a flooded gumboot.

Mattias Fredriksson is a wizard who doesn’t leave things to chance. I’m pretty sure he’s been planning and plotting his show carefully for a little while. Mattias is at the top of the photography game and has experience of the photo challenges format (he won the first Whistler Crankworx Deep Summer Photo Challenge in 2009) so I’m intrigued to see what he’s got. When I saw him yesterday he looked very happy and lively, so that must mean he’s ticked all the boxes on his to-do list.

Markus Gerber had his remote controlled helicopter camera flown in for the competition. When the weather was good he had his camera buzzing above some of the trails and I’m intrigued to see what this tool can bring to the table. The helicopter has a Sony NEX camera mounted underneath it and Markus controls all the vital camera functions from the ground using a large remote control master desk which has a screen that shows him what the camera is seeing in real time. Even more impressive is that the helicopter flies itself. Once Markus has found the spot for the helicopter he ‘parks’ it in the air and it keeps itself in that spot using GPS.

I haven’t been able to catch up with Team Norway at all. They’re a mysterious bunch who’ve had a very lowkey approach to the days of shooting. Which I figure must mean they were too busy working up on the mountains. I’m intrigued to see what they have, for sure.

Camilla Stoddart has been trying to buy my vote by giving me beer and inviting me to join the rest of her team in the sauna but I laid down the law and told her I couldn’t be bought. However, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when it comes in a 500ml can. Camilla says she’s really nervous but I think that’s been good because she’ll no doubt present a beautiful show come Friday night. One of the other photographers, Grant Robinson, came up to her and acted all fanboy because he’s a huge fan of her work. Talking of Grant Robinson, he’s named his team ‘Monkey and the Woos’ which brings us full circle to the start of this story.


Today at 1pm all five teams have to hand in their completed slideshows. I have a feeling there will be some frantic last-minute edits happening as late as 12.30pm and there will also be some sighs of relief. However, the nerves will start afresh at 8.30pm when the hall will start filling up with the audience and the public showing begins. If you’re near Åre, please drop in for a full night of entertainment. For now, check out the latest image gallery by Simon Sjoren.