It’s like hanging out with Friends
2018 and what it meant for us
The year started in Glencoe…
… and for most of 2018 it was to be our ‘office’. We are lucky... we felt privileged on our commute, to be able to share this most spectacular of landscapes with our clients. We went enthusiastically to work and ended up hanging out with friends. I love being outdoors.. and we love ‘The Pass’ it’s beauty never diminishes… Koala even has her own ‘tree’. The Glencoe Mountain Resort cafe was to be our warming sanctuary.. to retreat to, a place for bacon rolls… but no coffee after 5pm in November? Who knew? And why? I would become strangely familiar with the mosaic of stickers, lovingly placed by snowboarders and outdoor types to the cistern above the mens urinal...!? I smiled.
Sophie and Thomas kicked off our ‘People in Landscapes’.. and we froze them to Rannoch Moor!
They were so in love and engaged to marry.. so they danced and we laughed our way through the onset of hyperthermia. My old Tyke heart melted and our first couple of the year set a high bar.. Thomas even managed ‘whimsical’ with surprisingly very little direction! I pondered the French translation and we retired to the Ecohuts for whisky and shortbread. Our first weekend shoot and Koala was happy… we weren’t camping! I glanced at the pitches and reminisced ... I once met a Koala here.
We were off and running, and soon found ourselves back on the Isle of Harris... our spiritual home. Here, on our first real adventure together, we fell in love with this remote little Hebridean island and I would hear ’…just like home in Albany WA’ just a few times more, as we journeyed north 3 times in the year. I wasn’t complaining. The rugged interior, the turquoise sea, the spectacular beaches will always draw us. It is relaxed, familiar and has a unique knack of accelerating a slumbering Koala into a frenzy of activity as light appears.. I like that, however unpredictable ‘that’ can be.
Harris teases with the promise of a ‘proper’ holiday, and as it lulls you, it accelerates the senses with excited anticipation, to chase the light and the epic shot. It fuels Koala and her ‘…need to be creative’. This usually manifests as an unnerving combination of antipodean vision and musical accompaniment, often carrying a rather high embarrassment factor.
This time it was to be a unique interpretation of the 80s Power Ballard, ‘Alone’ filmed on a stretch of wonderfully white calcific sand... in the middle of an Atlantic storm! The pleasant and observant breed of island sheep appeared to enjoy the spectacle, nodding approval in between chomps of grass, from the shelter of the dunes. They knew this was to be a classic instastory and I dutifully videoed the writhing Koala as the waves crashed. ‘I never really cared until I met you..!’ rang in my head and we were all indeed entertained. I smiled proudly, lost in the drama and blew warmth into my numb fingers. She can actually pull off a guitar solo in a Force 6... with a tripod.
The creativity quotient escalated through the year and I began to come to terms with the increasing animation of a Koala in a bobble hat.. on a mission to make ‘good art’. I would soon learn to become the conduit.. the diplomat, and often the safety rep to rein in the ‘artist’ - without dampening her enthusiasm. The enormity of the task was realised as we continued into February and I found myself attempting to hold a reflector, at dawn, on a windswept North Sea beach.. nursing man flu, listening to Koala coax a bewildered Scottish couple.. ‘Cheryl! Act like you are being chased by a bear.. Barry… You are the bear!’ It was the first of a set of rather disorientating quotes that I would attempt to translate to clients on our shoots.
Fortunately, our friends from over the pond understood. Molly and Chase dutifully posed, as they slid unceremoniously on a seaweed covered jetty at Castle Stalker. While Jennifer and Mike were overcome with the emotion of meeting a herd of deer for the first time, in Glen Etive. Add stag wrangling to my list of animal whispering skills!? No one complained or questioned the demands.. Perhaps it was a colonial thing? Some genetic or historical bond that Koala shared with our cousins? That I, a mere Yorkshireman, without a pilgrim or chicken stealing heritage could possibly understand?
Then, over the hill came... the Olssons!
I was excited... I have Viking blood.. ancestry.com says so. Koala was in her element. Enthusiasm was matched with enthusiasm. This wasn’t our usual romantic image of love in the Highlands. This Swedish clan came to experience and conquer, sharing their own brand of Scandinavian hilarity with us. They were indeed... ‘shit crazy’ but laugh we did and no national stereotype was immune from plunder. The surreality of Isa and Linn, dressed in tartan with Hunter Wellies recreating a Benny Hill chase.... with toilet rolls... in Glen Etive, was an particularly disarming moment for me. It was brilliance and I smiled broadly. Isa would be a returning friend through the year.. I love doing this!
Our friends love Scotland.. so we are lucky to share our passion with likeminded couples. Friends who have travelled here, for who Scotland holds a special, emotional significance. It is their spiritual and sometimes ancestral home. They feel the ‘belonging’ that we feel.
Ashley and Dan from Vermont epitomised this and understood what we hoped to share. Dan wrote a review that was to become our reassurance and reinforce our belief and passion in what we do.
‘This maybe their job, but its not work for them. Its like hanging out with friends.. we had a blast!’
I refer to these words a lot. We were getting it right after all.
Beat had proposed to Suwi here and chose to fly over from Switzerland and get up at 4am to stand on a freezing jetty at sunrise.. Emma and Mike came from France with their family.. I bonded with 3 year old Duncan and of course, being 5 months pregnant, Emma agreed to sit barefoot in a freezing burn! Scotland was where they wanted to be. Eirinn and Joe, from New York State, were on a honeymoon visit family, a week after their wedding. We had a ball. It rained.. and Bridge Porn was conceived..?!
Dan was right.. this isn’t work for us.. I do however, often question our sanity.. but Koala laughs and I understand. Maybe it is just us? She in particular is often asked why she would choose to live in a wet, windy and largely dark country, coming from a country that is meteorologically and geographically opposite?! This is never a question asked by our clients... they seem to just get it. That ‘belonging’ feeling that draws and holds visitors to Scotland, from all parts of the world.. and for me even to leave the republic of Yorkshire. There is a mutual appreciation of the inherent beauty in this landscape, the history... and the unpredictable feckin weather!!
Brittin and Ryan achieved a double rainbow.. stood frozen and knee deep in a Loch, for the ‘gram! The Clackworthys had even ‘emigrated’ from a tropical Devon coast to live in Scotland. They were soon soaked to the skin during a Highland downpour.. as Koala shot the romance of a family so happy to be together.
We did have our notable visitors... we became ‘Highland Mom and Dad’ to Maggie from Netflix LA... via Gotham and Vermont. Her enthusiasm for a day of Highland adventure with us was... dare I say epic! 12 hours of glorious hilarity ‘doing Scotland’, ticking the boxes and giving our ‘daughter’ the Koala experience! The stars aligned.. in more ways than one, and we achieved her holiday mission. Her positivity superpowers were infectious and we now have a place to stay in Hollywood. The Highlands had a new ‘famous’ convert.
Jeff traded in his explosive career and came armed with alcohol, a cameraman Yoel and a mission to nail an interview with a certain Photographer. He hadn’t read the script.. and underestimated the enemy force. Beer, Wine and Spirits was quickly overwhelmed by ‘shock and awe’ and Koala left him sliding in the mud.. in canvas pumps... Vans were not in the elite paratroopers manual. Oh how we.. I laughed. He was initiated... He got it too.
So 2018 drew to a close and I found myself, disconcertingly, standing again in a gents toilet... before a stickered cistern!?
How 12 months has flown and I reflect on a year... of adventure, laughter, horse whispering and creeping hyperthermia. I wonder what motivates Koala and I..? What prompts us to sacrifice a ‘normal’ job, financial stability, heating... to do this? I even contemplate the process of an image that appears in Koalas mind.. to suspend reality and create her art. It doesn’t keep me up at night… nothing so dramatic.. but perhaps I linger a little too long before the male urinal as I ponder?
Generally I just accept it, smile at the snowboarders, check our public liability insurance and just be aware of the level of animation that accompanies a Koala tsunami of creative inspiration. Sometimes our friends see it before we do. They get it and accept the periods of extreme uncomfortability, sometimes hostility that Scotland and an artistic Aussie can throw at them.
Dan and Ashleys’ review gave me the affirmation that I needed.. in a year that has been, in many ways, a struggle for us. It has taken a certain kind of resilience to keep trying.. keep dreaming and pushing to create good art, sometimes against the odds of financial reason. I sometimes have been heard to complain and perhaps, dare I say even... grumble, doubting the viability of a vision, but despite this, Koala retains her passion, her belief and drive to create.
We have grown a dream together that helps us breathe.... and look forward to another whimsical year of...well just ‘hanging out with friends’ ...and carrying a tripod that I know will never be used.
About the Author
I was born in Leeds and grew up in the military. Which thankfully has put me in good stead to 'look after' the Koala. I carry the tripod, hold the reflector, drive the truck, make the sandwiches and ensure that the clients have everything they need. So basically I do everything apart from press the button... sorry.. shutter! Apparently I am a hidden literary gem so I get to write the blog and provide creative input when asked!
We LOVE our adventures. Being outdoors is elemental to us... particularly surrounded by spectacular landscapes, sharing our enthusiasm and documenting the emotion through photography. Nothing can beat that feeling!
We are Kristy and Richard... come and join us on our journey with Kristy Ashton Photography. Follow Kristy on IG for the full pictorial story or read Richards Blog for the alternative route!