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El Campo

Ana rifles through some old boxes in the loft producing a pile photographs from the 1990’s. The shots look classically desaturated as one would expect from a cheap snap of that decade. From one view, an image taken from across the valley, four nondescript white tumble-down buildings in need of repair perch on a barren hillside. The area looks more like the side of a quarry than any part of the Andalucían countryside. Only a few random olive trees can be seen in each image. The land is otherwise clear and devoid of any noticeable, prominent vegetation - a blank canvas, but one where the artists had a clear vision. Ana and I came to Spain in mid-March to sit...

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Navigate, Paul Thompson

I first encountered Paul Thompson's Navigate series a couple of months ago. For an inherently benign image the effect was arresting. I stopped and stared. Learning more about the project and Paul's multi-layered approach and technique I began to understand my initial reaction. Shot at sunset using a large format film camera with exposure times ranging between one and eight seconds, gave little control over what happened within his image to shape the end result. This happenstance is vital to the work as Navigate becomes a series of chance events dictated by the constant and unpredictable motions of the sea, the wind, and the light; a reaction against meticulously planned image-making that leaves no room for twists of fate. The long...

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Artist Zoe Taylor

We're really taken with the work of Zoe Taylor. Directly inspired by the Britains land and skies and also by West Wales and the Pembrokeshire coast. Her modern paintings are bold and soul-stirring, employing complex natural tones.  She works in oil and cold wax and latterly in acrylic/mixed media on aluminium. Although her main works are breathtaking I’m drawn to her sketches, in oil and other media which are abstract and energetic. Each work is enigmatically titled, but gives no clue to location, leaving the viewer to imagine.

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A Moment of Bore

Musings from my lockdown in Spain, Will Appleyard.  I’ve been on locked down in Spain since 16th March. I chose to be here. The cabin crew aboard the EasyJet flight out of Gatwick eyed me quizzically at first and then further into the flight, politely probed me about what I was doing on a flight 99% full with Spaniard in a time of global crisis. At this time of course most people just want to go “home”. I felt vaguely like the writer Laurie Lee, returning to Spain in his late youth to find adventure in the form of the Spanish civil war, except I didn’t walk to the Pyrenees in winter, I can’t play the violin and other than...

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Drawing Strength From Nature

The past few days have seen Covid 19 really take hold in the UK. Some of our friends and those in our community have it and our thoughts are with them. The wider health, social and economic implications are difficult to comprehend. One certainty - now, more than ever we have to look after each other and ourselves. Whether working from home, self isolating or simply absorbing the situation, taking time out to find space will benefit us all, assuming local advice and health allow. This is possible even in our most populated cities, be that the garden, park or canal, and if time allows then venturing further afield to rivers, woods or hills. Being outdoors in nature, and the...

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St Abb's Head

Our ambassador Verena Splett and friend Laura Woolley recently visited St Abbs Head, an hour east of Edinburgh on the Berwickshire coast. Much of the area is greywacke and siltstone sandstone varieties but the cliffs themselves, rising 300ft above sea level, are volcanic and have weathered the frequent battering of the North Sea. Both avid outdoors photographers they chose St Abbs for the high cliffs which provide spectacular views of the coastline. And for the wildlife, sea birds in the many thousands of course and also seals, which they heard yet despite their best efforts, and a day spent wandering the coastline, they did not actually see. Next time. Lack of seal shots notwithstanding, the photographs are stunning.  Verena is...

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Coombs Wood & Armathwaite Crag

  The Eden Valley isn't a secret, but it’s certainly less well frequented than most of Cumbria. The landscape is in stark contrast to the central Lakes, but just as beautiful, in my opinion anyway.  Coombs Wood is great to explore on foot or bike. Enter at Longdales hamlet and traverse steep paths then follow the river to reach Armathwaite Crag. There's some bouldering here. I love the colours - the bright orange sandstone and khaki lichen are echoed in the reds and greens of the forest. There’s one section of the outcrop with brilliant sedimentary erosion lines. The river's done the hard work and the weather’s finished it. 

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Sierra de Grazalema

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the sierra de Grazalema – the wettest place in Spain, so they say. The village established in Moorish times is a typical “pueblo blanco” ensconced by several 1500m-limestone peaks. These peaks are the first barriers for clouds blown in from the Atlantic by warm humid winds having met no other significant obstacles en route east. Upon arrival at the sierra they condense and dump their rainfall on the sierra Grazalema in the province of Cádiz. It’s not uncommon to see snow here in during some of the winter’s colder days too. The draw to Grazelema for me is not particularly the village itself, although beautiful with plenty of places to eat well and...

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Summiters, by Joe McGorty

Joe McGorty is great outdoor photographer. In addition to work for clients like Cyclist Magazine and helping us here at Utility Archive he's just completed The Summiters, a personal project portraying 'folk that reached the top of Snowdon on the last day of the tourist season'. Joe discusses the project in an interview on The Outsiders website. 

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Northcott Mouth

We visited Northcott Mouth beach during an early January trip up the north Cornish coast. Searching for somewhere to overnight in the van we heard  about a shipwreck visible at low tide. With prospect of a little adventure before losing daylight we headed down to the beach.  The wreck eluded us, but the geology made up for it. Sandstone and shale strata in wild folds and a beautiful palette. Further along the beach, what appeared to be a stack was in-fact a massive rock fin, at 40m impressively vertical, but only an armspan wide. The strata run in 45 degree ridges  along the entire beach, so its not the easiest to navigate but this adds to the rugged beauty.

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No Such Thing As Bad Weather

  When we introduced Verena in our previous post she mentioned liking clouds more than sun. Appropriate then that Cumbria was the location of her recent photography workshop, and they were treated to some of the best weather that region has to offer. Some great images of George Buttery and Verena making the most of it. The workshop was hosted by Jack Anstey and @theworldwithsarah.  Throughout the weekend Verena put our Fell Zip Backpack through it's paces, “we got soaked and nothing, really nothing was wet inside. I was worried at first but so relieved that all my equipment was completely dry.” We're lucky to have met Verena at this point in her photography career, as she builds on her portrait and landscape experience and begins to explore brand and lifestyle work. If...

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Verena Splett

We're really pleased to welcome Verena Splett to the Utility Archive family. Born and raised in Berlin, Verena began her photography career whilst living in New Zealand and moved to Scotland earlier this year to pursue this further. We were immediately drawn to Verena's photography. In her own words 'I love the outdoors, prefer clouds to sun'. Her landscapes are bold, and carry drama and warmth in equal measure. The impact of her Scottish move seems clear.  A confident portrait and landscape photographer she's now extending her talent to brand and lifestyle work. Lucky us. More to follow.

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Dezeen Gift Guide

We're young, green (in more ways than one) but ever so keen. As such we're very grateful indeed to the design gods at Dezeen for featuring our Fold Rolltop Backpack in their 2019 Gift Guide. Scroll down, bit further, keep going, there you go. Christmas sorted. Praise indeed.

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The Magic Blue Light

A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have entertained the idea of setting a 6.30 alarm for a mid-November lake swim. Now I’m in on the secret. A couple of weeks ago, heading north for the Kendal Mountain Festival, and with a place booked on the outdoor swimming film session, I was already inspired to swim.  I contacted a Kendalian friend who gathered some of her local swim buddies and we hatched a plan to head to Windermere. With dawn breaking, and armed with a sense of humour and a box of flapjack we met at Millerground, home to an informal swimming club called Buoy 13. The madness of the early rise rewarded us with a magical blue light. There...

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An Interview with Adam

I've worked at the creative end of the bag industry for over 25 years, helping lots of brands make great product. One of those, Brydon Brothers, dropped into the studio recently to chew the fat and take some photos. With my focus now on Utility Archive, that's what we talked about most; how my background inspired the brand, and the creative process involved to get it up and running. Read the interview here. Big thanks for the photos Tom D Morgan.

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Pointe Percee Hike, The Aravis Range

Ben Adams and Joanna Brigham take on the challenging Pointe Percee, highpoint of the Aravis range in the French Prealps.  The Pointe Percée hike was actually our second attempt. We tried earlier in the summer but were forced back by bad weather. We started from the Col des Annes. It’s possible to do it from the Col in one push, but common to break the ascent with a stop at the Refuge de Gramusset.  We were really keen to get this one done, but when we realised it was the refuges final day of the summer season, and with the weather being so good we opted to stop for a plat du jour and cafe noisette. The Aravis area is...

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An Autumn Dip

Kirsty Atkinson documents her weekly moment of north London in-water escapism.  We meet every Friday, four friends from different parts of London. It’s starts with a walk down a wooded lane, chatting giddily about our weeks and the weekend ahead. We arrive at the pond and check the board, twelve degrees. It’s dropped two degrees since last week. The chat continues into the changing room, ‘What are you wearing? A cossie? Shorty wetsuit? Socks? Gloves?’ We all opt for a cossie, in solidarity with the many other women who come here every week to enjoy a cold, restorative dip.  We’re ready. We cross the jetty to the steps in silence. This is the worst part, the first few seconds. We’re in,...

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An Everyday Adventure, London Docklands

London based photographer Joe McGorty takes us on his adventurous Thames Path commute, observing how nature interacts with the post-industrial Docklands landscape.  'It’s early Autumn and the strong winds are today bringing intermittent rain with them. My backpack is fending off the weather, water drops sitting on the waterproof fabric, but I don’t have the right outerwear with me. I’m enjoying feeling unprepared.  I move eastwards away from home, ducking under trees and into old wooden structures whilst each shower passes. So far I’ve seen two joggers, one dog walker and a group of cyclists. The path passes a cement works and I’m forced to stop momentarily whilst a barge unloads its cargo of sand. This area doesn’t feel like London, or any big city....

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West Pier, Brighton

West Sussex resident Will Appleyard spends an enviable amount of time in Europe and further afield, documenting his diving, boarding, climbing and paragliding adventures. In this story he's closer to home, explaining his love of wreck exploration. Most of us don’t have Will’s equipment or experience but we do share his approach to embracing adventure, in whatever form and wherever that may be.  'As a diver, I often visit and explore ship wrecks. I wonder whether my fascination with Brighton's West Pier somehow derives from that interest? The West Pier to me, is almost the opposite of a ship wreck - a land wreck. A relic of times gone by, the pier was formally closed in 1975. But fire finally took away any hope of restoration in 2003. Now...

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Kendal Mountain Festival, tickets on sale now

Tickets to the Kendal Mountain Festival are now on sale. The festival runs from 14 - 17 November. We're excited to report we'll be back on home turf (well, my home turf, Mrs A's from Yorkshire, but we don't talk about that), for some of the weekend screenings; climbing, wild swimming, the family event and some general collections. Tickets moving quite quickly for some events so be quick. See you there?

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