One of my least favourite times of year is February. There are any number of reasons for my dislike of this particular month, including (in no particular order):
- the fact that I have to face up to my Christmas-fuelled credit card bill,
- continuing rubbish weather and short days,
- a lingering sense of guilt that, although salads are out of season, I really can't stand any more cauliflower.
It's also one of the most challenging times of year from a professional point of view. Editors are under pressure from publishers to sell great big piles of magazines in the spring. So there's all kinds of caffeine-fueled talk of blue skies, short sleeves, nice scenery and inspirational trails. Which is nice. But the reality (and if you're reading this in the UK and ride a mountain bike throughout the year, you'll understand exactly where I'm coming from) is that the skies are often overcast, sensible riders are well covered up against the elements, the scenery is a uniform dull greeny brown and the trails are usually hidden under a couple of inches of slime.
We could, of course, head somewhere warmer, sunnier and altogether more pleasant-looking in February. Except there isn't the budget for that... and UK mag readers tend to dislike the idea that journos are jetting off in the winter to ride dry, sunny trails for a few quick photos before heading down to the bar for a cold beer.
Still, once in a while fortune smiles on the photographer tasked with shooting the 'no pressure but it has to look warm and sunny and lovely' May cover. As it did this year, despite the fact that I decided to head to Wales. Which, as any resident of this island knows, is not renowned for its clement weather - and particularly not in February.
Not only did the sun shine, but it was genuinely warm. The foliage even conspired to look green rather than drab, and the air had the kind of crispness that I associate with desert climates in the spring. I got an email from the art ed after I'd sent through some low res samples asking what magic I'd performed in Photoshop. To which the answer was... absolutely nothing. This is a rare UK magazine cover with natural sky, just as it was recorded by the camera. I kid you not.
What the picture doesn't show is just what a tight spot I was in. I got cramp in my right leg from wedging myself into the bank of soil and rock next to the trail, and I was very glad of the horizon-stretching qualities of my trusty 14-24mm.