Photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith in Norway
We join the Sami people of Arctic Norway at an intense time of year: for the next 2-3 weeks the Sami will be herding their reindeer, who have been roaming free for the summer, down from the snow dusted mountains and preparing them for crossing open waters in search of winter pastures. It is no easy task and the whole community rallies together to corral the animals, marking them by cutting their ears to work out which animal belongs to which family, giving them anti-parasitic drugs, and preparing them for the journey ahead. It is a total mystery to me how they tell which reindeer even have which markings, but this is a talent learned over centuries. Although they may use quad bikes where their ancestors walked on foot, the knowledge and the love of the reindeer is in their blood. I’m taken aback by the energy rushing from the scene unravelling in front of me, and by the harshness of the environment in which they work. It is pelting with rain, which at times arrives horizontally, occasionally turning to hail before calming until the next gust whips up the mud from the floor.
I am wearing approximately 8 layers of clothing, desperately clutching my cameras underneath my raincoat to try and protect them from the elements, and the mud being spattered from the thunder of the hooves spinning around me in the corral. But the Sami seem oblivious to the environment, only caring to make sure the deer are all in order, and calm before crossing the water. Over the course of the week a few hundred deer are moved each day. Asking the Sami how many reindeer they have is akin to asking someone in Britain how much money they have in the bank. The animals are their currency, as well as their livelihood, culture and history.
Ella, our main character, tells me of her family holiday to Turkey this year, which she found too hot too bear, and made her realise beyond a shadow of a doubt that her place rests among the Sami and their deer in the Northern Troms. Often one of the most under-rated pleasures we get from travelling is realising that what we have right under our noses is to be treasured.
We’ve all heard our fair share of urban myths. Whether we ever get to test the authenticity of them is another thing, but I’m a firm believer that if you are presented with an opportunity to do so, you can enrich your life no end. Obviously I share this belief with the producers of ‘Myth Busters’ who have made quite a good business out of it. Anyway, it is said that some people live in places that are so cold that if you throw a cup of boiling water into the air, it will freeze before it hits the ground. Living, as I do in a temperate country, the busting of this particular myth had eluded me until now.
Whilst waiting for a connecting flight in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, Assistant Producer Willow, Director Nick and myself decided to pop outside into the -35°C cold and try a little experiment. Here’s what we discovered…
(Please excuse my manic laughing, the cold had quite obviously got to my head)
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Interested in more stories from Greenland? Try HERE
Greenland. Oh my God! What an amazing and extreme place. This was the first time that I have ever been to the Arctic. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting. Cold? Yes of course, but I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for the astonishing panoramas that hide quietly around every frozen corner. A winter north of the Arctic circle is no place for sun worshippers. Daily life is lived amidst a magical pink twilight that leaves you feeling like each day never really starts. For a photographer it’s a dream. I mean, you get to see colours you never knew existed in the natural world and you only have to work a 3 hour day. The only draw back is the cold. Like having to gulp down your morning cup of tea before it freezes in your mug, or watching in horror as your camera shuts down as vital pieces of rubber freeze and snap in half. Both happened to me on this shoot. But hey, who cares? You’re in the Arctic surrounded by huskies and blue icebergs! It’s a small price to pay.
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Interested in more stories from Greenland? Try HERE
After our time in Ethiopia, it was just a short trip down to Southern Europe to meet some Spanish coastal dwellers with a very unusual and highly dangerous job. Unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly what we were filming for fear of spoiling a surprise in the TV series. What I will tell you though, is that a day at the office for these guys involves repeated brushes with death. A regular 9 to 5 this most certainly isn’t.
One of the great things about working in the ‘Human Planet’ team, is the way in which we are all expected to totally immerse ourselves in the cultures that we are visiting. This is the only way by which we can bring back an intimate account of the amazing events we are witnessing. This trip to Spain was no exception.
Remaining close to our Spanish friends was certainly a challenge on this shoot and it required us to venture into some rather extreme filming situations. There was a lot of dangling from ropes and climbing up cliff faces, as well as our fair share of extreme speed boat manoeuvres, one of the results of which can be seen in the above photo of our cameraman Keith, who was required to get himself and all his equipment onto this isolated rock in order to get the right angle on a shot. Basically, this involved waiting in a small power boat until the waves momentarily subsided, and then repeatedly driving the boat hard at the rock and putting the motor in reverse at the very last second as each man took turns to jump from boat to rock and vice versa. I can report back that no one was seriously hurt.