“Once again I've woken up after minimal sleep. The night prior we had spent on the Cosmiques Ridge photographing Forrest and Brad as they traversed the jagged knife-edge, the Mt Blanc Massif looming over them in the background. Sleep was non-existent, the gale battered the mountain causing the hut walls to shudder and the thin air resulted in flashes of imaginary green light under my eyelids. I stand on the bullet hard snow, looking over the Valley Blanc in a bit of a morning daze. My crampons feel heavy under my feet and somehow the cold has seeped through my insulated gloves. That said, this morning I am exactly as I am meant to be - at elevation, camera in hand as the sunrise casts long shadows over the icy landscape.”- Extract from my 2019 portfolio.
This was how Absolute-Snow’s Category Manager, Daniel Williams wanted to start this interview so we obliged! We sat down with Daniel to get an understanding of why he loves working at Absolute-Snow, what fires him up about new product and what product he himself uses.
Daniel, thanks for your time–what is it about the outdoor activitiesthat you love?
From alpine climbs in Chamonix to backpacking in the UK and even floating down rivers in rubber rings dressed up as a panda, I adore an array of outdoor activities. When combined with my other passion of photography I personally believe the amalgamation is a match made in heaven, allowing me to relieve the good, the bad and the epic in still imagery.
Talk to us about mixing outdoor sports and photography.
When combining photography with outdoor pursuits, I personally think it is paramount to be competent in whatever activity you are doing and the systems of equipment you are carrying. For instance, when free hanging from a rope you cannot be fumbling when switching lenses with the risk of dropping a heavy bit of glass on your subjects below, let alone being a liability for your climbing partner who is pushing for a summit.
Something that I adore, dialling a system of equipment to work harmoniously with camera gear without compromise. It is honestly a joy to know that you have everything you need in a pack or dry bag to embark and capture an adventure. This I will say has not been without fault, and even to this day, the systems I have are not as perfect as I would like.
What do you love about your specific role?
Personally I think I have one of the best jobs in the world. I am the Category Manager of Climbing, Packs, Photography & Swimming departments dealing with the buying, merchandising and marketing of the goods. Part of the role I enjoy the most is getting hands-on with kit, assessing what would be the next on-trend product and where a piece of equipment would integrate into my next adventure.
What’s so great about working at Absolute-Snow?
Absolute has provided me with the perfect opportunity to mix both my recreational interest in equipment with that of a career. Open to new product ideas with colleagues who share my interest in outdoor recreation the company is the perfect place for me to be. What has impressed me recently have been the procedures in place to mitigate the risk of the current virus tormenting the world at the moment. After the bad press that corporations have received during 2020, the polices that Absolute has implemented has provided me with a sense of relief and a real appreciation for the care of the staff that has been taken.
What’s the first recommendation you have around kit?
When recommending equipment I am a firm believer at looking at items that are multi-use, and being honest to the end-user about how well they perform. The volume of kit that I’ve only used once and has since gathered dust is honestly a cardinal sin and not something I wish upon anyone else.
What kit do you use on your adventures?
The following are what I consider to be staples in my arsenal for adventure and photography kit and what I carry regardless of what adventure I am undertaking.
The workhorse of my photography setup is the Sony A7Rii, still going strong and a real tank for high res imagery. Honestly though, for anyone looking at getting into photography, there are a wide array of fabulous mirrorless options out there that will be more than perfect. Keep in mind the best camera is the one that you have on you so size and weight do matter.
As previously mentioned, the V3 clip from Peak Design is a must-have. I actually backed the previously made V2 on Kickstarter back in the day and have been a convert to the system since then. Essentially the clip comprises of two parts a square base that screws into your cameras thread, and a mount that attaches to the shoulder straps of your backpack, belt, or molle webbing of some harnesses. It allows you to carry your camera without the need for annoying neck-straps, whilst keeping your camera secure and on hand ready for any shot. Perfect for backpacking, climbing, daily use and travel, it is one piece of kit that is invaluable.
Ellie! Who is that you may ask? I thought your other half was Melissa? Trust me I would be single very fast if I was seen carrying another lady. Fortunately, Ellie is not a person but in fact an L bracket from 3 Legged Thing. After attending the Arcteryx Academy in 2019, the highly regarded adventure photographer Mike Blissig suggested I started using an L bracket or cage for extra protection when climbing. When combined with the V3 clip, if offers the left-hand side of the camera body protection when climbing/scrambling. Ellie additionally has an arca swiss, V3 plate at the base making it compatible with both the aforementioned clip and tripods. For the additional weight for a bit of added protection, it is a sacrifice I am willing to make. Plus the bright orange really does make the entire system when mounted together look pretty awesome.
To live up to the boy Scout motto of being prepared, I personally think it is worthwhile carrying a small multitool. When out on an adventure you never know if you need to cut some old cord from an anchor, tighten up a screw or in some cases rip a cracked threaded filter off a very expensive lens. The tool I opt for the Gerber Dime. It’s not the strongest or the most capable, but for something relatively inexpensive and lightweight. It’ll always be there should you need it and if for some reason it is missing you won’t need to worry about your bank balance replacing it. Plus with its non-locking knife blade at less than 3inches this is one tool you can carry around in the UK legally.
So this your kit, obviously you have to put it in a pack – what do you choose to use?
No two packs are the same, and for me, as each is used for a different purpose.
In terms of flying the Peak Design Travel Bag is perhaps one of my most used packs, especially when the girlfriend teaches abroad in Germany it sees frequent use. It packs like a suitcase, is capable of carrying all the essentials and when combined with a Small camera cube, I haven’t found a better travel companion.
A recent new addition to my collection has been something a tad different from Cotopaxi. If you don’t know about this brand you definitely should. The Del Dia collection is divine, all the packs are made of recycled fabric and completely unique with no two colourways being the same. I am currently carrying an orange/yellow/red Tanak for daily use, paired with the Shimoda Camera Cube. Despite not being a camera bag I do have a valid reason to carry this - colour. It is bright, it is colourful, and when entering the UK’s grey winter, for photos I hope the colour of this will pop like popping candy.
Backpacking is a bit of a different ballgame, for me, the best combination is a pack that carries large volumes of kit comfortably and paired with a Shimoda Explore Camera cube. My stead of choice for the last year has been the Sierra designs Flex Capacitor, exceptionally comfortable and the zippered bucket access allows you to store the camera at the top of the bag easily within reach.
For day hikes and climbs, the Shimoda Explore 30 is honestly a dream. It is stylish and packed with just pure functionality. I would argue the harness system is by far and away one of the most comfortable packs on the market.
In addition to taking photos, I love seeing images of adventures. I keep rather up to date with the hashtags on Instagram and would love to see some of your exploits into the outdoors. If you hashtag #fortheexperiance and tag @absolute-snow chances are the Absolute team and I will be having a look for some inspiration.