Who The Hell is Ice Nine? The Work of Stuart Holmes

by Michael Ryan May/2011
This article has been read 14,860 times
"Was wondering...when was the last time someone had 23 outta 24 top pics by votes?" asked Padraig in the forums, about this mysterious talent who had uploaded a diverse range of landscape and action photographs from Canada to Everest to the Lake District.

+Raven on a stupa in front of Manaslu, Nepal, 55 kbRaven on a stupa in front of Manaslu, Nepal
© Ice Nine

It is not rare for a photograph to catch your eye at the UKClimbing.com/UKHillwalking.com Photo Galleries. We are blessed with thousands of photographs that inspire, inform and please the eye.

+Ice Nine on the Icefields Parkway, Banff to Jasper Highway, Canada. Scan from a slide. Photo by Pete Batey, 85 kbIce Nine on Ice Nine

As climbers and lovers of the mountain environment most of us carry a camera to record our adventures; souvenirs of our climbing tourism. We are descendants of the climber-photographers Vittorio Sella in Italy, and George and Ashley Abraham in the UK. Whilst climbing and climbing photography were elite activities back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, nowadays cumbersome and expensive plate cameras, and involved processing, have been replaced by inexpensive portable digital cameras accessible to all.

But whilst photography is more egalitarian and much of the work can be done by modern cameras, those photographers that really shine have several things in common: they always carry a camera with them, they start out early and return late, they get out often, and they have an understanding of light, exposure and composition.

The UKC/UKH Photo Galleries

Using online photo-galleries we can share our adventures instantly and improve our photography by getting feedback on our images and by witnessing the work of others. Online photo-galleries are also where we get exposed to many of today's great photographers and emerging talents, no longer are photographers at the mercy of a magazine's photo-editor, we can all self-publish. Online galleries are also perused by companies and media looking for images to buy, and many photographers who present their work at UKClimbing.com have successfully sold images for editorial and commercial uses.

Many who look at New Photos this week and Top 10 Climbing & Mountaineering Photos/Galleries this week, two of the most popular pages at UKClimbing.com, will be familiar with the work of Jamie Moss, Jon Griffith, Dan Arkle, Michal Madera and others. Those pages are a feast of photographic excellence.

Several weeks ago we were exposed to another photographic talent, going by the name of Ice Nine (Ice Nine's UKC Gallery) whose images immediately caught our attention,

"Was wondering...when was the last time someone had 23 outta 24 top pics by votes?" asked Padraig on the forums, about this mysterious talent who had uploaded a diverse range of landscape and action photographs from Canada to Everest to the Lake District.

So we asked the question:

Who The Hell is Ice Nine?

+Stuart Holmes, Rannerdale in the Buttermere valley., 220 kbStuart Holmes, Rannerdale in the Buttermere valley.
© Stuart Holmes

Who you are?

My name is Stuart Holmes; I am 45 years old and I enjoy having adventures. I live in the ideal location for playing outdoors. In Keswick I have the crags, hills and lakes in my backyard and lots of active friends to play out with. The name Ice Nine comes from my favourite climb in Canada, there are photos of it in my gallery.

+Stuart Holmes launching from Ama Dablam in November 2009 with a speedglider (mini paraglider), 106 kbStuart Holmes launching from Ama Dablam in November 2009 with a speedglider (mini paraglider)
© Adam Booth

What do you do?

Until 2 years ago I was an exploration geologist, which involved working in remote locations worldwide on a typically month on/month off rotation. This gave me lots of time off to go climbing, paragliding and generally larking around. I was also taking and selling landscape and adventure sports photographs for galleries and various magazines (e.g., an article on ice climbing in Canada for Mayfair!!!) during this time. I packed in the geology to focus (ha!) on photography. I also occasionally lead treks for KE Adventure Travel. I'm off to the Karakoram for the first time in July so I hope to add to my portfolio on my return.

+Blencathra in the fantastic winter of 2010, 104 kbBlencathra in the fantastic winter of 2010
© Ice Nine, Dec 2009

Some of the top Photo Galleries at UKClimbing.com

+On the Kuffner at sunrise with an inversion just below, 239 kbOn the Kuffner at sunrise with an inversion just below
© Jon Griffith
Jon Griffith: Gallery

Mike Meysner: Gallery

Streapadair: Gallery

Jamie Moss: Gallery

Dan Arkle: Gallery

Alex Messenger: Gallery

ChrisJD:Gallery

Nick Smith: Gallery

Michal Madera: Gallery

Mr. Lopez: Gallery

Jethro Kiernan: Gallery

Adam Long: Gallery

Gordon Stainforth: Gallery

Could you describe your photographic journey/life?

I got my first camera when I was 11 years old and haven't looked back. I took a film SLR - an Olympus OM10 - on my first climbing trip to Chamonix in 1986. Amongst other climbs, I made a solo ascent of Mt. Blanc up the Gouter Route, arriving at the summit at 7am to be greeted by the most fantastic panorama I had ever seen. The light was orange with the low sun casting long shadows of the tops of clouds far below me. I snapped away like a man possessed and was thankful I had made the effort of carrying a good camera.

I enjoy the quest for images; using accumulated knowledge of locations, meteorology, composition and framing to hopefully capture something different. My best selling photograph is one taken in early January 2005 during the floods. I realised that both lakes in the valley; Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite, would be impressive from Latrigg, a hill above Keswick. I walked up there in wild conditions and waited until a snow shower had passed over and a brief clearing allowed the sun to light up the fells. Braced against a gale force wind I took a 4-photo panorama of the 2 lakes joined up. I have sold over 200 copies of this panoramic print and it has been used in many publications to illustrate the local floods and even the effects of global warming.

I have had a few photographic exhibitions, mostly in the Lakes. In 2005 whilst working in Turkmenistan I had an exhibition of landscape images in the national library in the capital, Ashgabat, hosted by the British Consulate. The photographs were of the area where I was working close to the Caspian Sea; a barren, salty, desolate place. When the USSR broke up, the Russians, not renowned for their environmental policy, upped sticks and left, leaving an area resembling a post holocaust setting or a scene from a Mad Max film. By looking carefully and being out at the right time of day I managed to produce some good images. Typical comments from the locals were 'I didn't realise Turkmenistan was so beautiful.'

It's getting easier to take good outdoor photographs with improving digital cameras; the smallest compacts are capable of producing great results. However despite the bulk and weight penalty, I have always preferred to take a good SLR on adventures as it gives me the quality and flexibility to be a bit more creative when something special happens.

What camera equipment do you use?

+Canon 5D MkII, 32 kbCanon 5D MkII
© Canon

I have had a few Canon digital SLRs; I currently use a Canon 5D MkII with a range of lenses from 12mm to 400mm. I took a Canon 20D to the north side of Everest in 2005 and it performed brilliantly, even on summit day at -30 degrees. The only problem I had was the 'out' valve from my oxygen mask dripped condensation onto the top of the camera inside my down suit which then froze into a lump of ice meaning the pop-up flash wouldn't pop up. In the past I have used a variety of Canon film SLRs; I favoured Fuji Velvia slide film for its rich colour saturation. I still own but no longer use a Mamiya 7II medium format camera that takes incredibly detailed 6x7cm transparencies. I would use this much more but for the inconvenience and cost of getting film processed.

In Galen Rowell's own words: 'You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either.'

Any hints and tips for budding photographers?

I think the best advice I could give with regards to getting good images is to get up early and stay out late (with your camera that is!). The more effort you put in, especially outside of your comfort zone, the more likely you are to capture something different. I recently read 'The Big Open' by Rick Ridgeway that describes Galen Rowell's last expedition where they pulled rickshaws 250 miles across the Tibetan plateau. Ridgeway talks about Rowell being tireless in his quest for light and the perfect angle, being the first out of the tent in the morning and last to return in the evening. In Galen Rowell's own words: 'You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either.'

The colours on my photographs tend to be rich and saturated as I mostly shoot in the golden hours of the morning and evening. Also I find that the metering on Canon SLRs tends to over-expose slightly, so in general I under-expose by at least 1/3 of a stop to enrich the colours. I like to try to be faithful to what I saw by not messing about too much in Photoshop but RAW images inevitably need a wee bit of cleaning up.

If a scene has a lot of contrast between dark foreground and bright sky I will often bracket shots and combine them to replicate what the eye sees. A graduated ND filter would do the same job on a single frame but I don't own any filters. Digital cameras are getting better all the time, some even doing HDR processing in camera, but they still don't have the dynamic range that our eyes can see.

+Camp 2.9 on Ama Dablam, 101 kbCamp 2.9 on Ama Dablam
© Ice Nine

Your contact details

My bread and butter now is still landscape and adventure sports images but I'm also taking photographs of hotels, guesthouses and holiday cottages for websites and brochures. I also photograph outdoor sporting events (fell races, triathlons, bike races, etc) for magazines. The website I have for this is: www.lakespanorama.co.uk

My other website is getting a little out of date now but has various galleries of adventure type images:

www.sharpedgeimages.co.uk I am always open to offers or commissions. Please get in touch if you need a photographer to document your expedition.

Tel: 017687 73019 Email: stuart@lakespanorama.co.uk


Below are a selection of shots from Stuart's UKC Gallery, to see all of his 147 pics uploaded go to: Ice Nine's UKC Gallery

+Emily on the Derwent River near Grange in Borrowdale, 89 kbEmily on the Derwent River near Grange in Borrowdale
© Ice Nine

+Mingbo Peak, just after crossing the Mingbo La, Khumbu, Nepal in 1989, 101 kbMingbo Peak, just after crossing the Mingbo La, Khumbu, Nepal in 1989
© Ice Nine

+Sunset from Blencathra, looking towards Causey Pike. My patient girlfriend Ruth shivers as I take 'just one more photo', 147 kbSunset from Blencathra, looking towards Causey Pike. My patient girlfriend Ruth shivers as I take 'just one more photo'
© Ice Nine, Jan 2011

+Sunrise from the Piz Bernina, 64 kbSunrise from the Piz Bernina
© Ice Nine

+Sunset at Sandwood Bay, Am Buchaille sea stack, 118 kbSunset at Sandwood Bay, Am Buchaille sea stack
© Ice Nine

+Derwentwater from near Friars Crag, 136 kbDerwentwater from near Friars Crag
© Ice Nine

+Spot the lonely figure emerging from the inversion on Haystacks, 48 kbSpot the lonely figure emerging from the inversion on Haystacks
© Ice Nine

+1 hour long exposure, North Face Everest, 125 kb1 hour long exposure, North Face Everest
© Ice Nine

+Bruce Normand on Peak 6008, East Nyenchentangla Mountains, Tibet, 60 kbBruce Normand on Peak 6008, East Nyenchentangla Mountains, Tibet
© Ice Nine

+Keswick from 4500ft, taken from a paraglider, 172 kbKeswick from 4500ft, taken from a paraglider
© Ice Nine

+Looking across to Bowfell from Hindscarth above the inversion, 68 kbLooking across to Bowfell from Hindscarth above the inversion
© Ice Nine

+Tim Mosedale just below the summit of Everest, 2005, 132 kbTim Mosedale just below the summit of Everest, 2005
© Ice Nine

+North Col of Everest, 207 kbNorth Col of Everest
© Ice Nine

www.sharpedgeimages.co.uk

www.lakespanorama.co.uk

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