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In summer 2017, Mike reached an agreement with the UK’s Kandahar Ski Race team, a world-renowned training provider in competitive snowsports, a number of whose members have gone on to compete in the Winter Olympics. With just expenses paid instead of his usual fees, Mike would spend three days with them at training sessions in Norway, photographing the team’s activities in the mornings, and then move on in the afternoons to his own travels around the evocative, spacious landscapes of this beautiful country.
As he drove around, inland around the western fjords of Norway, Mike shot a collection of stock photographs, both landscapes and portraits, seeking to avoid the obvious, keeping his colour schemes flat and his portrait subjects – locals from the region - as realistic as he could. To this end he shot a number of subjects in football training, before shooting other subjects both in and around the area’s lakes and fjords.
The images also include a variety of iconic Norwegian landscape features, some of which, perhaps, it takes an overseas visitor to appreciate: the impeccably smooth road surfaces, the snow poles at the roadsides, the tiny villages of ubiquitous log houses. Mike takes care to bring nuance to his other landscapes, too, bringing a towering sense of scale as well as an ominous stillness to his image of a small town on the edge of a fjord. It’s also notable that these images weren’t shot in unbroken sunshine. The cloud cover brings an earthy, metallic quality, a reminder that this is more than a holiday destination, and that the beauty of these areas isn’t just in the picture postcard photographs that we are all used to seeing in our travel guides and newspaper supplements. The clouds enhance the sense of solitude, a defining feature of time spent travelling in rural Norway. With a population of just five million, twenty per cent of whom live in the cities of Oslo and Bergen, anyone wishing for a bit of alone time in the rural regions is sure to get it.
It’s not all solitude here, though. At this point it’s worth bringing the images of the football training back into focus, because for the locals, dealing with the small population is all about fostering a strong sense of community. And this really shines through on the football pitches.