Meet Colin Prior Bowmore Brand Advocate

My association with Bowmore began in 2009 when I was tasked with photographing the brand qualities which are core to Bowmore Single Malt Whisky. Distilled on Islay, where the sea, wind and sky are in a constant state of change, this southern Hebridean island is regularly swept by gales that race in on Atlantic lows turning the sea into a maelstrom and the air to spume. Where I wondered, would I most likely find these conditions for my photographs? After some initial research, I decided that the east coast of Greenland had the greatest potential where the notorious Piterak can be found - a katabatic wind which forms on the icecaps and which reaches speeds of up to 160mph (260 kph). On the 26th August 2009 I flew to Longyearbyen in Svalbard where I boarded the Russian ice-breaker, the Professor Multanovskiy.

Towards the end of the first day we spotted the carcass of a fin whale floating alongside the shoreline on which of five polar bears were feeding. This 'windfall' was a huge bonus for the bears, which normally fast at this time of the year until the sea-ice reforms and they can once again hunt for seals. We approached by Zodiac as two bears fed on the whale - a large male with powerful neck muscles and a younger bear, which behaved subordinately. Standing on the whale carcass, they used their large canines to tear off pieces of flesh and constantly eyed each other with suspicion. 

Colin 1

When we returned to the ship, I continued to watch them through my binoculars and at around half past midnight, I saw two bears on their hind legs mock-fighting on the snow slope - regrettably, too far away to photograph. It was one of these rare privileges to witness these magnificent creatures interacting in their natural environment - not an experience that easily fades from the memory.

Leaving Svalbard behind, we set off for East Greenland, a journey which was not without drama. The crossing, which normally takes 48 hours was extended by an extra day due to the sea and wind conditions and we endured a Force 8 storm for its duration. At it's worst, wind speeds of over 25ms were recorded with the ship swaying up to 23 degrees. I often ventured outdoors to experience this spectacle more fully, drawn to it in the same way as I am to a lightening storm where the elements create a state of awe. With the boat lunging from side to side and the wind blowing relentlessly, for a brief second, I caught a glimpse of a huge vertical fin amongst the surf - that of a male orca. In the time that it took to raise the camera to my eye it was gone, but the memory of that two-metre fin alone in that turbulent ocean, is etched on my memory forever.

Colin 2 

As we neared the coast of Greenland we sailed close to a tabular iceberg amidst the tempest. To witness the elements interacting in such a way was truly awesome. The wind gusting at over 25 metres per second would lift the waves into vertical zephyrs with forces that were difficult to comprehend. The water around the base of the berg was a maelstrom of turbulent currents where giant waves rolled vertically along the glacier face. As the ship rolled and lunged, I was aware of the uniqueness of the moment - of being in the ocean amidst a tempest, at close proximity to a tabular iceberg is about as wild as it gets! Witnessing and capturing these ephemeral moments is what, as a photographer, drives me out again and again and in reality, I never go out to photograph what's there but rather what's not.

Several days later and within the shelter of Rodefjord, I took the opportunity of photographing the three expressions of Bowmore Single Malt Whisky, which I had brought along on the trip. My plan was to try to find an old piece of ice - one that has been trapped deep within a glacier for a thousand years or more. We searched continuously and finally came upon a piece, which looked like a piece of translucent glass, into which we were able to 'dock' the zodiac. I carefully arranged the cartons on the most level surface I could find, knowing that I would only have once chance, and shot a series of images of the whisky. With the images in the bag, we toasted our success with a celebratory dram and savoured the distinctive aromas of Bowmore in the heart of an iceberg.

Colin 3 

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