It was at the end of last week that I received terrible news. A friend, photographer and fellow traveller Dave Bradshaw had died just before the end of 2013. In our lives people come, people go, but it is a measure of the nature of expedition travel that some leave a lasting impression. Dave was one such person.
This website was created after my travels to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Antarctica exactly 4 years ago, so there is not a blog to chronicle those adventures. We travelled on a small Russian ex-research ship, the Professor Molchanov, which carried 49 passengers and 19 crew. I had deliberately sought to sail on her as it was the last available trip I could get on before she was decommissioned and for me, the smaller the ship, the better (for various reasons). Dave was the only other British passenger on board and with two small dining room areas, we soon linked in with the Dutch half of the travellers. The Dutch were very much on our wavelength and adopted us as "honorary Dutch". With the loss of his wife a couple of years previously, Dave had decided to fulfil their joint dream of seeing penguins in the wild; he never saw the emperor penguins which had particularly appealed to them both, but he was able to enjoy seeing rockhopper, magellanic, king, macaroni, gentoo and chinstrap penguins, and one juvenile Adelie.
To travel in such proximity for 3 weeks forges friendships amongst those who wish to do so and following these not inconsiderable adventures, Dave and I kept in touch, and were invited to the Netherlands for a screen showing of one of the Dutch photographers' pictures of the trip, commissioned by the Dutch travel company, Beluga.
As a natural progression therefore, when arranging to visit Russia in the summer of 2011 with my cabin mate from the Antarctic trip, Simone, I suggested that we invited Dave along too. He readily accepted and the trip is recorded in a different blog ("The Russian Arctic"). Simone, alas, was unable to join us at the last minute, but Dave and I took on the adventure, and it was he who took me to photograph Red Square at night
and who joined me with three others in becoming the first ever tourists to make the overland trip across Wrangel Island. As mentioned in the article, it was certainly very basic and a genuine adventure.
On the day in which we witnessed the swimming polar bear, my zodiac came within 10 metres of the bear, or rather the bear swam to within 10 metres of our zodiac as we had the engine off. For me that was an incredible thrill, but Dave found himself in the even more privileged position of being in a zodiac only 5 metres away.
It was on the return trip via Moscow Airport where we overnighted prior to a 5am flight back to the UK that Dave checked his e-mails and saw the opportunity of visiting Alaska to photograph Northern Lights and polar bears, something he grasped with both hands. He repeated the experience a year later on the slightly later October trip and took many shots, two of which have been short-listed for this year's Scottish Seabird Centre Photographic competition. It was due to his connections with Alaska that I made my two trips there in 2012 and 2013.
An adventurer then. But Dave was so much more than that. He was a Nikon man (I use Canon), but it didn't stop us comparing endless notes about how to get the best out of our equipment. Dave's training was as an engineer and he was full of ideas, many of which I found fascinating, but beyond my technical competence. Although I had undertaken a little bit of astrophotography, it was Dave who encouraged me to experiment further and who was at the end of the phone even when I was struggling with settings out in the dark. I was even able to communicate with him by text when enquiring about a specific Nikon problem for a fellow traveller from the furthest reaches of Alaska in September. Naturally there have been other friends from whom I have learned over the years, but I knew that when I sought Dave's advice on one of the many Skype chats we had, he would be honest, inventive and supportive. It was he who helped me change to this website last year. I owe him a heap of thanks.
Judging by the responses I've had from mutual friends since the news broke, Dave touched a lot of lives. He is already very much-missed.