A long time friend of Finisterre, Mat Arney has been putting our products through their paces for years. And, as a photographer and writer whose work revolves around the sea, he's been doing the same with Palladium boots for just as long.
So, we thought, who better to evaluate our latest collaboration? We visited Mat in the Hailer Workspace to deliver a pair, and in the piece below he muses on a concept that these boots embody entirely: Travel light, move fast.
velocity = √(kinetic energy / ½ mass)
Travel light; move fast. It’s something that many of us aspire to do, right? To be more David, and less Goliath. To be the speedboat, not the supertanker. To tread lightly, but still make a positive impact.
But first, let’s rewind a bit and get some context. I am a sucker for a good story. Palladium’s backstory is as good as they come, although I was oblivious to this when I picked up my first pair. I didn’t know about their origins making tyres for planes at the dawn of aviation or that they had then used that expertise in vulcanised rubber to make boots for the French Foreign Legion until I read about it on the side of the shoe box. I certainly had no idea that so many professional photographers regard them as essential footwear. I had simply seen a pair of good-looking boots advertised as waterproof, and they were on sale. Despite my best efforts it took me five years to wear those boots out, the soles finally abraded smooth and thin. I’ve not yet done the same damage to my second pair. They’ve still got some miles left to travel.
Over the lifetime of those boots, the concept of “travel light, move fast” has seeped further into my personal and professional lives. Truth be told, where I can find the line between business and pleasure, it is often intentionally blurry. And, I also intentionally blur the line between the figurative and literal definitions of travelling light and moving fast.
Anybody who has stuffed a few surfboards into a board bag or a set of cameras and lenses into a case, or both, and set off in search of waves can attest to the value of packing light. Surfers the world over will forgo a change of clothes and take only what they’re wearing on a trip in favour of an extra surfboard. On occasions, travelling light is a necessity of the mode of transport, if hiking or cycling for surf. But travelling light could and should translate as treading lightly in every aspect of our lives. We are all now much more aware of our impact, in every decision and action that we take.
Coincidentally, since I bought that first pair of Palladiums seven or eight years ago the geographical range of the surf trips I’ve taken (for both pleasure and work) has decreased significantly, and the nature of those trips has evolved somewhat. I have gone from searching for the best waves possible to finding the best ways to get to and enjoy the waves that are on offer without having to go so far. That’s often involved activities like bike-packing, bodysurfing, and board and boat building, to various degrees of success (I now have a 16’ outrigger sailing canoe and various other old projects stored at work) in an attempt to broaden the focus to include the process as well as the end goal. Some of those activities demand travelling light literally but none of them involve moving particularly fast (compared to travelling by car, for instance). That was never the point. Speed is relative, but less weight on a bike, on a boat, or in a bag requires less energy to move and facilitates faster speeds. All of those projects were about minimal input and environmental impact providing maximum return in terms of fun, photography and stories.
Those stories are important because telling and sharing stories has become my day job. I shoot photos and write, often one in support of the other. What were once hobbies and creative outlets developed into a career, creating and curating articles and content for a number of brands, businesses and organisations. Hailer is like any business that has grown out of a passion or side project in that there’s now much more involved than just creating images and words, but those two activities are the foundations. That concept of travelling light and moving fast has always weaved through the business informing a methodology that aims to generate the greatest positive impact out of often limited timescales and modest budgets.
Photography is as much about composition and finding and exploiting angles as it is about light. Good light in the field is often a matter of luck; how you use it or how to compensate for a lack of it is where the photographer’s work lies. It doesn’t matter how many good shots you get of the same subject from the same angle because you only need one. High yield photo shoots require movement and, particularly when photographing surf, every time you break cover to find a new angle it is an informed gamble that the wave of the day isn’t about to appear on the horizon. My work often finds me running the coast path, scrambling down goat trails, clambering over rocks and splashing across wet sand trying to capture varied images of surfers, or groups of sea kayakers or open water swimmers, just as often as it requires me to be stood behind my desk. In these moments I have to trust: I have to trust the camera that I’ve slung over my shoulder, but most of all I have to trust where I put my feet. I’ve never really thought about this too much though, as I’ve never not trusted my feet to hold fast. Not since wearing Palladiums, at least. But the consequences of losing my footing could be costly, either in terms of missing a shot, damaging kit, or even injury. Possibly all three.
These new Palladium collaboration boots are the lightest yet; in both senses of the word. That suits me down to the ground. As daily workhorse-wear they’re lightweight and waterproof so I can hopefully remain fleet of foot whilst chasing “the shot”, and as a product they’ve been designed and built to last with minimal environmental impact (uppers made from recycled plastic bottles, soles featuring recycled rubber, no animal products). If my old pair of Palladiums are anything to go by, then I hope and expect that these boots will see many miles over many years, and collect their own set of stories.