Gina Dale brings Yorkshire team together for Viking Wolf cover shoot

Ben Glynn was transformed into Viking warrior for Gina’s latest release, Viking Wolf, thanks to a Todmorden photographer, a hair stylist from Hebden Bridge and a saddlery in Sowerby Bridge.

Viking Wolf is about the Vikings in Yorkshire during the late 9th and early 10th centuries.

The book’s cover is a result of a collaboration between several West Yorkshire businesses who all came together, under Gina’s creative direction, to transform Todmorden-based Ben Glynn into a majestic Viking warrior upon his noble steed – despite Ben being a novice rider.

Gina Dale commented: “My first novel trilogy was about the life of a celebrated 19th century artist, Carolus Duran, and there were plenty of pictures to choose from for cover shots and other promotional purposes but for Viking Wolf, and the subsequent books in the series I’m now planning, I needed to create some new imagery and relished the challenge of creating a real life Viking to be photographed, rather than an illustration or purchased image. Of course, there was the added challenge of arranging this in 2020 and ensuring everything was within COVID restrictions, just to make things even more interesting.”

Gina commissioned photographer Katie Amos, of in Todmorden, as they had previously worked together on a number of projects and knew each other through the local equestrian community, and it was Katie who recommended Ben Glynn to be the star of the shoot.

“Katie said she knew of a local man who fitted the brief I’d set. We were looking for someone who had traditional Viking-like appearance – tall and blonde with rugged charm – and we knew that Ben had very limited riding experience but other than that he fitted the brief to perfection and he readily agreed to be the model.”

Gina quickly sourced a Viking costume and commissioned Kaye Volante from Zeitgeist salon in Hebden Bridge to do the hair styling.

“Kaye was the perfect choice for the shoot as she’s used to dressing hair for special occasions and she took on the challenge of recreating the Viking warrior hairstyle on Ben after we had a meeting and a practice beforehand. 

“I had a bridle specially made for the shoot and commissioned Tim at Ryburn Leather in Sowerby Bridge – a local saddlery – to produce one. The horse, Sorrento, was local too belonging to a friend of Katie Amos and stabled at Shaw Farm Equestrian Centre.”

On the day

“I then had to find a date to suit everybody and settled on 2 November.  The other problem was that Covid lockdown 2 was imminent and time was running out.  The costume hire was for a week, so I ensured I had it by Friday because I needed to ensure it fit Ben before the shoot.  It needed some nappy pins to keep his voluminous pantaloons up, but it was well worth the effort.  We only had a 2-hour window booked at 11.00 am at the equestrian venue and getting his hair done would take at least two hours preparation with no time for adjusting his costume.

The weather had taken a turn for the worse and heavy rain fell that weekend.  Katie and I had already planned to take Ben up on to the moors after the shoot to take photos of him alone.  There was no way we could risk him on horseback outdoors.  The ground was saturated and muddy and in fact the river Calder overflowed within a mile of the venue and the road was closed early on and delayed Kaye getting to Ben and me on the morning of the shoot.  This delayed the start of the shoot by an hour and caused palpitations for both Katie and me.  However, all my nightmares had been on how Sorrento would react with all the faffing about with costume changes and standing still.  To his eternal credit he was an absolute star.  He took everything in his stride like a true professional and we managed to get all the indoor shots done in an hour.  We then drove up to the moors where it had now stopped raining but there was intermittent showers and a dull grey sky.

Katie took over 400 photos in total and I was bog eyed trying to edit the best of each position but eventually whittled it down to 30.  My aim was to have the horse and rider on this cover, but the pictures of Ben taken on the moors with the atmospheric wind and rain gave me plenty of scope for the next book’s cover as well.

I was delighted we were able to put a team together of local people to do this shoot at relatively short notice and with a pandemic increasing in voracity daily. The cost of doing my own shoot was a fraction of what some authors pay for their covers and it was a memorable day when everyone worked together to produce something which, in my opinion was worthy of the story I had to tell set in my birthplace of Yorkshire. 

On the way back from the shoot Ben had to collect some keys from the pub he works in and so I dropped him off in the centre of Hebden Bridge in full costume with the sword at his side.  I was fascinated to see that only two people looked startled to see a Viking striding through the village square at 2.00 pm on a Monday afternoon.   Hebden Bridge has a long history of TV and film shootings taking place all over the area.  Even walkers on the moors when we were doing the outdoor shots did not bat an eyelid at seeing a Viking waving a sword and shield on a hill top. Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax, Gentleman Jack have all been shot in this area, but this was the first Viking shoot I am aware of.  It also says a lot about the eclectic mix of Yorkshire people who take everything in their stride and just get on with life.

Katie Amos commented: “This was a great photo shoot to work on and, although my main area of work is in equestrian photography there were a number of other challenges for Gina’s shoot that I really enjoyed – not least finding a horse who I knew would be suitable for a novice rider. I really enjoy working with Gina – I love her creativity and ideas and her flexibility to adapt to changes really helps to get the best out of everyone involved.”

Kaye Volante added: “I loved working with Gina, Katie and Ben on this shoot – from the practice run to the final photo shoot day. When I got the brief from Gina I did research to closely replicate the style specified and check it would be possible – a few extra pieces of hair were added to Ben’s to make it look even more authentic. I specialise in precision cutting, occasion style and designing new looks so I was really pleased to get a commission that combines my specialities and played to my strengths as a stylist. And it was great to work with a local team – Gina was really clear on what she wanted but was happy to take advice too and that’s what makes a great client for me.”

Ben Glynn concluded: “I was surprised and very pleased to be approached by Katie Amos for the Viking Wolf shoot – I’ve never done anything like this before but I’m really open minded about trying new experiences and it sounded like an exciting thing to do. Gina, Katie and Kaye were a great team to work with – very supportive but also really clear on what they needed me to do to get the right images. I loved being part of this team and my friends and family have found it quite amusing that I’m now immortalised as a Viking on a book cover – with potentially more features to come.”

Viking Wolf is out now and available to buy on Amazon.

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