Behind the lens with competition winner Olle Claeson

We speak to the winner of the inaugural 'Capture the Extreme’ Photography Competition (see results here), in association with Leica Camera AG, about developing a passion for photography and putting the Frank Hurley Photographer’s Jacket to the test. 

When did your passion for photography start?

My father was a classic engineer who was also a keen hobby photographer. Call it indoctrination, but at eight years old he gave me a simple plastic roll-film camera; Agfa Clack, which I’ve still got. This camera was followed by slightly more advanced cameras, and when I was 13 he built me a dark-room in the cellar of the house. From then on photography became a hobby, turning into a passion. Aside from schoolwork in my teens, I worked for local newspapers and also as an assistant to a local studio photographer, learning all the basics the hard way. At the time, I was destined to enter into a career in photography. 

Military service beckoned, however, and even if my childhood had already brought me to the archipelago and the sea, the years with the Swedish Royal Marines definitely introduced outdoor adventure into my life. During my service, I underwent several training exercises and expeditions way up in the north during winter. I guess this was when the first ‘Antarctic bug’ bit me. I got to spend more time than first planned in the Marines, and eventually left as a reserve Captain to pursue a civil career.

During these years I did continue my photography, but the professional career once again took one of those unprecedented turns and brought me via university into Management Consulting. Since then, photography has remained my number one hobby and passion.

My profession has brought me to work in major cities all over the world, and I guess that has had an impact on my need and desire to ‘get away’ at times. Wilderness makes me refocus, and the experience of nature´s beauty and close meetings with wildlife of all sorts enhances my life. I share this desire to be in the wild with my wife and life companion, Lena. She is my eyes and my spotter, and when I drown inside my viewfinder, she controls what is going on around me. I can thank her for many of the shots I have been able to capture on film and digital. She is also a walking library on plants and critters – quite useful to have close!

Which country or place has left the greatest mark on you?

We have been fortunate to experience so many fascinating places: sailing and meeting bears in the rainforest of British Columbia (including the extremely rare white Kermode Bear), winter hiking and tenting in the Himalayas, and much more. Given that we have been to Svalbard seven times and the Falklands four times, these places are obviously dear to us. But if we were to really pick one place, that must be South Georgia. Absolutely stunning in its beauty and abundance of wildlife. We would really like to go back, but the remoteness of the place makes it difficult to reach. Still, we hope to get back again soon.

Earlier this year, you won the ‘Capture the Extreme’ Photography Competition, have you had a chance to put the Frank Hurley Photographer’s Jacket to the test?

Winning the ‘Capture the Extreme’ Photography Competition was a fantastic surprise, and I was humbled to win given the number and quality of the other entries. In addition to the honour of the award as such, winning a Leica camera was a real treat. I bought my first Leica M4 in the early 70s (and still have it) and have been faithful to the brand ever since. And yes, when the Frank Hurley Photographer's Jacket arrived to our mountain home up in the north of Sweden in winter, I was able to put it to use immediately.

This last winter blessed us with masses of snow and really cold weather, and spring did not arrive until well into the month of May. Thus, I have used the jacket extensively on treks in winter conditions with temperatures down to -20ºC, and it has proven to live up to the highest of expectations.

To be honest, this isn't just a jacket; it is a serious piece of gear that has become part of my photography kit given the functionality and multitude of pockets and arrangements to allow using a camera in severe conditions.

Which regions/countries are on your wish list?

Looking ahead, we will spend three weeks next summer on the West Coast of Greenland. It is a place we have dreamt about, but never been able to visit so far. One week will be dedicated to trekking along the shores of the inner Disco Bay, and then two weeks onboard a small vessel that will take us to the archipelago north of Disco Bay.

The Frank Hurley Jacket will off course join me on this trip! We have also made arrangements for our fifth visit to the Falklands in 2023. Given the difficult logistics when you visit the Falklands, you have to make arrangements two to three years ahead of your visit. We also have a long-term plan to go back to Antarctica once more, this time to meet the Emperor Penguins. The near future, however, will be spent mostly sailing in the Baltic Sea and hiking the Swedish mountains when the autumn colours arrive.

For more of Olle’s photography, visit: