15th April: The team leave their base and head for the Eurotunnel direct to Calais. Once they hit France they make their way to the first of 16 decaying locations. It was an incredible school, barely blemished in its deserted state. The Hadley One lays in the most grand room with the most stunning chandelier in the background. It oozes the same class that this room of opulence once held. It rested in the room whilst the team documented this wondrous building. After 3 hours of solid photography, the next locations were sadly a failure, so the only option was to get some rest in preparation for the next day’s adventures.
16th April: The night was spent in Liege. After sleeping the night in a hotel that was unfortunately falling apart like half the city, the team were eager for the day of exploring ahead. This was plane day. The first on the list was an abandoned Mig. To reach the target, first everyone had to take a trip through some extremely dense woods and the Hadley wastested. Sometimes when a product looks so good it compromises quality, but Billingham don’t. The materials, stitching and strength are second to none. It couldn’t be helped that branches and twigs came into contact with the bag. When we finally made it and the Mig was in sight, I pulled my camera out of the bag and there wasn’t a single mark on it.
If it could survive this, it could survive most things. We spent 30 minutes taking our photos and then made our way back through the treacherous woods – on to the next location we went. The second plane couldn’t have been more different than the first. It was an Airbus A310, turned into a restaurant on the edge of a busy road in Belgium. The Hadley One bathed in the sunlight while we documented the scene. There isn’t a massive amount of padding at the bottom of the bag but the Hadley One is designed with exquisite precision. Too much with a bag like this would be unnecessary and take up valuable room. There is just the right amount to protect your precious gear. The bag laid down time and time again but never was there fear of anything inside becoming damaged.
17th April: The first stop on day three was a famous abandoned cooling tower near Charleroi, Belgium. When we got there, there was a man standing outside the door and he wouldn’t let us in. At first glance we thought it must be security but it turns out he was just a regular guy, holding the door shut for a nude shoot taking place inside. This is where the size of the bag showed major benefits. Having it on the shoulder whilst balancing on beams wasn’t a problem, luckily, or the bag and myself might not have made it out alive!
The second location wasn’t on the list. We stumbled upon it, and having failed a couple more we decided to try our luck. We walked through the doors and started exploring. We found the main stage and it was pretty awesome, but the whole building had so much to offer. After 30 minutes of exploring the higher levels, we suddenly heard what we thought was a barking dog. Of course, naturally we panicked, instinct kicked in and we ran. The Hadley was once again highly tested, rubbing against dirty and grimy walls, with all sorts sticking out of the crumbling interior. After we made it out without any bites from ravaging mammals I once again checked the bag. This time it was absolutely filthy. I got it the car, reached for my trusted cloth, gave it a wipe and it came up like new. It had been just three days but already the Hadley and been through a pretty tough time.
18th-19th: The final part of the journey took the Hadley One on a trip to Africa for a day to pick up a cat. Yes you read that right. Once again the size showed its real benefit. There was no stress in the airport getting pestered by security that your bag might not fit and there wasn’t even a need to put it in the overhead baggage compartment; it wasn’t even a slight hindrance being under the seats. The size of the Hadley One is perfect for travelling. As long as you don’t need two bodies and 4 lenses, it’s clearly the right choice. It fit in it my 13” laptop, my camera body with two Zeiss lenses, a charger and other random bits and bobs.
Once the cat had been rescued and the crew were reunited in Paris, we had one more location to visit; the most beautiful French manor house with the most charming decay. Pianos are fairly common in abandoned buildings; people don’t steal them because they are too heavy to move. This particular one rested next to a beautiful staircase, forever to be admired by fellow explorers.
After this location, the team decided to make their way home. They didn’t expect to run into a colossal hurdle at the departure gates in Calais. The vets in Morocco didn’t give them the European pet passport needed for the final part of the journey. After tears, anger and many phone calls, there deemed to be one more night in France. It was midnight when everyone managed to get to a hotel and the cat, Princie had to be snuck in. In the morning when we woke, Princie couldn’t be found. She had crept behind a fixed wood panel by the sink. We had a 20 minute deadline to get her to the vets in time for the scheduled train. How they got her out remains a mystery…
The Hadley One had certainly been through a journey, through some crazy conditions, in and out of many treacherous locations in four different countries, full to the brim with gear and it held up perfectly.