Photographing yourself on a bike is an impossible task. Well, at least without really expensive kit that could trigger the shutter as I ride past; but I’m not made of money and I don’t want to lug something like that around on the bike. So, when I get stuff to review or photograph, I need an extra pair of hands. It’s usually George.
George is a top bloke. I met him at university when we were both studying to be teachers. We lived on the same floor in the campus accommodation. We ended up renting a flat with another lad, Adam (who also lived on the same floor), for the last two years of our training but at this point we weren’t into bikes. Once I graduated, I moved out of Scarborough, George stayed and we pretty much fell out of contact for a while. Eventually, I found teaching was becoming a bit of an obsession – as anything is that I sink my teeth into – and needed something to take my mind off it from time to time. To let my brain breathe. I bought a Specialized Camber from Evans Cycles and started riding. It was mostly solo rides at the beginning but I started to chat to George and he was up for a bit of a pedal. It’s all grown from there.
Because George and I usually ride together, it’s usually him that gets on the end of the camera when I’m riding and need photographs. It can be anything from socks to jerseys, and occasionally even bikes. I take the photographs, give them a bit of an edit to bring out the colours or crisp up the photo, then send them to whoever needs them or use them in a review I’ve been writing. I love photography but it’s a bit of a pain also having to be the person testing the thing when reviewing it: It just means I have to rely on someone else to press the button on the camera for me.
The latest photography trip was to Lady Cannings. It’s a usual haunt when I need some photographs since Marmot showed me what can be done there. Marmot is another great chap I’ve met through bikes and in a past life he happened to be a photographer for a newspaper so really knows his way round his kit. He’s taken me up to Lady Cannings before and shot some photographs with me so it’s given me a bit of an idea of where to stop.
This time around was for Gravity Clothing Co. They’re the clothing brand which keeps me in kit throughout the year and has sent me everything from tees and hoodies to hats and jerseys. Their designs are pretty cool and not the sort of garish motocross stuff I’ve seen from other smaller brands. Benoit, the guy behind Gravity, is a nice chap and has a cracking French accent but still manages to speak better English than me. From time to time he sends me stuff and I get some photos or wear it in videos to help promote the brand. It’s a simple partnership but it certainly works for me because their stuff is something I’d actually pay to have.
It had been a while since I’d last been out on the bike because of a solid cough and cold but I was sure I could get round a couple of laps at least. The climb to the top, even though it’s not that long, nearly killed me and I was blowing a bit and coughing up my lungs. After a breather to recompose myself, George and I decided we’d give Cooking On Gas a go. I’ve reviewed the trail before so won’t go into detail but it’s basically a flow trail with swooping berms. The sort of stuff that looks like a bit of a bike park and makes the perfect background for shots, especially for a company that predominantly focuses on the Enduro and Downhill market.
George did a few runs down a section we’d eyed up whilst I got my eye in behind the camera. The light seemed to fall perfectly giving the trails a bit of a highlight. After each run he’d ask me if I’d got anything I was happy with before walking back to the top. I think he only ended up doing 3 or 4 runs because it seemed that the majority of the shots were coming out nicely. I guess that’s what happens when you get a bit of luck with lighting.
We swapped over and I passed my camera to George. I usually leave all the settings alone and just ask George to compose the shot in a way he thinks looks good and then hit the shutter. He’s got a good eye for framing and positioning a rider within the shot, but hasn’t yet mastered all the technicalities of shooting photographs in manual. After one run George declared he’d ‘got it’ and the rest would be bonus shots. I did a few more all the same, adding on the hydration hip pack Osprey had sent through for a review with TotalMTB. Two birds; one stone, and all that. George also got on his camera and snagged a few of his own to practice setting up manually.
Some lunch and a bit of a pedal up to the moors gave us a change of scenery and I’d started to feel better. I’d locked the camera away and swapped for the drone. The moors seemed like a sensible place to fly it since there aren’t any trees to crash into but, once we’d got a bit of altitude out there, it was clear it wasn’t such a good idea. The exposure and the high winds would’ve probably worked together to steal away my drone. It’s a good gadget but it’s certainly restrictive in terms of when it can be flown – it doesn’t like the wet, wind or cold. Living in Britain is certainly making it hard to fly it.
After dropping back into the forest plantation and avoiding the wind, we rode Blue Steel and sessioned a few features to get some drone shots. It’s great having a different perspective of a trail that I’ve photographed before, or been photographed on. Nobody seemed put out by the drone either – it’s not that big or noisy really and a family were looking at it from the forest path. Truthfully, I thought they might come over and give me a hard time about flying it but they didn’t. I think they were just interested to see one being used.
All in all, another good photography trip and Benoit seems happy with the shots. It’s good to be able to combine two passions together and benefit someone who deserves a bit of extra exposure for putting together some good looking kit. It’s also given me a bit of an idea about getting out with the camera a bit more this year and giving back to the mountain biking community, if I can. I think a few organised rides where I can take some photographs of others might be something worth doing, and good fun.
In the meantime, I’ll be out there photographing some socks I’ve been given to review for TotalMTB and maybe even a really trick Orbea Rallon that JE Cycles have put to one side for a demo, again as part of a review for TotalMTB. Seems I might need George to come and use my camera again soon.