It feels so long since I have sat down and wrote anything on this blog, it was March in fact - 5 months! So I thought I would put down into words what has been going on with the photography, and here we go
The biking season with the Scottish Downhill Association kicked off at the end of March, and I had a chance to train my eye back in with a race up at Whinlatter with the Nutcracker XC Series. Although it wasn't like a downhill race it certainly got me back up to speed with the camera as they came in large waves of people where downhill they are more spaced out. It was a great day, sunny for the most part of it and it turned out to be a great starting point for the season. The camera was back under control after it's time away. Time for some real racing!
Innerleithen was the destination. After travelling up the night before we woke up on the Saturday morning to the sound of rain. Beautiful Scottish weather not letting us down any time soon. Track was sloppy and riders were finding it hard to keep tyre side down at a few points. This was the first SDA that we were making a video along side the photos, a sort of video diary of different aspects of the racing weekend. Click the link below to watch the video this weekend
Round 2 took us to Ae forrest and although the weather wasn't great on the Friday night, Saturdays racing ended on a high with sun and blue skies making an appearance. Great for the low shots I was capturing where the rider had the sky as the back drop. Come race day I knew where I wanted to be camped out at. Race day came and race 1 was underway when there was a problem with the timing cables meaning long waits between riders. Rain, snow and hail showed up but I was bunkered underneath a tree looking up the track at a jump so I had a good shelter! Again we filmed another video for this round and this time focused more on the female racers. They are in low numbers compared to the male categories, and I think this is down to low media coverage of female riders. The world cup for downhill doesn't much of the female riders, only the top elites which hides the fact there is a place for women in this male dominated sport. Check out this video on the link below
After Round 1 I ran a competition on the facebook page to win a season pass for the 2015 SDA season, it was fun to see who entered as it was free to enter and with it you get so many photos. The entries ranged right the way through from the top riders to the juniors. The winner was announced just after the video of Ae which was on girl riders and coincidentally a female rider (Zara Kane) won the pass which is great for getting photos out there to promote the sport.
After this I took a break from biking and had the chance to shoot a colour run type of event, it was called color vibe. American spelling. I'd never shot one of these before and so I protected my camera as much as possible. I taped up the front element on the lens and then tapes a plastic rain cover from there backwards. I then sealed the rain cover (it was clear plastic) at the back of the camera so the camera and lens were sealed completely. Fortunately it was a wet day and so the paint/dust didn't go very far but then the photos also didn't come out very well as there was no big clouds of dust with people running through them. Disappointing to say the least with the weather/paint combo but also the organisation. The event was meant to set people off in waves of 500 every half hour and with 3500 people taking part you can see why that was the plan but instead, all 3500 people were released resulting in one huge crowd of people running through the point I was photographing. Definitely something different from my normal shooting, I needed to get a fix of biking photography!
Gravity stage race at Whinlatter. Familiar course to me as the race used the existing trails and so I wanted to get photos of the riders on the rock at the top of Red South. The walk up seemed way longer than I remembered but I did have all my gear and wasn't on a bike which was likely the problem! Misty start to the day added drama to the shots with the sun burning through for the midday shots. It was still cold at the top and I challenge anyone to find photography gloves that are warm, practical and can still use all the gear at the same time. Back down at the finish the BBQ and beer was flowing, sun was shining and as usual a great event ran by the team at Cyclewise ended on a high note. Video link below :)
My next event was not a bike race but an obstacle course race, Gelt Gladiator. A new event set around the Gelt Woods area near Brampton, Carlisle. Think of a mud obstacle event and add in gladiators that are trying to hold you back/knock you off/be a nuisance. This was fun to photograph, people pushing themselves to the limit, dunking themselves in skips full of water or crawling through a tunnel full of water, a selection of my photos can be seen here
Back to biking! SDA again and this time at Glencoe. Such a lovely setting, and with the weather we had it made it even more spectacular. With never shooting this track before I was a little sceptical of any great photo locations. Paid for a day on the chair lift to get an idea of the whole track lay out, it also gave great angles for filming. Video can be seen below and is short and snappy, great angles. I came away from Glencoe loving the shots I got especially the wide angles under the gap jump near the end of the track.
I missed out the next SDA which was at Fort William, a great track. Long but very photogenic with many places to create awesome photos. Reason for missing this round was I had a weekends work photographing Total Warrior in Leeds for an events photography company. It was like nothing I've photographed before with roughly 6500 people on the Saturday and 1500 on the Sunday. Although it was very frantic day, I loved it. So much that I agreed to do the Lake District Total Warrior too!
Before the second Total Warrior though I headed up to Glencoe for a second time but this time for the black track. The new addition to my kit arrived just in time too, the new Canon 7D mark 2. This amazing piece of kit shoots 10 frames a second which is insane. For my sports photography it will be my new go to camera. The Glencoe black track was much more of a downhill track than the red. It was steep, fast and very rocky. I thought the red wasn't walkable for us photographers but trying to walk down besides the black was near impossible without ending up on the floor, at least it gave me an idea of what the low angles looked like... At the end of the weekend I came away happier than I did the first time I was here. I was most happy with the arty shots from the back of riders sending it over the final drop with the iconic Glencoe views as a back drop as can be seen below.
It had been discussed for some time and the dates were booked 3 weeks prior with the idea being we would look at the weather a few days before and see if it would go ahead. The stars must have been aligned as it couldn't have been any better weather. Two days of glorious sunshine, unheard of in the Lake District this year. The first day I arrived at Blencathra Centre car park up near Threlkeld. When I arrived there was already a group of riders waiting with the guys from Cyclewise. We decided to start riding and just keep stopping at locations where shots were available. The route took you between Blencathra and Skiddaw in a U shape around the valley. The views were amazing which was helped by the weather conditions but even on a normal moody day they would still look spectacular. Above is a shot looking down the valley on the Skiddaw side.
The possibilities were endless and we maximised the time by taking images in both directions in each location as the views were equally good which ever way you looked. By the end of the day my lack of fitness was showing as I had cramps and the last hike up the first part of Skiddaw proved difficult. The shots were definitely worth it mind. Keswick, Derwent Water and the surrounding fells as a backdrop to some brightly clothed riders. Stunning.
Day 2 was a different set up, based around the trails at Whinlatter and the Cyclewise shop. The weather was just as kind, but there was a mist over Keswick first thing which hid it from the shots including that view. The sun soon burnt through the mist for the second half of the day where we were on the south loop looking towards Skiddaw. After a couple of portraits of the staff and riders we ended the second days shooting with lunch from Siskins Cafe just up from the shop. Delicious! I can't wait to see how they use the images with the new website they are building and it will be some time before I do but I'm confident my images will make it an outstanding website, not being big headed or anything :D
And that pretty much wraps up 5 months of work outside of my Monday to Friday dealership photography. I need to try and keep this up to date more often as I can put more detail into the little jobs I do, will make for better reading and probably more interesting!