At least part of my job is to record people riding their bikes through the British countryside, usually to accompany a magazine route guide. Simple, eh? After all, it's just what thousands of ordinary riders do every weekend, taking a few snaps of their mates in gorgeous scenery.
Well, yes. And no. Great riding isn't always accompanied by great scenery, for a start. Likewise, views to die for frequently don't have a trail in a convenient place to make a shot. Trail riding is often slowish in reality, though it feels exciting. Which is hard to capture. And so on. So my job is to see beyond the obvious and do more than record a ride by trying to capture a little of the magic that is mountain biking in the UK. That means pulling a range of techniques out of the bag, some of them not particularly obvious.
Nikon D3, 17-35mm f/2.8, 1/160sec f/7.1 @ ISO1000
Sometimes you've got to work with what you've got. The climb out of Buttermere up to Scarth Gap isn't rideable in large sections, so carrying is the order of the day. Fine. But this day - one of the two we'd allotted for the shoot - dawned grey, damp and intermittently drizzly. Not great conditions, to say the least. Decision one: pack the 17-35 instead of the 14-24. It's not nearly as good, but the front element is a fraction of the size of the wider lens and so is more usable when there's a lot of moisture in the air.
Decision two: make the most of the muted colour palette by processing the day's pics with desaturated colours. In the end, I took this to its logical conclusion with this pic. I'm not a fan of mono conversions to add 'art' to an otherwise dull pic, but I always had a gritty look in mind for this shot (unfortunately I wasn't able to submit it this way to the mag - the route guide format doesn't allow for anything other than straight colour. Shame, in this case).
Nikon D3, 14-24mm f/2.8, 1/250sec f/13 @ ISO200
The stone bridge at the bottom of Styhead is beautiful, but it's suprisingly hard to get an effective picture of it. Bikes are obscured by the parapet once they're actually on the bridge, and the flat, direct sun from the obvious viewpoint didn't really do the textures in the rock justice. So I spent some time - probably more than I should - hopping over rocks in an effort to put something better together. And this is what I cam up with. The light's not ideal, with rather more flare than I'd like, but the extra 10 minutes spent on foot yielded a shot that it would have been easy to pass by.
Nikon D3, 14-24mm f/2.8, 1/250sec f/10 @ ISO200
Sometimes the time thing works the other way, so you have to be quick to grab what's there before it's gone. This spot is only a few hundred metres from the bridge in the pic above, but I was immediately taken by the dramatic shafts of sunlight and shadow on the fellside. That's what I spotted first... the challenge was to make it into a picture before the clouds changed too much and the effect was gone.
It's at this point that I usually start shouting at riders (as politely as possible, in the circumstances), waving my arms around and generally getting impatient. To Jenn and Gavin's credit, this is actually a hard bit of trail to ride in this direction, with a tricky run-in and very little in the way of flow. I knew that, but I wanted a shot with riders facing the camera.
We got a handful of pics before the light changed. This was one of the first, and definitely the best in terms of light. Thank goodness for my 14-24mm, which enabled me to squeeze a lot of trail, fell and foreground into the shot from a very tight position.