In recent years the mountain bike world has been flooded with a stream of media companies, photographers and videographers. As consumers of content, we now have access to amazing images and edits with but a few clicks. The flip-side to the availability of these images is that they become disposable due to the huge amount of content hurtling through cables the world over. We expect to see amazing images as soon as a race is done, but rarely do we think about the time and effort that goes into creating these images.
Over the last 18 months, Laurence Crossman-Emms
has broken cover as one of the UK’s brightest young talents on the MTB circuit. With a raft of POD and VOD’s to his name and the ability to create stunning photo and video, Laurence spent 2012 with his photography as a side job, something to fit around the 9-5.
However, towards the tail end of the year Laurence found himself with an offer on the table that would help him make the leap from part-time tog to official photographer for a factory World Cup team with Madison Saracen
. As one of the UK’s most prolific race teams with a strong team roster that boasts World Championship medals as well as World Cup and National titles amongst its accolades, the job gives a great opportunity for an up and coming photographer to really make their mark.
The World Cup season rolled into Fort William with great weather coming as a relief to riders and photographers alike : sitting on an exposed Scottish mountain in the wind and rain with no shelter is hardly up there on most people's wish list.
There are a whole host of photographers at a World Cup, from official team guys, through to freelancers, enthusiasts and regular Joe public. Getting “the” shot can be hard when everyone is jostling for a prime spot near a feature. Sometimes you need to take a wander and find an alternative.
Travel the world, take some photos, sounds like a tough job, right?First, let's take a closer look at stats of Laurence's experience at the Fort William DH World Cup stage
Number of Days for Fort William World Cup - 6days
Number of days taking photos - 4 days / 96hrs
Number of photos taken - 5,132
Number of gigabytes of photos - 128.5GB
Number of hours editing (roughly) - 23hrs
Average number of hours spent on shooting - (approx.) 46hrs
of camera in hand
Hours spent on travel to/from Fort Willaim - 18hrs
Weight of the backpack - (approx.) 16kgs / 35lbs
Overall Time - Shooting time - Edit Time = Sleep time (27hrs / 5nights of an average 5hrs
So, I hope you don't like sleeping too much... It was 7am and Laurence was already in the media tent checking off what needs to be done on that day... A quick browse of Pinkbike, a couple of emails, look through Facebook and... he's ready to go!
Meanwhile, Keith Valentine, a photographer also known as Phunkt
showed up in the tent. The guys had a small talk and exchanged their experiences from the previous day on Ben Nevis' mountain range.Colin Meagher
carefully checks off who he can not miss whilst taking photos on that day.Ale Di Lullo
sipping his early morning coffee to have enough energy for the whole day...
... of holding his Canon!
It's not just a case of turning up on race day and shooting , the riders and team need to be happy with you sticking a lens in their face at moments of both ecstasy and agony, so a strong relationship with team riders and staff alike is a must.
Keeping your client happy is a must when it comes to delivering the goods. From liaising with the Team Manager, to the Saracen Marketing guys, there are a lot of balls to juggle and a lot of opinions flying around, but mainly a lot of people that are stoked on some great images.
However, the whole team has got their own duties and tasks to do and these have to be done no matter what. Being focused and on time with the schedule is a very important thing when working at the World Cup team.
OK, let's go to work! Laurence jumps into a gondola together with Phil Atwill, Saracen's team rider.
What I'd like you to understand is that taking a single photo is just a matter of 1/1000th of a second on average, but sometimes it takes many long hours or even days to struck the gold! Here's a breakdown and shortened recipe of how to take a good photo.
Being part of the team set up also means chipping in and helping to make the day run smoothly. From putting up the pits to helping the mechanics carry spares up and down the hill. Just don’t expect riders to help you lug your camera gear up the hill in return!
The media tent at a World Cup is a hive of activity, with competing media outlets all trying to get their coverage out to a demanding and expectant audience.
Short stay in the pits area...
... only means that it's time to walk up to the lower part of the course.
The sun may have been shining, but that doesn’t mean anything on a Scottish mountainside. There’s still plenty of moisture around to make your day more interesting and make the thought of a clean pair of socks is a pretty exciting prospect
Laurence doesn't like to stay for too long in one place... Why? It's important to stay mobile and use as many unique angles during the photoshoot as possible. It's a must to be creative at all times, if you want to compete with the best ones in the game. It won't be easy, because photos have been taken at this particular stage for many years now, but not impossible and that is what makes it worthwhile.
Finally, he could put the camera down and grab a bike himself! It's not 100% hard work, as the occasional moment of downtime does rear its head every now and again! Taking advantage of the Shimano airbag in the middle of Fort William seems like an ideal reward after a hard day on the mountain.
It may involve long days and even longer evenings, but it's all part of the territory and who wouldn’t want to put in the hard graft when you get to take a seat track side with the best racers in the World, week in, week out, at the best courses in the world.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!
PS. Please, don't forget there had to be a photographer to follow this photographer, if you know what I mean... Website
Photos by Simon Nieborak
Words by Ian Carter and Simon Nieborak