BEHIND THE LENS
|I'm just a guy who loves riding bikes, loves traveling, and loves photography. The fact that I get to do all of those things and call it a job is both humbling and amazing. -Dave Trumpore |
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I’m 34 years old and live in Boulder, Colorado. I grew up on the East Coast and lived in Vermont until 2012 after finally deciding I wanted to enjoy my winter months a bit more. I think until fairly recently most people knew me as a DH racer having been quite involved in that scene for many years, and racing professionally from 1998 until 2010. I even managed to qualify for some World Cup finals a few years back. I’ve always enjoyed riding mountain bikes more than any other activity, but I am also a pretty accomplished skier, lover of finely crafted beer, and I’m not afraid of a little whiskey now and again. I try not to dislike too many things, but photo stealing web bloggers, and the freezing cold VT (Vermont) winters with no sunshine would be near the top of that list. One I have eliminated by moving to Boulder and the other is a constant battle. How long have you been shooting photos?
I’ve definitely loved photography and had an appreciation for it my whole life, but never had the desire to be behind the lens until very recently. Like most kids I had some kind of basic camera growing up. My Dad always had a fairly nice camera and I used to borrow that once in a while. I think it was an old Pentax from the 1980’s but I never really learned to use it, I just pushed the shutter now and again and went to the one hour photo to get prints developed. So I would have to say my first “real” camera was the used Nikon D7000 I bought in the winter of 2012. I bought it along with a few kit lenses. I just wanted something of quality that I could make prints from when I traveled for fun. I learned pretty quick the difference good glass makes though so I upgraded to one fancy secondhand lens and just played around a bit. In the spring of that year I decided to go shoot my friends racing a local DH race since I had stopped competing and missed the scene quite a bit. Needless to say, I was hooked. Were you self-taught or have you had any formal training?
I learned how to develop black and white film, and how to read a light meter back in 1996 as part of a high school art class - does that count? I didn’t touch a camera again until a few years ago and have been entirely self-taught. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been given some pointers along the way from my peers, especially guys like Sven Martin, and Adrian Marcoux. Not mind blowing secret inner circle stuff, just really simple tips that in the long run helped me progress quickly and avoid some common mistakes. For me it was a lot of experimenting and a lot of reading combined with studying of other photographers’ work. I have always been very detail oriented and mechanically inclined so learning the different adjustments on the camera and how they interact with light to affect an image is something I understood quickly. I love looking at photos that inspire me and trying to figure out how they were done, where the light is, how it was used and how I can apply a technique to my own skill set. I learn more every time I go out and shoot. How did you move from hobbyist to professional photographer? Do you have a second job or are you a fulltime photographer?
Something a lot of people probably don’t know is that I had a demanding fulltime marketing and consulting job up until very recently. Originally photography was just for personal use to document my own travels and experiences, and from that I found myself shooting mountain bikes because I had a passion there. I missed the race scene so photography was just my way of staying in touch with friends I had made over the years. I would shoot on the weekends when an event was near my house or with some local riders now and again. Somewhere in there Shawn Spomer at VitalMTB must have seen some potential as he asked me to cover some events for him and work on some projects. That gave me access to shoot some World Cup action and helped put my name out there. I think a defining moment for me, that made me believe I could possibly do this for a living, came in the summer of 2012 when I shot all of Crankworx for VitalMTB completely solo. Looking back that’s pretty wild for someone who had only owned a camera for seven months. I knew that I was the new guy, and didn’t want to try and come into the scene guns blazing, so I sought out some advice of some of the established photographers to be sure I was taking the right approach with clients, with rates, and with the business in general. After all I was on their turf and needed to earn their respect as well. Luckily Sven Martin and Colin Meagher always had my back when I had a question or concern. Eventually I decided I wanted to build my photography, my brand if you will, into something very strong before really going after fulltime paid work, and so over the past year that is what I have really focused on. By the end of this past summer I was turning down work because I was running out of vacation time, and knew if I took a job now I would be out of luck later for something else I was already committed to. So in September I took the plunge, quit my job, and went all in on photography. Red Bull Rampage was the first event I ever shot without having to drive or fly though the night to get back to work Monday morning. I have definitely had no regrets, I’m glad I bided my time a bit and 2014 looks to be awesome. We’ve seen numerous arguments within the comments section here on Pinkbike regarding the perceived unfairness with allowing ‘’pros’’ to enter our Photo of the Year contest. Is there a distinction between pro and amateur?
It is rubbish, plain and simple. I read the those arguments and if we were to go by their guidelines I would have been an “amateur” when I shot almost every photo anyone has ever seen from me. My photos are obviously not amateur photos, and I see shots all the time by guys calling themselves “professional photographers” that look awful, so where do you draw the line? It isn’t about gear, epic locations, pro riders, etc. It is about taking a photo that resonates with the viewer, and that draws them in and tells a story. I shot my POY shot on a weekend with a local college kid on a drab piece of trail near my house using about $2500 in gear, and on Monday I went to work just like everyone reading this. Also of note is that the shot used was actually the first take so we were not out there all day, and he didn’t hike it over and over and over. If you are looking at your photos and not happy with what you see compared to the guys at the top, you are only making excuses by blaming things like gear, and access to riders. Work to make the most of what you have rather than throwing in the towel over what you don’t have. Learn how your camera setting effect one another, read about and study how light behaves, and take the time to understand post processing of RAW files rather than relying on your camera’s pre-set JPEG settings. You've had photos in Pinkbike's Photo of the Year and the Red Bull Illume contests. How do you choose the images you submit? How does it feel to have your work selected by judges?
First and foremost, it was a HUGE honor to be part of both contests and I have to thank Red Bull and Pinbike for taking an interest and investing in what we as photographers do. For the PB contest I didn’t get to pick the submission, but that photo had been on the site for a few months and the community seemed to really love it. Having that feedback already, I had a pretty good feeling it would be selected, and if I had a choice that is the photo I would have used. For Red Bull Illume there are different categories and you can use multiple images, but unlike PB I did not have any idea about the audience I was being judged by. I tried to pick a broad selection, but also wanted the shots to really define mountain biking as the contest was made up of photos from all action sports. Illume is the biggest action sports photo contest in the world and it only comes along every three years. So to have two photos make the cut out of the 28,000 in that contest was mind blowing and was definitely the boost of confidence I needed to keep chasing what I was after. In comparison, closing out the year with my photo making the Final 4 in Pinkbike’s POY contest was a close second for sure, and I’m glad that my peers and the fans of my sport find inspiration in some of my work. Thanks everyone. Do you think photography is too subjective to be judged fairly or do you like the competitive aspect?
Photography is art, and judging art is always subjective. For me it’s more about being included than winning. Take Red Bull Illume
for example. The top 250 photos are mind blowing and amazing, and it’s a who’s who of top snow, surf, skate, and biking photography. So just to make that list is winning to me. The Pinkbike contest is pretty similar, and to be included was most important. Anytime there is a contest to name the top photos or photographers in mountain biking I want to be on that list, plain and simple. I am not going to lie though. Once things got rolling I really badly wanted to be in the finals of POY just so I could say I was runner up to Sterling Lorence. Sterl’s shot was always the winner for me, and it’s the kind of shot that motivates me to become a better photographer. How long have you been shooting mountain biking?
I shot my first mountain bike photos in the spring of 2012. Don’t let that be misleading though, as I have ridden and raced for years and came into it with a very high level of knowledge as to who the riders were, where the peak of action is, and what makes or breaks a mountain biking photo. Do you ride yourself? How does this affect your images?
I have ridden bikes as much as possible since I was 14 years old, and have been looking at magazine and web photos of the top riders for an equally long amount of time. There is no doubt in my mind that this has a huge impact of my photos and is part of the reason I have had my work rise through the ranks so fast. I was joking with a friend the other day that it’s kind of like I have been studying my craft for years, and have now finally decided to take the test. Often times I don’t bring a camera out on a lot of rides because I really want to enjoy the riding aspect and keep it separate from work, but I am always taking mental notes of sight lines, light at different times of day, and unique features. Quite often this is where I draw inspiration from when I team up with a rider for a shoot. It’s very handy to always be collecting a list of locations for possible shots as you never know when you may need to rely on one. Do you shoot anything else besides mountain biking?
For fun, yes but for money not often. I have spent the last two years really focusing on establishing myself as a mountain bike photographer, and when you add the full time job I was juggling for a lot of that time, there wasn’t much left for other endeavors. That said I plan to diversify over the next year or two, really just to keep things fresh and learn different aspects of photography in other genres. I do seek out as many other sports or events that I can find near me, and I have been able to get access to shoot Dew Tour skiing and snowboarding, and AMA motocross. Most recently I shot cyclocross national champs just for fun and for a challenge. Most of the shots I see from that sport are so boring and uninspiring so I wanted to see if I could give it a different look and feel. I travel quite a bit as well and get to see some unique and beautiful places so I always try to take photos that help put an event or a shoot in context, but also for my own personal collection of experiences. Someday I will be old and want to be able to remember all the places I have been. What is your favorite thing to shoot?
I love shooting mountain biking, but more specifically the riders at the pointy end of the sport pushing limits. I would love to shoot a guy like Graham Agassiz who in my mind just doesn’t get the credit he deserves, and is really pushing limits, or a rider like Brendan Fairclough who just blows your mind all day long. Some of my personal favorites are simple shots, but ones where the athlete and I have more of a personal connection. I work with Joey Schusler from Yeti Cycles quite a bit and we have a very unique dynamic that comes out when we work together. He is an amazing rider, but also has an eye for photography and is a very talented videographer, so when we put our heads together good things happen. Either way it’s all about the chase for that big move or that unique location at just the right time with just the right rider as the light does something special. You’ve covered major events for Pinkbike and other media outlets. What’s it like covering events like Joyride and World Cup races?
Everyone thinks it’s easy, and that it’s shooting fish in a barrel since you have all the ingredients for awesome shots right there. It’s never easy. As a photographer shooting top riders you need to be getting photos that make them look like top riders. In World Cup DH you need shots that make that rider look like they are going jaw droppingly fast, and it needs to be unique to the other angles that have been done over and over. You are constantly running around all day, up all night getting editorial coverage up, and client work polished and delivered, and on about four hours of sleep you do it again over four days. For me though the added work of events is rewarded by being present for some of our sports’ biggest achievements, and being given the task to document it. I have photos of Steve Smith winning his first World Cup, Cam Zink flipping the Oakley Sender, I’ve interviewed Nico Vouilloz, and taken a spin on Jerome Clementz’s race bike. You get to know the riders; you see their passion, their stress, their failure and their victory. Our sport has so many amazing stories and I love having the opportunity to tell them. You’ve spent extensive time in South America shooting urban downhill racing. What’s the mountain bike culture like there?
Well first I spent extensive time in South America racing them, or surviving them rather. The culture there is amazing, and as more doors opened for me with photography, documenting that culture was at the top of my bucket list. The riders who win these events are a different breed, and guys like Filip Polc and Marcelo Gutierrez are so confident that the danger doesn’t even faze them. I have seen top WC racers want to run and hide from some urban courses, so the tracks are no joke. Then add in tens of thousands of spectators, all taking photos with riders, getting autographs and treating riders like celebrities, and it becomes an event un-rivaled by anything else. When I first went down there were not many good bikes, and only a few good riders, but now I see more high end bikes in Chile than I see at my local bike park in Colorado, and the riders would school most of the riders in North America as well. I love being part of the scene and culture there, and I am always trying to do what I can to really promote what they have there as it really does not get the recognition it deserves from the industry or media. What kind of camera do you use? What lenses? Is there any other gear that you use frequently?
I shoot Nikon gear exclusively and rely on a D7100 and a D7000. They may not be the most fancy in Nikon’s lineup but they are well thought out, not full of useless marketing features, and they take amazing photos. All that in a small and light package that, for my needs, is extremely important. Especially when shooting enduro or big mountain locations where I have two cameras going at all times for a variety of shots but don’t want 50lbs on my back while riding all day long either. For lenses I shoot a 70-200mm 2.8, 50mm 1.8, 10mm 2.8 fisheye (for smaller DX sensors), 24-70mm 2.8 and 15-55mm 2.8. Nikon has a great pro line of glass for the smaller DX sensors and I love them for the fact they are often much smaller and lighter. I am still looking for the perfect bag to haul it all around in, but have heard great things about F-Stop so I may have to pull the trigger on one soon. I don’t do a lot of flash work, but when I do I have a mix of Nikon and Vivitar strobes fired remotely by PocketWizards. I do all my post processing on Adobe Lightroom. I also like to use the Sun Seeker app on my phone to figure out where the sun will be on big mountain shoots. It’s pretty accurate and there is nothing worse than convincing some riders to head out at 3 a.m. only to arrive at “the spot” at 8 a.m. when the sun came over the horizon at 7:45 a.m. You’re known as a photographer but have you shot any video?
Baby steps, haha. Like I said my focus has been on photography for the past few years, and I haven’t wanted to pull my focus away from that just yet. Next winter I will make it a goal to learn some video though for sure. It’s a good arrow to have in the quiver, even if it is just at the basic level. Do you think that photography and video will remain separate professions or will new camera technology force professionals to learn both skill sets?
I think they will always cross and people will do both, but at the high end of the spectrum they will remain different. I think it is good to be proficient at both, but to really push the level of quality I think the best results will always come from photographer/videographer collaboration. I look at guys like Clay Porter and John Reynolds who have teamed up with Cameron Baird to work together as Metis Creative. They are really pushing the progression and quality of media content. If that is the level you are after I think you really need to specialize. Have you ever shot on film? If yes, do you miss it?
I shot and processed maybe five rolls of black and white film in high school. I can’t really say I have relied on film for my photography, but the little experience I do have makes me not want to use it (if strictly speaking from the work side of things). Digital has changed the workflow so much that film would bog me down if I were trying to cover an event or shoot a catalog, etc. I would like to get into shooting it for fun and for personal projects, as I think it would really reinforce a focus on skills that gets lost with digital technology. I do admire guys like Ian Ruhter who still continue to push film to new limits with things like his Silver & Light Project.
|Our sport has so many amazing stories and I love having the opportunity to tell them. -Dave Trumpore |
What photo are you most proud of? Why?
I can’t pick one, there is no way. On a professional level I am proud of the first photo I ever sold, the first photo I ever saw in print, my photo of Joey Schusler from Red Bull Illume, the shot of Tanner Stephans that was part of Pinkbike POY, the shot that ran as a spread in the Bike Magazine Photo Annual, and my first cover. Those are all shots that track my success, and each one achieved pushed me harder to achieve the next. The succession of small wins is what has gotten me to where I am today. Which photographers or people inspire you?
I look at snow sports photography quite a bit for inspiration as it is at an amazing level right now. Their use of natural light and the elements around them is something I have tried to emulate in a lot of big mountain shots where you have this backlit dust forming a trail down the mountain and telling the story. I also look at skate and surf mags because they do lifestyle like no one else. Specific to mountain bikes I would have to say Sven Martin for his work ethic, ability to always get the shot, and for being a mentor along the way. I still get psyched when I can get Sven fired up over one of my shots. Adrian Marcoux for doing his own thing, and just being a solid and good guy to be around. His photos are unique and have that little something else that always sets him apart from the crowd. And of course Sterling Lorence for setting the bar so high, and as a result raising the game to where we are at today. Who are some of the clients you’ve worked with?
I have worked with some pretty amazing clients in a short time, but none of them would be on the list if it wasn’t for Shawn Spomer and VitalMTB. Those guys gave me my first break, have always believed in me and remain one of my best clients. I have also done work for Yeti Cycles, Red Bull, Teva, SRAM, Troy Lee Designs, Giant, Smith Optics, FOX, and many more. I have had photos printed in Bike Magazine, Dirt, MBUK, [R]evolution, Mountainbike Rider, Freerider, Red Bulletin and a few more I can’t remember. You might even begin to see more of my work here Pinkbike over the coming months as well. Anything else we should know about you?
I’m just a guy who loves riding bikes, loves traveling, and loves photography. The fact that I get to do all of those things and call it a job is both humbling and amazing, and I just want to say thanks to the people who helped make this my reality. Cheers.
Pinkbike // Dave Trumpore
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