Behind the Lens - Mike Zinger

Feb 28, 2013
by Scott Secco  

Jarrett Moore

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m 24-years-old, born and raised on Vancouver Island in Victoria, BC. I’m really into bicycles, and traveling is starting to become an addiction of mine.

How long have you been shooting photos?

I’ve been shooting photos for as long as I’ve been riding. Digital cameras were just starting to arrive in the hands of consumers at more affordable prices, and I started shooting photos with an awful 2MP compact digital camera. The shutter was super slow and I remember just holding a random old flash in my hand, then pressing the fire button during the camera's exposure, trying to get that off-camera flash look the magazines had. Eventually I got a digital SLR for my birthday. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the medium format shots all the pros were doing, so I had to get one of those and ended up just shooting film for a while.

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How long have you been shooting video?

I’ve taken a recent hiatus from video but have always been heavily influenced by cinema. When the Canon EOS 5D MKII was first announced offering a video function in 2008, and seeing the release of Vincent Laforet's "Reverie" I just had to have one. Who wouldn't want a camera that can do both? Shooting video has really been a big love/ hate relationship for me; the postproduction side is just a whole different ball game and having a clapped out computer doesn't help. There are so many parts to shooting video and in the professional world each aspect is its own job: editors, sound guys, colourists, gaffers etc. - unlike photography where you’re pretty much just your own operation. Now with video I’m forced to try and learn multiple people’s jobs.

How long have you been shooting mountain biking?

The actual transition when I switched to shooting mountain biking had to be sometime around 2008. I basically stopped shooting BMX cold turkey. The scene was dying, people were moving and MTB was all I really had left. You can still find me hating on the sport, coming from a BMX background, but I’ve grown to love and respect it. I grew up in the country, so when I’m out shooting away from civilization it’s like I’m back just being a kid in the backyard. It gives me a sense of comfort.

Were you self-taught or have you had any formal training?

I never finished high school, barely making it through half a semester of Grade 10. This is something I’m embarrassed by and regret almost every day. I did however attend Western Academy of Photography in my hometown of Victoria in 2007 by faking I had graduated. This was the last year they still did film and darkroom. At the time I was really into medium format so that was a big selling point to attend the school that year. I was awarded best Black & White Image, and Best Action Sports Image of the year but ended up failing the program in the end. I probably wouldn't have received my certificate anyway when they found out I didn't complete high school (if they hadn't already). I am a huge believer in the self-taught scene though; there is so much information available online for free today it’s insane. The best part of school was being around individuals with the same interests as you, while being pushed to do different assignments outside of your comfort zone. So for that I’m grateful I got to attend a school like Western Academy of Photography even if I didn't apply myself like I should have.

Do you ride yourself? How does this affect your images?

I’ve ridden BMX for about 13 years now at least. Thinking about that really makes you start to feel old. I remember being one of the younger kids riding and hanging out with all the older guys and now I’m one of the "older guys" at the skate park. Riding has always been a fundamental part of shooting for me and I’m sure most photographers and filmmakers can agree on this. Whether you shoot biking, skateboarding, skiing, or any other sport, I feel it’s always a huge benefit to be able to understand the sport as well as the athlete. As kids we would just shoot photos of each other riding for fun and over many years it evolved into a hobby then eventually a career. If it wasn't for BMX I probably would have never picked up camera. Who knows what I would be doing today if it weren’t for riding.

Riding Bikes

Do you shoot anything else besides mountain biking?

Other than the rare wedding and awkward self-portraits? Sadly, no. I’ve actually started getting pretty burnt out on shooting mountain biking, so I’ve been looking at getting into different things to help keep motivated and inspired - but it’s hard. I will continue to shoot mountain biking, I just need change. I would really like to get into more commercial, and travel kind of stuff at some point, or just other sports.

What is your favorite thing to shoot?

I’ve been trying to figure this one out myself for years and I don't think I really have an answer. I'm really drawn in by colour, and this planet has a lot of natural amazing colours to capture. Something about showing the environment a rider is in really excites me too, rather then just capturing the pinnacle of an amazing trick.

What kind of camera(s) do you use?

Five years ago this would have been filled with various film cameras, but today I’m shooting strictly digital on Canon equipment. I’ve had a pretty crippled setup for the last couple years actually, consisting of just a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 and a Canon 15mm F2.8 fisheye lens. I had the intention of upgrading after selling gear, but it just never happened so I end up shooting almost everything from a distance now until I can afford some new equipment.

Is there any other gear that you use frequently?

I recently got an iPhone so I’ve been getting into the whole iPhone photography thing. If you follow me on Instagram, don't judge me by the rubbish I post… I’m not that great at capturing what I eat yet.

You used to shoot stills primarily, mainly on film. Do you miss the magic of film or is digital better by far?

I miss the excitement and frustration of getting your film back, holding something physical in your hands that you've created and it either being the best image you've taken or completely useless because you loaded the film in backwards that day. Digital is more practical these days especially in the mountain bike industry where it seems like there is no desire for ‘art’ photography. Recently I’ve been thinking of doing some 4x5 and maybe even wet plate to get that sense of excitement back that I’ve been lacking before these mediums are totally gone.

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You won the Whistler Deep Summer Showdown Wildcard spot last season. How did it feel competing in a contest? What’s it like shooting in such a short time frame?

Deep Summer Photo Challenge was something I really wanted to be a part of since the day I heard about it, it’s always my favourite event at Crankworx Whistler. I couldn't be more thankful for Pinkbike and the people that voted me in for the Wildcard spot. Going into that contest was something totally out of the norm for me, I always figured I would have been a more experienced photographer before I got the opportunity to do something like the Deep Summer Photo Challenge. Going head to head with photographers including Reuben Krabbe, who never ceases to amaze me, and Ian Hylands, a staple name in the mountain bike industry, I really had to step up my game. I’ve been to Whistler a tiny bit in the past and never owning a mountain bike made things difficult to say the least. I was completely lost for where to shoot and being so busy filming a project all summer, there was hardly any time to think of a concept when I found out I had got the Wildcard spot. It basically resulted in the "just wing it" approach. In the end I didn't produce the amount of quality work I wanted but was a great experience. Would I do it again? Yes.

Last light.

You recently traveled to Utah for a shoot with Brendan Howey, Paul Genovese, and MindSpark Cinema. What’s it like shooting there? Is it hard to be unique in a landscape that’s been shot so often?

Going to Utah is just a whole different experience from what I’m used to on the west coast of BC. Green River might as well be a different planet, because it seriously feels like you’re on the surface of the moon. The weather is so unpredictable there; it could be hot, cold, or windy at any given moment. While shooting with Nic and Aaron from Mindspark we would always shoot sunrise or sunset, so we had to be on site and ready to shoot before the sun was up. Then we spent the afternoons digging. I hardly follow mountain bike content, so going to Utah to shoot stills was all pretty new and fresh to me and I wasn't too worried about trying to be unique. The one thing I found I ended up doing was trying to show how big the place really is, because it’s massive.

Riding Bikes

You’ve worked with Howey, LaRocque, and Nic Genovese, extensively over the years, do you find this builds trust and makes things easier? What was your favourite project together?

Being able to work with your friends makes it so much easier and I couldn't have asked for anything more. Howey has to be one of the most stylish riders out there, with a great attitude to match and he’s always motivated on the projects we have done together. When Aaron and Nic said they were starting Mindspark I was pretty excited to see two of my favourite people to shoot with coming together. They have all been great projects and it’s hard to pick a favourite. It’s just a pleasure having the opportunity to shoot with them and I wish them success in their new partnership.

Lighting is one of your strengths. Do you use external flashes or is it mostly natural?

I don't know if I'd call it a strength, maybe just luck, haha. With my background in BMX I always thought you had to use flashes to make a good photo, but now I'd rather shoot with what is available. Natural light is just so much more powerful to the viewer.

What photographers or videographers inspire you?

I’ve never really been inspired by individuals. I think it’s always just been random daily occurrences, like how a song you hear that day makes you feel, the camera movements in movie scenes, or how the sun reflects off a particular building every day on your daily commute. There are just so many talented people these days producing amazing images and video. I couldn't possibly choose a select few individuals.

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If you could shoot anywhere with anyone, who and where would it be?

I would love to shoot something in Iceland. I've had an obsession with that place for years and would shoot just about anything with anyone there. Or some road riding in Dubai on the modern roads rolling through the dunes.

You've made the top 32 in both the Photo and Video of the Year contests. Will you continue to dabble in both or are you firmly committed to one?

It’s hard to say, but today I think you really have to be well rounded in both. I would like to get into video more seriously but it’s such a heavily gear-driven industry that I simply cannot afford right now. If things start to come together, who knows maybe I’ll come up with a clever name, find a partnership, and start a film company… but for now it looks like I’m primarily sticking with photos.

Anything else we should know about you?

Yes. I actually am missing my front teeth.

Pinkbike // MikeZinger
Instagram // @zingerphoto

Past Photographer Interviews:

Behind the Lens - Joakim Andreassen
Behind the Lens - John Wellburn
Behind the Lens - Kuba Konwent
Behind the Lens - Bruno Long
Behind the Lens - Christophe Bortels
Behind the Lens - Norbert-Szasz
Behind the Lens - Christoph Laue
Behind the Lens - Lars Scharl
Behind the Lens - Mattias Fredriksson
Behind the Lens - Marc Landry
Behind the Lens - Reuben Krabbe
Behind the Lens - Ale Di Lullo
Behind the Lens - Sebas Romero
Behind the Lens - Sven Martin
Behind the Lens - Baxter Redfern
Behind the Lens - Fraser Britton
Behind the Lens - Margus Riga
Behind the Lens - Justin Brantley
Behind the Lens - Ian Hylands
Behind the Lens - Keith Valentine
Behind the Lens - Thomas Gaffney
Behind the Lens - Jacob Gibbins
Behind the Lens - Eric Palmer


  • 37 0
 PODs, PODs everywhere
  • 4 2
 A few of them have already been PODs
  • 3 1
 but of course not the two without helmets! Wink
  • 1 0
 I present you POD's habitat...
  • 2 0
 Amazing photos... but what's with the noah's ark/ tree house in one of them? Sick picture, but I'm curious...
  • 1 0
  • 9 0
 Zinger will shoot something and be pissed, and it's still better than most anything i've seen up to that point. Straight up genie and if you're reading this Zing then stay negative buddy. hahahaha
  • 8 0
 Zinger is seriously one of the most talented people I know. Solid interview and amazing shots. Killing it dude!
  • 3 0
 Thats some serious work there, the images in my MTB wet dreams don't even compare! One question though- what was that wooden pod in the trees? I hate to sound ignorant, but I really have no idea what that was... A Canadian tree stand? Time machine? Where Canadian freeriders are hatched?
  • 1 0
 deluxe treehouse, hidden somewhere around whistler apparently
  • 1 0
 It's called the Hemloft. The first time I saw that photo I researched the thing for hours, pretty epic.
  • 1 0
 its a pretty legendary spot near whistler. but good luck finding it unless you know who to ask! =]
  • 6 0
 I think I enjoy the photography features on Pinkbike even more than the videos.
  • 4 0
 Your work is amazing! That second to last one is so sick. I`m surprised I haven`t seen it before.
And don`t worry about your teeth.. They grow and they go.
  • 5 0
 nice to read a candid and honest interview that wasn't filled with overused industry cliche....great images, Mike, thanks!
  • 6 0
 Do me.
  • 3 0
 increibles las fotos, nice to see a man who's rlying on his talent, more than on his gear
  • 4 0
 Best 'behind the lens' segment yet. Great body of work!
  • 3 0
 That cabin... How can I go about living there?
  • 1 0
 The Hemloft... You don't want to live there! Eaten alive by bugs in the summer and freezing in the winter. It's a rad place to check out, but not a place to live.
  • 2 0
 Man, any shop who charges this guy full price for a camera bag must be a bunch of dicks. (love ya buddy!)
  • 1 0
 Cool like your article is and videos........
  • 3 0
 Zinger for pres
  • 3 0
 You're my hero Zinger.
  • 2 0
 mike has set the bar imo, never seen a photo of his that i didn't love
  • 3 1
 By far one of my favorite photographers... such a huge inspiration.
  • 2 0
 Sweet interview mike. You're one talented dude, keep it up!
  • 1 0
 awesome pics!, some of which already had as wallpapers, and awesome off the radar video, what camera did you use? Cheers!
  • 2 0
 Thank you for all the fine work you share with us. Smile
  • 1 0
 Great photos, I'd love to watch them not on my tiny screen but printed as huge posters Wink
  • 1 0
  • 1 0
 pfuaiaiaiaiia , gotta love it
  • 1 0
 Some of the best photography I have ever seen. Good job man!
  • 2 0
 So rad man! Thank you.
  • 2 0
 best photographer Smile
  • 1 0
 Cool shots. Love the contrast in each shot.
  • 2 0
 Art brother ART!
  • 2 0
 I like how honest he is

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