So who is Laurence Crossman-Emms?
Growing up in North Wales, UK, I have always been exposed to the outdoors and with the hills to my left and the beaches to my right I soon found myself in amongst it all from a young age. Now 24, I spend many of my days travelling around the globe with my partner Kirsty in search of new experiences and things to point my camera at. Being based in North Wales, the typical British weather can grind on you at times, but the riding makes up for it and close connections make travelling into Europe and overseas easy. Growing up with bikes as a passion, watching all the videos and seeing photos, I still find it amazing when I find myself photographing and working alongside my childhood idols. How long have you been shooting photos?
I picked up the camera first back when I was in my early teens. It was a Canon Powershot S45 and with all its 4 megapixel power I started taking photos of bikes. It's where all the photography began for me, still never with the intention that it would become more than enthusiastic snapping. How were you introduced to mountain biking? When did you start shooting it?
A passion for riding bikes soon grew during my younger days; stacking bricks underneath planks of wood and seeing how far could send it - that was growing up for me. Of course, alongside dabbling through every other sport you could think of! From that the desire to capture the action in pixel forms grew. I quickly found myself pushing my own limits with the camera to see what we could create and I think it really gave me the drive to push into the professional world. Do you shoot anything else besides mountain biking?
I am a pretty well rounded snapper. I like to try my hand at everything that comes my way: from capturing 3rd world living for voluntary organizations, landscapes for someone's bedroom wall, to weddings. Not saying I am a jack of all trades, but I just enjoy the challenge of photographing different subjects. It opens your eyes to different ways of doing things, picking up little tricks that you develop, back into cycling. It’s a good way of finding new inspirations and meeting amazing characters! Were you self-taught of have you had any formal training?
I’ve never had a lesson, a class or a qualification in “how to take photos” - I have just been very fortunate to have picked the skills up as I went along. Don't get me wrong - this has taken hard work and effort. Ironically, I have provided support and lectures to budding photographers, of which I hope they have found useful. I didn't study at University, I went and did my first season in Canada at 18, right out of school. I wouldn't say I should have gone on to further education, but if I did, I have always said I would do a business degree. Taking photos is the easy part… doing taxes, accounts and making my hobby into a business is the hard part! How did you move from amateur to professional photographer?
After returning from a year long Canadian adventure at 18 I knew that photography was more than just some happy snapping. I got a job at a local bike shop; Oneplanet Adventure in Llandegla, UK, and spent two years working full-time and doing the photos on the side. It was here that I picked up my first big contacts in the bike industry. Eventually, the photography work exceeded the bike shop rolls and I gave it up to follow the creative career. Was there a specific moment where you knew it was a job, and not a hobby?
It is a job and it is a hobby. I don't think there are really many times where going out and taking photos has not been fun and enjoyable. Okay you have the tough days, but for me, taking photos is just as much a fun hobby as it is a serious career. You shot for Madison Saracen on the World Cup for two seasons, but not this year. Have you moved on from race coverage?
I always enjoy shooting the World Cup circuit - what's better than following bikes around the globe? It was pretty special to go to all the places you had previously seen in photos and videos and meet all the pro’s you looked up to as a kid! But I always wanted to search more, see more, experience different worlds and perhaps give a little something back. Being on the World Cup circuit also means spending a lot of time away from the ones you love, and after two years I wanted more time with Kirsty.
Kirsty and I took the first part of 2015 off to do some volunteer work in Indonesia; no bikes, just trying to a make a little positive difference to some people's lives. Upon returning, we came right out to Whistler, to get some much-needed time in the saddle. I always wanted to come back ever since my first time here, so we did. Who knows where we will end up down the line? What kind of camera do you use? What lenses? Is there any other gear that you use frequently?
I shoot on Canon and use a range of gear to achieve the results. My 5Dmk3 has been the workhorse for the past few years with the trusty 70-200mm being a regular attachment. I am great lover of the 50mm and a regular abuser of the fisheye lens. Recently I have been packing my GoPro on my adventures, trying to capture the action in my little grey box! None of my gear would be readily accessible and safe without my trusty Evoc bag of which Kirsty jokes is a permanent attachment to me. What makes your images unique?
People tell me I have a unique style that is pretty distinctive over other people's work, however over the years, I have tried to mix up styles and techniques to keep it fresh. I feel I have a unique way of telling stories through my photographs, closely related to the metaphor: ‘'a photo tells a thousand words.'' I like people to feel engaged in the photo, sucked into the action, getting stoked to ride, or just getting lost in the landscape. I suppose the uniqueness comes from the angles - if there's a different way to take the shot I will try it: whether that is achieved by climbing a tree, crawling on the floor, or playing with lights behind a smoke machine. You’ve shot both photos and videos? Will you continue to dabble in both?
Yes. I enjoy both sides, although I'm not a master of the video, I just find a lot of pleasure in creating a story through motion. Videos are like photos, they just move that's all, the techniques are different, but a lot are transferable, giving an extra twist to the stories with my unique photographic style. What photo are you most proud of?
I'm proud of many photos for many different reasons. Proud of them because of the sheer amount of effort that went into capturing it, or because it captured “that” unique moment or perhaps even because it hits a personal spot. One photo I am always proud to show off is one of our Christmas captures. Christmas shots have been an annual get together for myself and good friend, Duane Walker, where we try and capture the essence of a cyclist's Christmas. Fond memories of sketchy riding and setting off fireworks - Duane was wearing a 'pound shop
' Santa suit at 3 am in the morning and all from a set of plans that were drawn on the back of a tissue! Which photographers inspire you?
Although I have always looked up to so many MTB photographers, I also look for inspiration outside of the cycling world. I follow several landscape and nature photographers, but also many other snappers from other action sports, including skateboarding and surfing. Portraiture and studio photography always hits a spot for me as well - I love to try out experimental lighting and always strive for perfection. What advice would you pass on to aspiring photographers?
Just keep snapping and it will come. The old saying of practice makes perfect is really true when it comes to photography. You've just got to get out there and take every opportunity to take photos. Don't get too bogged down in gear and how many Instagram followers you have, just enjoy it and take lots of photos. Some days you might get nothing, but it's the days you make magic that you live for. Your Deep Summer show this year was fantastic. What was it like trying to pull that together in such a short time frame?
Deep Summer for me was a massive undertaking, it wasn’t just the pressure of getting something together in such a short time, it was the fact that I had been longing to shoot it for some time now. After watching my first Deep Summer in 2010, sitting in the crowd at Whistler, I had always wanted to be on that stage. This was my chance. The planning of the whole project was just as hectic as the shooting, it was all about prepping as much as you could and limiting potential things that could go wrong. I was fortunate enough to be able to be in Whistler for a bit of time before Crankworx rolled around which really gave the opportunity to be pretty selective about locations, hand picking the best riders for it, and nailing down the creative. The whole project could have fallen apart at any minute, it really relied on everyone giving the thumbs up on everything. The contest days were some of the most incredible times I have had shooting, the team was what made it such a success, everyone got on together, moral was high even when the rains were lashing down (even at the very last minute when everyone averaged about two hours of sleep a night). To say what it was like to pull together a project like this, just total enjoyment, I got a really good kick off of shooting and planning to a deadline like that, and I felt it got the best out of me as far as the images. I'm not much a competitive person but when it comes down to it, you know you are one team of six out on the hill and when the light is firing you know you need to get the shots… or someone else will! Who are your main clients?
Within cycling I balance my work between editorial and commercial. Vendors like Pinkbike, Dirt Mag, MBUK, MBR have been long time clients for me, but I'm always reaching out to new clients like Bike Mag and Cranked. RedBull, GoPro, Teva, Continental Tyres and Madison are some of the regular commercial clients I work with too. Thanks to everyone who has helped over the years. Cheers! Anything else we should know about you?
I like to take photos of bikes! Not much else to me other than I strive to be a kind and a caring person. I thrive on travel and meeting like-minded people - if you ever see me, say hello! Connect with me on the social channels and share your experiences with me. Oh and my parents own an ice-cream and Dutch pancake shop in Wales! To summarize I like to take pictures, I'm Welsh and I'm very fussy when it comes to ice-cream and pancakes, naturally!
Pinkbike // Laurence CE
Web // laurence-ce.com
Instagram // @laurence_ce
Past Photographer Interviews: