Photo of the Year 2015: Five Minutes With the Finalists

Feb 24, 2016
by Pinkbike Staff  

The 5th annual Pinkbike Photo of the Year contest is underway and we have narrowed it down to the final two. We spent five minutes with Lee Trumpore and Sean Lee to get a little insight into their photos. If you haven't made your final decision yet, this could help decide who gets your vote.


Lee Trumpore
Revolution Mag cover Spring 2015. No flashes no gimmicks just ankle deep dust front-lit by a setting sun.

Congratulations on making it to the final round! Coming into the competition, how confident were you that you had a finalist level photo on your hands?
Based on the responses generated here on Pinkbike and across different media platforms I was feeling confident that it would, at least, be a contender. But to be honest, I've been sweating it every round as there were just so many rad photos in the competition this year, any of which could have claimed a spot in the finals. That's the uneasy side of photo 'competitions' as all 32 shots can't all win.


Where were you when you took it and what was the assignment?
I was in Les Deux Alpes, France for Crankworx but I wasn't on any assignment per se. Most people probably don't know this about me, but despite shooting a fair amount of racing across the world I do almost all of it while on summer vacation from my job as a teacher, which has been my primary occupation for the past 14 years (I've got algebra tests to grade when I'm done with this interview). While I was contracted to shoot some of the events for various outlets much of my time is still spent good old-fashioned hustling. Fabian and the UR Team has been pretty generous to me over the years and help me out at the races when they can, so when he had the sudden idea to go shoot the Dust Apocalypse video he invited me along.


Where did the inspiration come from? Was it something you had planned or did it evolve as the shoot was going on?
This definitely wasn't planned. We could see some of the freeride guys playing on this huge dust field from the chairlift but none of us had time (or the energy) to check it out during a full day of event shooting. I got a text message during slopestyle that said 'we got a 4x4 to drive us up after, meet at the truck if you can.' And that was that.


Tell us about your photo - are there any interesting details to share?
What definitely won't be obvious is that I was basically fighting for scraps from the videographers as that was the main objective. The team wanted to make short movie first and foremost, I could shoot whatever I wanted as long as I wasn't in their shots. By the time we got up there we had about 30 minutes of light left so it was a bit of a mad scramble for sure.


How many attempts did it take to nail the shot?
Because the light was fading and the video was priority we weren't able to really do any staged photo shots, every take basically involved Fabian getting driven up several 100 meters and riding full throttle back down. I got about 2 tries at each angle before I had to move and shoot elsewhere. He had only a rough idea of what line he was going to run so set-up was more anticipation rather than careful planning. I shoot almost exclusively race photography so this is nothing new, but I was definitely frustrated when I came up totally empty-handed on the first few attempts. Tightly focusing a long lens continuously on a fast, erratically moving helmet isn't as easy as some people think. For this particular angle, I got the shot you're looking at on his second attempt. If you watch the Dust Apocalypse video, check out the 50 second mark. That's the corner and the speed he was going in the shot. Any slower and the dust got out ahead of him and clouded him in.


For the photography geeks out there can you tell us about the camera, settings and lighting that you used?
I used a Canon 1DX body and a 70-200mm lens (given the conditions I went with the 1D over the higher resolution 5D III because of its far superior weather sealing). The settings were: shutter 1/1000th, iso 1250 for the fading light, lens 102mm and the aperture set at f/4. This lens can be used at f/2.8 but I wanted a slightly more generous focus plane given the limited timeframe and the difficulty a sensitive auto-focus system has at continuously tracking the subject without incidentally picking up all the fine rocks and dust he was throwing out in from of him. f/4 gave me some wiggle room while still keeping the rider isolated from the background. From some of the comments I've read you'd think the camera did all the work while I chilled and had a beer, but for all their technological advances even the most high-end cameras still demand a tremendous amount of attention from their user to operate effectively. Lighting was 100% natural, with the setting sun over my right shoulder contributing to the unique contrast and texture of the dirt coming off his front wheel.


How does it feel during each voting round?
I've definitely been sweating it out on a few of these. This sort of a competition is new territory for me and I've definitely found myself more nervous than I thought I would be. As someone who picked up his first camera in 2012, and as a part-time photographer, getting to the finals feels pretty surreal. Fortunately all these years of teaching has given me a pretty thick skin, because the comment section has been pretty brutal to a lot of us. Which is a shame really, given the purpose of the competition is to celebrate a body of diverse, rad MTB images from some of the sport's best photographers.


Which of your competitors shots have stood out for you this year?
I really enjoyed all the photos in the semi-finals, when the competition started those were actually my personal predictions. But among the other entrants, Steve Shannon's was a really clever take on a reflection shot. I love the colors and that it isn't immediately clear that it's even a cycling photo. On a personal level, I keep coming back to Robb Thompson's. It makes me feel like I'm back at college in Vermont spending summer nights at my buddy's house by the lake, drinking beers, riding 50's, and sessioning the dirt jumps until we couldn't see our front wheels. I could go on for all of them, so really hats off to everyone.


Say you take the win, you take the glory, you take the money. What‘s on the cards? Some new camera equipment or an adventure to somewhere new and exciting?
My wife and I just had a baby boy 2 months ago, so some of the money will definitely go to the college fund but I'll try to put a little bit aside in case he decides he wants to start riding bikes some day.


Anything else to add?
Thanks for everyone who voted. To all of the other photographers, I'm humbled and it's been an honor to be included among you. And a massive thank you to Fabian and the UR Team for helping to make this shot happen.


Go to Voting Page


Sean Lee
Ten seconds after the shutter of my camera closed the sun dipped over the horizon and the last light of the day was gone. As featured in R evolution Magazine March 2015.

Congratulations on making it to the final round! Coming into the competition, how confident were you that you had a finalist level photo on your hands?
Thank you! I was stoked to make the cut into the top 32, and I can’t believe I’m in the Grand Final right now! The competition was crazy this year, I thought that my photo might make the top 8 if I was lucky.


Where were you when you took it and what was the assignment?
I think that the sunset light in the mountains of New Zealand is some of the best light I’ve ever witnessed. After a week of cloudy weather in Queenstown we finally had a clear day, so I headed up to Coronet Peak with Joel Tunbridge (Runga) and Ed Masters to try and get some bangers. It was really on a whim; I just wanted to get some rad shots for fun and we didn’t have any expectations. As Ed would say... YOLO!


Where did the inspiration come from? Was it something you had planned or did it evolve as the shoot was going on?
We had been shooting some other parts of the mountain for a couple of hours, a big jump which was our main feature, and then working our way down the Rude Rock track. Suddenly, we reached a section of trail where the hill just dropped away on either side, revealing a huge view of the area around us; Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu on our left and the endless Southern Alps on the right. We sessioned this section for a while as the light was firing until the sun started to dip over the horizon and I realised that we only had a couple of minutes of light left.


Tell us about your photo – are there any interesting details to share?
This section of track was a fade-away drop around a left-hand corner. I was aiming to block out the sun to get a silhouette of a rider, a bit of a gamble with the timing. Unfortunately, the angle of the sun meant that I had to stand in the middle of the narrow singletrack. I kneeled on the edge of the track and leaned into position as they rode past me. Runga cut the corner a little more than I anticipated, his handlebar actually brushed my shoulder as he rode past!


How many attempts did it take to nail the shot?
Just one. By the time we got to this angle we only had one chance – the sun disappeared over the horizon about ten seconds after the shot was taken.


For the photography geeks out there can you tell us about the camera, settings and lighting that you used?
I used a Canon 7D and a Samyang 8mm fisheye. Conveniently, the mode dial had snapped off my camera a couple of days before, leaving it stuck onto Aperture Priority mode. This made shooting with a manual lens fun, the metering went haywire as the scene changed, especially in a high-contrast situation like this angle. In the burst of photos for this shot, both the frames before and after were overexposed because of this.


How does it feel during each voting round?
The level of the photos was incredible this year! I’m surprised that I’ve made it this far, I got pretty nervous in the last few rounds. To be honest, I think that some of the best photos were put against each other early in the competition and it sucks they were eliminated.


Which of your competitors shots have stood out for you this year?
When Simon first uploaded his photo of Sam Reynolds, I thought it would be the winning shot for sure. The light, the pastel colours, the action and that view... far out man, nice job!


Say you take the win, you take the glory, you take the money. What‘s on the cards? Some new camera equipment or an adventure to somewhere new and exciting?
Runga gets his cut, and then the first thing I’d do is pay back the money I owe Mum. She’s been a legend this year, helping me out a lot with flights and accommodation while I chase my dream, travelling to NZ and taking photos. Last week I emptied my bank account and finally upgraded to a 5D Mark III, from the Canon 550D that’s been my main camera for the last five years. I haven’t been able to afford to eat much since then, so winning would probably help my food situation too! If there’s anything left after that, I’m hoping to make it to Canada and Europe this year to shoot Crankworx and some World Cups.


Anything else to add?
Thank you to Pinkbike, the photographers in the top 32, and everyone who has voted for me and supported me so far. May the best photo win!


Go to Voting Page


There you have it, honest closing words from two talented individuals. Now it's time to make that final decision and decide who will be this year's Photo of the Year Champion.

Go to Voting Page



MENTIONS: @general-lee / @Chamakazi / @trek / @SramMedia




92 Comments

  • + 143
 PB....Is there any way you can offer prints for sale of some of the top finalists?????
that should help out the artist and you know people would buy. JLMK
  • + 24
 i would certainly buy some. i would hang them in my shop
  • + 13
 Why don't you email the photographers directly? I'm sure they would be happy to sell some signed and mounted prints.
  • + 3
 Big prints, too - like poster size!
  • + 9
 Good idea... Any of the photographers reading these, would this be a possibility?
  • + 4
 Yep! Definitely possible. If the photographer doesn't have a section for prints on their website then the best way would just be to email them and find out.
  • + 3
 I would 100% be up for this. I'd love the functionality to buy images on here, even if it's through another site and users could select the option of enabling the functionality and PB received a commission or something.
  • + 1
 I would definitely buy a couple
  • + 64
 Im voting for Lee
  • + 11
 Which one?
  • + 57
 Yes.
  • + 6
 Yeah that one
  • + 5
 Third Base!
  • - 4
flag Earthmotherfu (Feb 24, 2016 at 16:26) (Below Threshold)
 Gtf
  • + 36
 I personally think these pictures are both amazing, however they are also totally different in actual composition, absolutly love the style and timing of Seans picture but i really think the majority of the voters are gunna love the "Roost" of Lee's picture.

My opinion: I think Lee should Win.... just can't figure out which Lee yet...
  • - 28
flag RedBurn (Feb 24, 2016 at 12:16) (Below Threshold)
 " the majority of the voters are gunna love the "Roost" of Lee's picture. " ??
no
  • + 4
 you my friend are joking yourself... this is pinkbike
  • + 15
 redburn is so enduro that he doesn't acknowledge roost

www.pinkbike.com/photo/13196340
  • + 24
 1st PIC : How many tries ? more than 1, ok

2nd PIC: just one

that is all , Sean Lee FTW
  • + 17
 To simply be devils advocate, he did say he was shooting in burst. But I do agree overall, I appreciate one-take work much more than something that's been run through 10 times or staged in the search for perfection.
  • + 13
 I'm not a photographer so any great shot is wonderful to me regardless of how you get it
  • + 3
 Love the lighting, the moment couldn't have been captured better, for me it's the photo of the year.
  • + 12
 @Redburn: you obviously have no clue about photography.


I might only be a hobby photographer, but I do work full-time in the photography industry where I'm at presence of the countries best photographers shooting for big companies. I find that the reasoning for your choice doesn't make much sense.
  • - 2
 hey @Mattin ,I respect your opinion, and here's mine. My father is a professional photographer (not specialized in sport at all). Off course I know what it is to want a shot an try it 10 times to have it, and it's the right thing to do to have a 'magazine shot'. For example, we shot this early 2014 www.pinkbike.com/photo/11537608 and yeah it took us about 8 tries... But here we speak about the POY contest, which in my opinion the winner has to 'REALLY' deserve it. A 'one shot' pic wins against a "studio" pic, Sean Lee captured the exact right instant, he killed it, and that is all. Nobody else than him could have done that pic, while Trumpmore's picture could have been taken like this (and maybe even better, who knows?) easily by another photographer, at the same spot and as much equipment ... cheers.
  • + 1
 I actually agree with Red. The first is a staged, unimaginative shot, multiple tries, could be anywhere, or anyone. The second is actually a shot of someone Mountain Biking. A much more difficult shot to get as well as more imaginative and unique.
  • + 8
 @stevedekker -> good points. But for me I don't feel that the first one was THAT contrived. He was up at a race, saw a cool spot for a shot and headed there at end of day to get something cool. Just like sessioning a jump on your bike with your friends, "Hey, look at that! Let's go hit it a bunch of times and see what happens!". That's how I saw it. Plus I love how much energy and violence is captured in that picture.

At the end of the day I want them both on my wall.
  • - 17
flag SteveDekker (Feb 24, 2016 at 14:36) (Below Threshold)
 Read his own description. Its totally contrived. Its just an ugly photo that represents nothing good about Mountain Biking. But we all loved to skid when we were 11. And Cool.
  • + 5
 The violence of Lee's photo trumps (ahem) the serenity of Sean's for me.
  • + 1
 Can we give them both the monies? I'll start the pot with the first $5
  • + 17
 Dude... Give it up... Stop being rude in an attempt to convince people your opinion in so righteous.
  • + 3
 I just pick a picture that makes me want to go out and ride my bike.
  • + 1
 How the "making of" of a photo is relevant for the quality of itself?
There is no numbers of shooting, time spent on post production or on working on the construction of the shoot at the end.
There is only the photo, the piece of art, the rest is more flavor.
  • - 1
 The problem I have with this is that it's not all down to the photographer, there's a lot of luck involved for everything to just suddenly line up perfectly. Not only that, the best shots require the rider to be at 100% just as much as the photographer. Dave's shot required all of that and he pulled it off no matter how many tries it took. To be honest I'm voting for Sean but big respect to Dave to get a shot that rad, and to make it to the final, the guys got some mad skills and I can't wait to see what he comes up with for next years comp
  • + 3
 @benwearsahat there are no Dave's in this matchup ;-)

And you make your own luck... It doesn't simply happen like so many seem to imply.
  • + 1
 i retract everything.
  • - 3
 It is indeed the result that matters. Thereby it's not important if it was shot first try or in 3 tries. Different case when youre with a big team where everyone has $200 hourly rates and the photographer is causing delay. Also who says the 2nd photographer is telling the truth about it being his first shot?

Also both were staged pictures. It would only be non-staged if the photographer would be shooting cyclists randomly passing by during their ride. But that's not the case in any of these. Also that doesn't matter because the important part is the result.
  • + 19
 I'd just like to point out to those who go on about the guys with the expensive or best cameras always winning these things - the second photo was taken with a camera and lens setup that you could easily get for £/$/€500 on ebay. If anything, that just makes people like me with "better" cameras want to up my game and not be so gear focused!

Good luck to both finalists, tough choice for sure.
  • + 3
 Its the same as people always having the latest and greatest bike components. I am faulty of it too but last I checked do 27.5 wheels really make me that much better? Cause no matter what bike you put sam hill, steve smith, or aaron gwin on they will still destroy any of us even if the thing weighs 60llbs with 26in wheels.
  • + 4
 @serenaur Agreed. Does the typewriter make the writer? The paint brush make the painter? It is artist that makes the art, not the tools.
  • + 2
 A 1DX isn't expensive because it takes better photos, the difference in quality between it and a 7D is rather negligible (especially at web resolution and standard print sizes). It's a 'better' camera because it's highly durable, weather sealed, and has internal components meant to crank out 100's of thousands of photos a year while getting abused. It's a better tool for the job for a photo journalist because it's a workhorse, not because it necessarily takes prettier photos.
  • + 1
 In general I agree with your points, but to be fair the 1Dx does have a far superior AF system, higher frame rate, and a lower shutter lag. It is also heavier so if you're attacked by a bear it makes for a better club. Benefits everywhere you look!
  • + 12
 Sean lee all the way for so many reasons. Tons of respect for trumpore! Sean's photo captures the true essence of mountain biking. When I look at that photo it reminds me of those late evening rides where you're just lost in that moment. Sean's photo is unrefined beauty that perfectly captures that feeling that every mountain biker has experienced. To me, trumpore's photo is fantastic. It should be on the cover of a non-mountain bike magazine because it sure as hell looks bad ass. However, in the PB community, how many of us have experienced moon pow like that? We don't! Because the only way you find yourself riding through that is when you're intentionally looking for that specific photo. Trumpore's photo doesn't contain any sort of a narrative and doesn't invoke any emotion. For this long and convoluted reason, I'm voting Sean Lee all the way!
  • + 9
 Well said @riding406. I agree with the mood and emotion in Sean's photo. But what is interesting to me is that the two finalists are totally different types of images. One is wide, one is medium-telephoto. One is positive action, one is negative action. One has a face (albeit behind a helmet), the other doesn't. One is back-lit, the other side or 3/4 light.

Trumpore's photo tells one heck of a story in my book. It tells a visual story that makes me want to lean in and know more because it is such a surprising image. To me, it says "I'm exploding out of a dirt canon and I am fierce." Who doesn't want to be fierce on a mountain bike or in some area of their lives?
  • - 8
flag SteveDekker (Feb 24, 2016 at 13:52) (Below Threshold)
 @garrettstories The story is its a staged photo on a dusty road at a ski area at after an event, that he finally got after multiple tries.
To me the guy riding the trail, in a natural setting away from support, is much more "fierce"
What do you mean by negative action?
  • + 5
 @SteveDekker Negative action is a fancy way of saying that the action is moving away from the camera. It is generally a visual way of communicating closure, conclusion, THE END, etc. As in this photo, literally riding off into the sunset.
  • - 12
flag SteveDekker (Feb 24, 2016 at 14:11) (Below Threshold)
 well ok then. He's still riding, so theres no conclusion, no end, no closure. Still riding.
But it is a fancy sounding term for nothing. Are you in politics?
  • + 3
 Yeah, negative action is not a negative thing for a photo. It just communicates a message on it's own. Politics? Thankfully not. I'm a professional photographer and filmmaker, hence the visual literacy language usage.
  • + 1
 @stevedekker -> Hey Steve-O, you've stated your opinion. No point continuing to argue it as everyone will vote for their fav based on their preference. Oh wait.... this is Pinkbike. Carry on.
  • - 3
 I did state my opinion Wasatch. Now garrett's learning me about communication Wink
  • + 16
 Could ya be more of a downer @stevedekker? you've already posted in this thread and others. you've said the first is unoriginal, ugly, could be anywhere, could be anyone? That's funny considering the other pic is on the most overshot trail in all of NZ and an angle and concept Sven Martin and many others has done time and time again, as well as post processing that well beyond "authentic". By your own logic behind hating on the fisrt pic you should also be hating on the second.... Or you could not be rude or disrespectful, and try giving both pics the credit they deserve for being pretty rad in their own ways. Great work Lee and Sean !!! F*** the haters
  • + 2
 @davetrump thank you! I think both photos are great. You absolutely can't complain about them from any technical standpoint and while I definitely favor Sean's photo, Trumpore's photo is still solid. To me it comes down to content, concept, and context. Both have excellent content, trumpore's concept is that balls to the wall stoke whereas Sean's concept is much more laid back and just enjoying the ride, but the context is what is lacking in Trumpore's photo
  • + 14
 Where can i vote for Christoph Laues photo? Big Grin
  • + 6
 Me being a hobby photographer, I'd say the first one is much harder to capture. The high speed, guessing where he's actually going to ride, focus and be extremely quick make the first photo unreal for me. The second one is beautiful as well, buy I rather feel like it's a standard setting to shoot against the sun and have a silhouette. I guess the light between the legs was rather a lucky shot then something planned.

Looking at it non-photography wise I love how energetic and wild the first photo is. Like a perfectly timed lion attack. Very unique.

About the people saying one try is better than several tries, I disagree. In this case I feel like several tries was because the picture was harder to caption. Also, it doesn't matter how many tries it took, the photoshoot was staged anyways. Both went out to shoot pics. The photographer found a spot, settled and set up his camera setting while the rider was waiting for his moment to ride past him. Neither were a photographer randomly shooting cyclists who randomly ride by, so both shots were staged.

Both pics are great though! Beer
  • + 10
 Doesn't matter if it's lucky or planned, it's not "Process-of-taking-a-Photo of the Year", but Photo of the Year. If the captured moment is golden, it does not matter to me how he got it.
  • + 5
 Just because the selected photo was on the second, third, fourth, tenth try it doesn't mean the previous attempts were garbage either. Might just be the case that the photographer liked this one best. Looking in the photo gallery here's another shot that looks to be the same angle but a slightly different framing. What's to say this wasn't the first one?
www.pinkbike.com/photo/13004526
  • + 8
 Trumpore's photo is so badass. It's been my laptop back round for a long time now and I just can't bring myself to change it.
  • + 5
 IMO Sean Lees picture looks like its been edited a lot. The fisheye, the weird curving horizon, the exaggerated shadows and the high contrast are just a little to much for me. The roost pic seems really natural and raw, but is still pretty epic. But.... Just an opinion. Both shots are killer. May the best Lee win!
  • + 5
 There aren't too many photos out there that we as MTB consumers and fanatics haven't seen. Because of that, I say that Trumpore's photo wins hands down. It has impact, beautiful quality of light, brilliant toning on the dirt which leads the eye through the image, and most importantly it is surprising. This is a photo we've not seen before and that is awesome. This takes nothing away from the other photo which is gorgeous and resonates with me because it has a bit more of a shared experience with which I can relate. As a professional photojournalist I'm always looking to tell a story in a visual way, in a new way that makes people lean in and want to know more. Trumpore's shot does this in spades. If this contest were judged by photo editors, Trumpore would win. Kudos to both photographers!
  • + 2
 The ‘deserving' photo is subjective. Deserving by popular choice or deserving by critical critique? These are great shots but ‘in the know’ critics in any field usually choose different winners whether it’s the Oscars, Grammys, etc. Why is it so many great shows get cancelled after one season but the dumbest reality shows get season after season?
  • + 3
 Both awesome but Sean Lee's photo makes my palms sweaty. I'd pay for that one and Pinkbike needs to setup a shop for people to order prints from these guys (unless they already have?).
  • + 5
 Trumpmore for me.the energy created is captured perfectly..it's like BOOOMMMM!!
  • - 1
 I meant trumpore.
  • + 1
 you meant Sean Lee i think
  • + 4
 Clearly I didn't.
  • + 4
 Stan lee.
  • + 6
 bruce lee
  • + 5
 brocco lee
  • + 2
 Ginger lee
  • + 6
 Geddy Lee
  • + 3
 Christopher lee
  • + 7
 General lee
  • - 1
 Donald Trump
  • + 1
 Sean's got this one for sure! A rooted 550d, full of mundaring dirt, no grips left on it, a crappy ebay fisheye thats deffintely chipped from copping roost to the face on a number of occasions, and a but load of skill, to produce a sick, completely not set up photo. C'mon guys! Help the guy out, he literally lives off leftovers of his misse's mums cooking!
  • + 1
 Both pictures are so different. When I am about to go riding I want to see the explosion and after the ride I want to see the sunset and think about my ride. Both winning worthy
  • + 4
 Awesome pics and a killer bike prize!
  • + 3
 Shiny, but whole, that second one.
  • + 2
 "I haven’t been able to afford to eat much since then, so winning would probably help my food situation too!"

Bingo.
  • + 1
 "Help, I'm being repressed!" There is an army of Sean Lee fan's out there who are neg propping all of our Trumpore love! Free love, people. Free love!
  • + 2
 Both those dudes seem cool. They're both winners.
  • + 0
 I guess we all know that situation when you buy something, and then you have to save on everything, especially on your food...
  • + 0
 Hard work over lucky burst, Trump my vote is for you. (never thought I'd see myself say that)
  • + 1
 can we just go with topless babes posing with bikes next year?
  • + 0
 Yes, please!
  • + 0
 Looks like this contest is all dried up
  • - 1
 Since the beginning of this contest, I say trumpore will won . Hope he will love this photo 3
  • - 2
 I love Lee Trumpore picture, buuuuut I am with @TEAM-ROBOT on roost pictures and freeride flicks...
  • + 4
 Glad that's sorted then.
  • + 1
 I can't stand videos with freeride flicks and people pounding through their soft suspension on little roots and stuff.
  • - 2
 I'm not saying anything else until The Bike is in the mail.
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