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 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 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