Photo Story: Dan Griffiths' Best 20 Shots from 4 Years of Shooting Elite Mountain Bike Competition

May 14, 2020
by Dan Griffiths  

As a photographer, I'm always looking for the next opportunity and the next great photograph, so it's rare that I allow myself the opportunity to look back and reflect on work from years past. With Covid-19 stepping in and drawing most things to a halt, for the time being, it's posed the perfect opportunity to dig through the archives and reflect on some of my favourite photos from when I first started taking photos through till now.

I wanted to compile some of the shots that have had the biggest impression on me so far and share some of the stories behind them - and with that, here are 20 of my favourite shots, taken over the space of four years on the mountain bike circuit.

Photography & Words: Dan Griffiths | Moonhead Media

Gee Atherton at the British Downhill Series in Fort William Scotland.

Gee Atherton - Fort William

The British National races always offer a great opportunity to get a little more creative - although you don't want to miss your clients, the pressure versus a World Cup event is certainly eased and you find yourself getting a little more experimental. This particular weekend in 2018, I got myself into a really good creative space. This is one of my favourite shots from the weekend, although it doesn't capture the action element, a small Gee framed against the towering landscape behind really sums up how the top of Fort William feels. The almost eerie quietness can be heard (or not heard) in this photo as Gee crosses the iconic boardwalk, the last chance for a rider to collect themselves before the long, rough battle that is Fort William really begins. | Fort William, BDS 2018

Amaury Pierron celebrates his first elite win at Fort William Scotland.

Amaury Pierron - Fort William

My favourite time during a race weekend is definitely as the last 20 or so riders make their way off the hill for finals - the excitement as you watch the splits wondering who's going to take it. However hard the rest of the weekend has been, rainstorms, midges, sunburn... everything else disappears and you're there, eagerly watching the timing board, ready to capture the emotions of the riders as they cross the finish line. Once the last racer enters the finish area, there's a stampede of photographers scaling the barriers (if you've seen that over the wall scene in World War Z you'll know what I mean) - it's an intense feeling with everybody absolutely in-the-moment. This is the time that Amaury Pierron took his first elite win back in 2018, he was stoked, everybody around him was stoked, as you can see it was a pretty special moment! Fort William, World Cup 2018

Whip off at Crankworx Innsbruck with Brendan Fairclough.

Brendan Fairclough - Innsbruck

Going out to Crankworx Innsbruck in 2017 was a completely last-minute decision, I was still pretty fresh to the scene, I didn't have any clients out there and on paper, it simply didn't make sense, but I desperately wanted to be a part of it. Whip-Off was one of the first evenings after I arrived, and after getting this frame of Brendan Fairclough in front of the Austrian mountains any doubts about being out there quickly subsided, I said to myself "No matter what happens after this point, I can go home happy." This particular shot isn't unique, ask any photographer who's shot the Whip-Off in Innsbruck and they'll show you a variation. What made this unique for me was the timing of the dust coming up off the landing that separates Brendog' from the dark mountain backdrop - shortly after the dust subsided and the shot just wasn't the same again. | Innsbruck, Crankworx 2017

Aaron Gwin at the UCI Downhill World Cup in Lenzerheide Switzerland.

Aaron Gwin - Lenzerheide

There's sort of an inside joke with the photographers that it's really f**king hard to get a solid shot of Aaron Gwin. It's like a strange curse, it might be down to the fact that you'll only see Gwin doing a couple, maybe three runs during a day on the hill so there's less opportunity, but there's a strange force at work that will let you capture banger shots of 12 other riders and miss Gwin. The man is so revered by MTB fans, when you come into the scene with a camera, one of the first things you want is to get a good shot of Aaron Gwin. This is the first shot I ever caught of him that I was truly happy with - bear in mind, this is Lenzerheide 2017 - that means it took me nearly a season and a half to finally get that shot and it made it all the more special when I finally got it. | Lenzerheide, World Cup 2017

Gee Atherton at RedBull Hardline in 2018.

Gee Atherton - Red Bull Hardline

Throughout the years, capturing the human element of Mountain Biking has been one of my biggest focuses. There is no more appropriate winner for RedBull Hardline than Gee, captured here victorious after 3 years of disappointment. The crowd in the picture has just witnessed one of the ultimate feats of physical and mental toughness that perfectly illustrates Gee's character and his all-out approach to the sport. Off the bike, in the finish area, we get a glimpse of Gee's less publicly known playful side that is nevertheless a key part of his make up. | Red Bull Hardline, 2018

Big roost during a misty practice at Mont Sainte-Anne.

Morning Roost - Mont Sainte Anne

There's not a lot to say about this one, I'm not even sure who's riding (let's try and identify him) - for me, this frame from a cold, misty morning in Mont Sainte Anne captures that feeling of mountain biking really well and I love the roost. | Mont Sainte-Anne, World Cup 2018

Track Walk - Fort William

A different perspective on the track walk. | Fort William, World Cup 2018

Panshot at the UCI-Downhill World Cup in Lourdes France.

Bridge Pan - Lourdes

Lourdes is a weird place. Walking around with my arm in a sling having broken my collarbone the week before, shooting was even weirder. I couldn't get into a lot of the normal shooting positions so I had to get creative with my approach. I'd seen pan-shots under bridges before and really wanted to try it here - the bridge blocks your view of the riders approaching making the usual hit and miss of a pan shot even more pronounced. I probably rejected 30 or so attempts before I finally hit on this one. It really surprised me, to this day I still don't know the scientific reasons behind the double image and how the rainbow colors came about but not knowing that makes it all the more interesting to me. | Lourdes, World Cup 2017

Pan-shot as Mike Jones washes out on an iconic turn in Vallnord Andorra.

Mike Jones - Vallnord

There's a couple of factors that made this shot special to me - being in the right place at the right time to capture a crash is of course purely luck of the draw - even more luck of the draw was capturing a sharp pan frame of the moment. For both elements to come together for one shot made this shot all the more special. We don't like to see riders crashing and getting hurt and fortunately for Mike, it was a case of dusting himself off and getting back on it. | Vallnord, World Cup 2019

Finn Iles at the Crankworx Whip-Off World Championships in Whistler Canada.

Finn Iles - Whistler

As a mountain bike obsessed teenager, trawling through endless hours of riding edits and race recaps on the internet, Whistler always stood out to me. Actually getting out there and experiencing the bubble for myself always felt like a far off dream, so when I finally arrived there in 2017 I couldn't wait to capture my own version of this shot on the iconic Crabapple hits. I shot a lot of riders here, but local boy Finn Illes fully embodies the Whistler spirit. | Whistler, Crankworx 2017

Reece Wilson flying the Scottish Flag after a 4th place finish at his home race in Fort William Scotland.

Reece Wilson - Fort Willam

This picture is special because of the relationship between Reece Wilson and the Fort William crowd. It doesn’t even matter that he didn’t win – 4th place podium and both Reece and the fans were super-stoked. I love the way that you can feel how proud he is to be carrying the Scottish flag on that podium and how that’s reflected back to him from the fans. I couldn't have been more stoked for Reece on that weekend. | Fort William, World Cup 2018

Greg Minnaar at the Downhill World Championships in Cairns Australia.

Greg Minnaar - Cairns

Still early in my journey as a mountain bike photographer, this was another event that simply didn’t make any financial sense for me at the time but I just couldn’t keep away. In the depths of the Australian jungle, I spent the first few days on constant red alert for spiders, snakes, and all of the other Australian creatures out to kill us - it certainly kept me alert. Greg's green and gold kit looks great against the rainforest backdrop and the roots and dust really sum up the Cairns terrain. | Cairns, World Cup 2017

You can win any of these photos as a framed 15x10 print! Just make a donation to the NHS here and I’ll pick a winner at random, every little helps!

Matt Jones suicide flip during Slopestyle at Crankworx Innsbruck 2018.

Matt Jones - Innsbruck

Matt Jones upside down and outlined against the crazy Austrian mountains - Crankworx Innsbruck rarely fails us. | Innsbruck, Crankworx, 2018

Danny Hart at the UCI Downhill World Cup in Snowshoe USA.

Danny Hart - Snowshoe

Snowshoe 2019. All the focus was on Loic Bruni and Amaury Pierron and their battle for the overall – it turned out to be such an insane race, probably the best finals I've seen to date. Regardless of the overall, Danny's run was insane and great to watch Danny take the win. As a picture of celebration, this needs no caption. I love the framing, the way the Union Jack works with Danny’s kit, and the way everything else disappears. | Snowshoe, World Cup 2019

Laurie Greenland at RedBull Hardline in 2018

Laurie Greenland - Red Bull Hardline

I love this shot because it's just so quintessentially British. It really captures the essence of RedBull Hardline and Welsh riding. The huge mountain behind, along with the mist and you can feel how cold and wet that day was. Laurie is one of the most humble and talented guys on the scene so it's great to have him in the photo. The Hardline crowd is like no other crowd at a MTB event, everybody is so stoked and in awe at what they're seeing and their willingness to stand in the driving rain to emphasizes this. Laurie looks so small compared to his surroundings, which is basically Hardline in a nutshell - small riders going up against huge features in one of the coolest locations on the planet. | Red Bull Hardline, 2018

Charlie Hatton at the UCI Downhill World Cup in Lenzerheide Switzerland.

Charlie Hatton - Lenzerheide

If you've ever sat on the gondola as the race runs begin in Lenzerheide you'll know you can watch the entire run from the lift - pretty f**king cool. This does take a lot of timing though and me, Kaos & Breeden had done probably 10 or so laps of the gondola before Charlie's run as we figured out the perfect timing for when to get on the lift. One of my jobs that weekend was to take photos of Charlie, I knew it would be a risk trying to get a photo of him from the lift as opposed to a standard trackside shot but my creative urges got the better of me. Watching Charlie from the lift was insane, we were going mental as he was on an absolute heater - we were watching the splits on our phones, and if I recall he was on his way into either first or second before he washed out on the final turn. Regardless it was amazing to watch. Thankfully, the risk paid off, and I ended up with one of my favourite shots from over the years which gives a different perspective on a commonly shot bridge scrub. | Lenzerheide, World Cup 2017

Champagne showers for Loic Bruni in Vallnord Andorra.

Loic Bruni - Vallnord

Again, capturing the human element of the sport has always been my biggest inspiration. The podium has always fed my creative urges in this way as you get a unique opportunity to capture the raw emotions of the athletes as they celebrate the weekend's success. I love this particular shot of Loic after his 2019 win in Andorra simply because of the timing of the champagne hitting his face. | Vallnord, World Cup 2019

A foggy morning at the British Downhill Series in Fort William Scotland.

Misty Silhouette - Fort William

We've been very fortunate with the weather over the past few years at Fort William but I feel this photo truly depicts the harsh reality of the Scottish elements. This was shot during the same weekend as my earlier shot of Gee and the silhouetted rider against the thick morning fog really portrays the true essence of the highlands and the silence that is ever so present up the top of the mountain. | Fort William, BDS 2018

Jackson Frew - Val Di Sole

This was shot during my first year on the World Cup circuit - up bright and early to capture group B practice, this loose moment from Jackson Frew was a wake-up call far greater than coffee. I definitely expected to get destroyed by a flying combination of human and bike and as time slowed down, I was torn between trying to jump to safety or committing to capturing the madness, as you can see I chose the latter. By some miracle, Jackson actually avoided high side and rode this one out. For me, the contrast of quiet, early morning sunrise versus the madness going on in the frame is what makes the shot special, even better is the three guys in the back enjoying a quiet conversation unaware of the brutality that's happening behind them! | Val Di Sole, World Cup 2016

Suspense for Loic Bruni as he waits to see if he ll take the overall.

Loic Bruni - Snowshoe

Last year in Snowshoe has to be the most intense finishes I've ever seen. The overall was between Loic Bruni and Amaury Pierron was so close and it took right down to the last rider crossing the line to find out who would take it. As tense as it felt for us, I can't imagine how it felt for Pierron and Bruni, but I think the look in Loic's eyes here as he waits for Danny Hart to cross the line is a pretty good measure of that. | Snowshoe, World Cup, 2019


  • 18 0
 Ik like the million mile look from Gwin and the winning feeling of Danny!
  • 12 0
 snowshoe, that was some race
  • 2 0
 @russthedog: I was there and the scene was intense for sure!
  • 14 0
 Thank You, Guys! You can win any of these photos as a framed 15x10 print for your wall! Just make a donation to the NHS at the link and I’ll pick a winner at random, every little helps:
  • 4 2
 Love the last one of Bruni. Rainbow jersey, number 1 plate, Red Bull helmet, appearance of being the best rider in the world.
  • 2 0
 @moonheadmedia: I believe this explains the double image in your amazing pan shot
  • 3 2
 "...I still don't know the scientific reasons behind the double image and how the rainbow colors came about but not knowing that makes it all the more interesting to me."

Way to ruin it, Bill Nye.
  • 4 0
 @bishopsmike: It's even more interesting when you know why it happens! Physical properties of light are super cool. Don't want to know? don't read the link...
  • 3 0
 I liked reading your thoughts on each photo. Thanks!
  • 2 0
 Gwin on the YT Mob.. In my opinion they always had the most stylish combination of bike and kit.
  • 2 0
 Great photos and brilliant insight into each, thanks!
  • 1 0
 It’s amazing from watching Dan grow up that he would do things as impressive as this. But he did.... well done Dan!
  • 1 0
 Reads like a rather backhanded compliment...
  • 1 0
 @pourquois-pas: it’s genuine
  • 1 0
 What PP software is used, photomech?
  • 1 0
 I use Adobe Lightroom for editing
  • 1 0
 Excellent pics
  • 1 0
 Phuch yeah!!!!
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