2016 has been a special year for me as a photographer. I met a lot of great people, riders, photographers, and took part of some crazy events. As we're starting a new year, I think it's time to share some stories about my personal highlights of the last 12 months.
Franck Paulin - Secret Spot
I've been thinking of a "miniflip" photo project for several months and when I met Franck Paulin, the miniflip master, at the beginning of the year it was an evidence that we had to shoot together. We made many plans about locations and concepts to shoot this kind of action but one place really stood out which did not look like your everyday view over the bar. I spotted this place thanks to google earth and we went there with Franck and a (really sketchy) miniflip kicker last spring. As we were thinking, it was all but not a mountainbike trail but after some time walking around and looking for the right place to flip and shoot, we found this greenery window leading to a small path. Luckily, we only had to move few stones to clean the roll in and everything worked out perfectly.
Olly Wilkins - Nine Knights
It was the first year I was invited to the Suzuki Nine Knights and what an experience it was. Building such a massive course in the middle of the mountains is a big deal and this year, the location changed and the madness moved from Livigno to Reschenpass, at the Italian border. The main thing that changed, for photographers, and riders by the way, is that the course which was sunset exposed the years before, became a sunrise spot. The only way to get a golden light was to be at the top of the track at 7AM. So near the end of the week and after a 5:20 AM wake up, a group of motivated riders went up the mountain with the chairlift by night. After some breakfast training, the sun rose and the race chasing the light started. The perfect one is only here for 5 minutes and you have to find the best angle to catch everything properly. Luckily some riders were keen to send this big hip in the morning light. Thanks Olly.
Nicolas Terrier - Lyon
This shot is a bit special as it was shot in a car park in Lyon, France. I saw many photos of this place before, but I never really looked at its location, and when I realized it was only few minutes walking from home, I knew I had to do something there. So I called Nicolas Terrier, a friend and really good slopestyle rider, who's always up to shoot something a bit different. We went there without asking anyone but luckily we had the authorization to use the shot afterward. This carpark is in fact a masterpiece itself, as it's composed of a huge rotating mirror at the bottom, and a big spiral road where the cars go up to the exit. The tricky part of getting this shot was the tiny spots to put the strobes on each side of the road ,but most of all the timing. A lot of cars were going up between our "test shots" and the window where Nico is jumping is actually kind of small. We also had to deal with the rotating mirror to have the perfect reflection along with the framed action.
Mehdi Gani - Lyon
A "one jump trail" is not always easy to shoot as you're usually done with every angle after a day of shooting. But this private place near Lyon called "Bibi's Ranch" is an exception. I spent some days shooting there with the Lyon's slopestyle crew and never got bored of it. Everything looks pretty good there, the exposition from the sun, the backdrop, the foreground, and no matter the angle you choose.The jump is also well exposed to the golden hour during spring time and it's surrounded by the brooms as you can see in this shot. One more time here, having a good rider with you obviously makes the shot easier. Mehdi Gani is a really talented guy and when it comes to do a top trick for a shot at the very last light, I think he's the most efficient rider i know.
Pierre-Edouard Ferry and Kyle Strait - Black Hills
Early morning missions always (often) lead to great results. One of their main drawback is that they require a high motivation, especially to send it down a mountain on a bicycle at a time where everyone is still sleeping. On the other side of the camera, we might say we have the easy, or at least the safest job in this kind of dawn/sunrise shooting. We didn't expect the moon this morning but that's what made this mission really worth it. We just went to the spot a hour before sunrise to be ready at the right time. As we were setting everything for the video and photo shooting, Kyle and PEF were going up to the start of the line almost by night, carrying their bikes on their back.
Rémi Thirion - La Palma
Starting to work with COMMENCAL is for sure my biggest move this year. This trip to La Palma in the Canaria's Islands was my first assignment in this all new job. We had a few mishaps as a missed plane, but we finally made it on the Island 3 days later. This burnt forest was definitely the most incredible place we've been to on this island. We don't really know why but everything was burnt due to a wildfire back in august, and these orange needles seemed to be unharmed, creating a really weird visual effect. There was no trail in this area so the trickiest part was to find and focus on a cool place to ride and shoot, to avail the maximum potential of this forest. We found this little bottleneck that looked pretty much like a path and after a few arrangements with our feet it was game on. Moreover, Rémi is a great guy to shoot with because he's not only fast, he has some style on every single part of each run he does.
Szymon Godziek - FISE world Montpellier
Events are one good way to get into mountain-bike photography because you have the world's best riders doing what they do best on a sick track. But in these situations, you rapidly figure out all the drawbacks of this kind of photography. It's often hard to have a "clean shot" in these condition, especially when the course takes place in a city center as here in Montpellier. I spotted this kind of angle of the big air jump the year before but I didn't manage to have the shot I wanted, but this year, I stood there for at least an hour at the end of the day, waiting for the light to fade and the wind to stop. Luckily everything went well and Szymon didn't disappoint with his super extended signature superman.
Pierre-Edouard Ferry and Kyle Strait - Black Hills
I guess this picture takes part of the "Where's the rider" category but sometimes you just need to show the entire location as well as the action. This pic was taken at sunrise the same morning as the previous "moon" photo in what we call the "Black Hills" in the south of France. I think the trickiest part for me behind the lens was to choose my framing as I knew I only had one chance to catch the action with that light as it takes such a long time for the riders to get back up there. Once again, props to the riders because dropping in in the morning on what we can call the steepest line of the spot with the sun in the face is no joke.
Yoann Barelli - Pemberton
2016 was also my first year of real travel, and I was really stoked to go to whistler and even more to shoot with a good friend. Canadian's forests really have something special and when it comes to foggy moods and loamy ground, Pemberton trails are the perfect deal. Shooting in this area at the end of November might not have been the best idea according to the local people as it was supposed to rain almost all the week with freezing temperatures. Hopefully we got lucky and we escaped the rain and snow during all our trip, leaving the clouds and the fog on the mountains. After some days of scouting and shooting, we found this old section of trail in these misty woods, and it was finally some perfect conditions to shoot and to ride.
Rémi Thirion - La Palma
Travelling always leads you to some beautiful places and La Palma's island is no exception. It was our first time there with the COMMENCAL media team and thanks to the local riders, we were able to discover some hidden places as this little fishermen's village. This place is kind of particular as it is surrounded by two lava flows directly diving into the ocean and luckily this village was on the west coast of the island, and therefore perfectly exposed to the evening golden light. What a perfect way to end few days of shooting with Rémi Thirion!