This time last year I put my favourite photo's of the year together when there was still one race left. I thought I already had plenty of pics of Moelfre, but the English championships turned out to be one of the best races of the year. The weather on Saturday morning was stunning, but unfortunately the mist cleared before practice started so I never managed to get a shot with a rider in. A year later I photoshopped in a pic of a rider taken later the same day on the other side of the hill, and this was the result. The background has not been edited, just a rider put in to add a bit of interest in the foreground. Anyone who knows the track will realise that the rider is going the wrong way, but no-one's perfect! I know a lot of people object to blatant photoshopping like this, but I make it clear when a shot has been altered, and let people make their own minds up.
Chris Maltby at Moelfre
At the same race, Mike Marsden decided to add a kicker to the quarry drop near the top of the hill producing some huge jumps early on race day while the wind was unusually low for Moelfre. Unfortunately, the wind started to get up during the race, and Tom Towers got some great shots of some really sketchy landings and crashes before the course was changed. I managed to get this shot of Chris Walters showing how the jump should be done before the Moelfre weather played its usual part in proceedings.
Chris Walters at Moelfre Hall
I probably spend more time on the hill at Moelfre than anyone including Farmer Jac, and have been up there in all weathers. This shot of Ste Murphy was taken during an uplift in February, nothing too spectacular, just memories of a fun day on the hill.
Ste Murphy at Moelfre Hall
An example of the changeable weather we have had this year. Practice day at Bringewood was calm and misty all day, next day was really grim. You just have to try to make the most of it while you can...
Sarah Staples at Bringewood
This photo of Matt Finbow kind of sums up the last couple of years at Pearce Cycles races. Nearly every race has had good weather on practice day then bad to dreadful weather on race day. I don't know how riders manage to keep going in the gloom of Bringewood when it's like this!
Matt Finbow at Bringewood
I try to get away from downhill races occasionally to shoot something different. This shot was from an airbag session at Farmer John's when the weather was pretty grey most of the day but cheered up a bit just before the end of the day to allow a few silhouette shots.
BMX rider at Farmer John's
For various reasons this year I haven't been able to get to as many races as I would like, so i've been playing around with photo editing more than usual. I don't really have the patience to do the job properly, but quite liked the way this pic of Matt Stuttard turned out. Matt's riding style is pretty surreal anyway, so it seems to work.
I really had to include a pic of Taylor Vernon in a summary of the year. He's a Youth rider who has been on great form this year, and has recorded some amazing times, beating lots of Experts and Elites along the way. This was at the first race at Llangollen this year, which is rapidly becoming one of the best venues in the country.
Taylor Vernon at Llangollen
I seem to have quite a collection of crash shots from this year, and this has to be the funniest. It helps that the rider is the man behind Roots and Rain - Seb Frost. Seb has had a good year racing in Masters, but this was one moment when things didn't go quite so well...
Seb Frost tree-hugging at Hopton
This shot has taken on a life of its own on Facebook with various capes and captions being added. It's Harry Heath showing the best way to clear two trees when your bike decides to stay behind.
Harry Heath the Hero of Hopton
I had chance to shoot a few pics with some local riders during the summer at a 'secret' spot that unfortunately got flattened a few weeks later. The lads had put a lot of work into building some decent dirt jumps, but this was the only chance I got to visit before they disappeared.
I have had a couple of chances to photograph Greg this year, and this shot was taken at Harthill not long after Greg had recovered from a broken leg. Greg had competed earlier in the day in a freestyle competition against the world mountain board freestyle champion on a mountain board course with mountain board judges and still came close to winning.
Greg Parry at Harthill
Apologies are due to Keith Valentine aka phunkt.com, as he put this flag up by the course, and I took advantage of the chance to get this shot. Sometimes you have to make the most of anything that appears in front of you!
Scott Mears at Moelfre
My background is in canoe and kayak photography, so I can't resist a chance to get some water in a shot. With the weather this year, I've had plenty of opportunities, but this shot taken at a gravity enduro race is my favourite.
Rick Ellis at Eastridge
I still get the odd chance to take some kayaking photo's, and this one was one of the better ones from this year. Kayakers seem to be even more fond of being photographed than downhillers!
Kayaker at Canolfan Tryweryn
The amount of time I spend on the hill at Moelfre has allowed me to learn where the best places are to photograph in different conditions. By the time of the second race run on a dry weekend, this part of the track tends to push quite a few riders off, as a combinations of tiredness, speed and a small step-down onto off-camber claims quite a few victims. For example, Seb Frost managed to get punctures here on both race runs in one race last year. I was waiting to get a few 'comedy' shots of riders tipping off into the bracken when Arron came round the corner and took off in a cloud of dust like he'd just hit a land-mine. He bounced over sideways most of the way down the hill almost to the uplift track, and was lucky to limp away with just a knee injury. When I first went to shoot downhill at Moelfre three years ago, I didn't photograph riders crashing, as I didn't think anyone would want to see photo's of themselves getting hurt. Now I get my first POD with a crash shot, how times have changed!
Arron Hilton goes airborne at Moelfre