Ride down for about 20 metres, wham on anchors, get off, push back up.
Ride down again for about 20 metres, avoid lady in undergrowth, wham on anchors, get off, push back up.
Ride down again for about 20 metres, try not to gurn or stick thinking tongue out as I go past the lady lying on the floor, wham on anchors, get off, push back up.
Load bike into car, drive to next spot, repeat.
It’s a lovely, sunny, warm, early spring day and I’m out for a ride. What could be better? Well, maybe riding more than 20 metres at a go for a start. Why on earth am I doing this? More importantly, why is there a lady lying in the undergrowth?
I promise, there’s nothing nefarious going on.
When I first put the website together I went through all the photos I’d accumulated over the years and found they were all taken by me. Thus I appeared in none of them, barring selfies of my face covered in mud. In order to get photos of me riding I needed a photographer to take them. Now, where to find one? Actually, that bit was easy: my mother is a photographer looking to turn professional. It was a perfect match.
I had a good long think about where to go, which trails might create interesting shapes and dynamic-looking riding. I had loads of ideas so I went out and scoped them, taking photos of the bits that looked best and put together an itinerary.
Thus I found myself out in some of my local haunts sessioning incredibly short sections of trail. We walked around looking for those places where interesting trail met useful light for photographs. Suddenly, my long list of spots became much shorter as I discarded the ones that were too deep in shade, and the ones where the light was coming from the wrong angle, and the ones where there was nowhere to sit to get the shots. The list came down to a small handful. I can see now why magazine shots all seem to be in similar places: they know where they can reliably get good photos of riding.
Not only that but riding for a photographer is very different from riding for fun. It really is a case of riding just far enough to get up to speed, blasting past the camera and then stopping. Not only that but I found I really needed to exaggerate the forms I was making on the bike or it looked like I was standing still. I also discovered that riding repeatedly about six inches from someone’s very expensive camera is quite stressful: there’s no margin for error. Not only that but, as she was lying on the floor for the best angle, I couldn’t even look at her as her head was at axle height: a bad place to be looking when you’re riding. Just ride the right line and assume you’re not going to clobber her lens. Looking back up the path I could see endless tyre tracks and they were all mine.
It was not riding as I know it. It was also really, really revealing of bad technique where my weight was in the wrong place or I was looking the wrong way. It was, nonetheless a lot of fun, carving the shapes I’ve seen in magazines and adverts, giving it large if you will. I was also getting something out of riding the same corner over and over again to get the right pose, adjusting my line slightly, adjusting my posture slightly, adjusting my speed slightly rather than just riding it once and heading off to the next trail.
“Why are all the places in the woods?” I’d not really thought about it before but all the good, twisty bits of singletrack were in trees. Individually, they made great shots but, after a while, it all looked a bit the same.
Oh, and one of my favourite riding jerseys is rubbish for the camera.
I’m really pleased with the results. For a first time rider in front of a first time photographer, we got some really good stuff. They’ll be gracing the website and social media before long. I’m under no illusions though: we’ve both got a lot to learn. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
In my case I need to learn not to stick my tongue out when riding!