Do you have a specific style/mood of riding that you enjoy shooting most?
It depends really on what the situation is. I always like to try and capture a certain feel which is often difficult with BMX photos as it’s generally someone doing a certain trick. Oftentimes I like to photograph the build up to a trick, the look in someone’s face just before the trick is pulled or the exhilaration of just having pulled a trick. I want to see passion & depth as well as a rad trick.
Is there any aspect of shooting bikes that you find challenging, difficult or not interesting at all?
Every time I shoot a photo it’s a challenge, especially when there’s a moving bike involved.
I don’t like shooting contests. I don’t know anyone who relishes going out on a tight street course with a bunch of other photographers jostling for space and having riders like (*no offense to Gary, I’m just using your name as an example. haha) Gary Young steam millimeters past you full tilt! Not to mention riders bailing and their bikes ghosting into the air only to land on a hapless photographer. I’ve witnessed more than one gorey rider/photographer collision. The most memorable being B. Kachinsky steamrolling over some poor bastard who was filming at the worlds in Prague a few years ago. The guy even lost his watch in the incident. Brutal as fuck!
Speaking of, what do you normally carry in your equipment bag? You can be specific.
I’m not that much of a ‘gear’ person and have always viewed a camera as just a tool. You don’t need expensive equipment to shoot decent photos. It’s all in the technique leading up to the final execution. I have had a lot of shitty cameras over the years and have got good photos out of all of them. The majority of my photos are shot with just a basic camera and no flash. Unfortunately BMX photography requires me to carry a lot of extra equipment, flashes, light stands, etc. It’s a necessary evil. I normally carry 2 camera bodies film/digital, 4 flashes, 2 stands and a few different lenses.
I try to keep my equipment to a minimum as it helps to travel as light as possible especially, when like me you’re a vegetarian with a high metabolism. So, apart from a camera, the second most important item in my bag is probably vegan snacks. Like I said I’m a vegetarian, pretty much vegan, in fact I’m probably more vegan than most vegans who say they’re vegan. I’m also Irish, pale & skinny which in turn makes me a bad advertisement for vegetarianism, but my whole family are Irish, pale & skinny, so being veggie has nothing to do with the that.
So, getting back to the question. This is my bike complete with panniers for carrying camera equipment. Probably the most uncool bike in BMX:
How about when you are not lugging a bunch of equipment around… do you carry some sort of camera on a daily basis? If so, which?
I nearly always carry a camera with me along with a couple of lenses. I don’t feel right when I don’t have a camera with me, like I’m missing a body part or something.
Speaking of which, I have this recurring dream every few months or so. I’m somewhere, I’m not sure exactly where? I’m walking along a street and suddenly I’m gripped with crushing anxiety when I realize that I don’t have my camera! A sense of panic ensues, thoughts flash through my brain a million miles an hour as I try to figure out where I left it – There’s no way it’s still going to be there, where is it?! did I leave it on the train? Then I wake up in a cold sweat and a tidal wave of relief washes over me when I realize that this is in-fact a dream/nightmare.
I read somewhere that recurring dreams are caused by unacknowledged stress and trauma. Once you’ve dealt with the underlying stress that causes the dreams, they’re supposed to go away. I guess I should figure this out….
Story time. As with any professional BMX photographer, I’m sure you have had to shoot in some sketchy scenarios. Is there one situation that stands out as the worst that you would care to share?
I hate shooting photos in sketchy neighborhoods but oftentimes that’s where the good photos are to be had. As a general rule, if I’m in a bad area I usually shoot with a bunch of people around and have people stand on guard by equipment.
The one that stands out though is a non BMX incident that happened in Brixton London about 8 or 9 years ago. I was walking around taking a few pictures when I turned into a side street and felt someone gripping my camera wrist. I turned around and came face to face with a massive dude. He took a bunch of swings at me as I dodged & wrestled him for which seemed like an eternity him holding the camera me holding the strap. He got me good in the face so I decided to avoid the inevitable of getting pummeled into the pavement and gave up the camera. Two women pushing a pram witnessed what had happened and started yelling at the guy. He stopped and started swinging the camera around by the strap generating speed smashing it off the ground 7 or 8 times before hurling it 40ft. up the street. He ran off and I was left picking up random pieces of a smashed up Leica M6. To make matters worse, I had just bought the thing a week or so ago and had no insurance.
I sent it to Leica along with a begging letter only to have it returned with a short letter stating that it was ‘beyond repair’.
Needless to say, I switched to Nikon shortly after….
How about security personnel? Have you ever had to actually pay any security people off to let you get the shot? I know you tried that in Vegas.
I’ve never actually handed over money to shoot a photo but I have jokingly bribed security guards in the past if they were being assholes. One time myself and a few friends were riding through some car park, we weren’t even going to ride there but I stopped to get something out of my bag and this security guard comes running over waving a metal bar around telling us to get the fuck out of his car park. Zero explanation, just being a total prick for no reason. It was like a scene lifted straight out of a Guy Richie movie. So anyway, I thought I’d call his bluff and asked him if he gave us five minutes and I’d give him £50.00. He started stuttering and talking under his breath not knowing where to look. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said: “Right, you have five minutes, give me the money”. I looked right back at him and said: “Yeah right”. Needless to say he ‘totally’ blew a gasket! and started chasing us out the gate whilst we stared back at him grinning. I must have given him the finger for at least a full minute. Oftentimes when dealing with an asshole you turn into one yourself.
A few years ago I was in Mexico as part of a Red Bull trip and we had a driver/security guy called Tony. Totally rock N’ roll, especially when we found out who else he had driven – tons of famous actors, musicians, even the president. Tony was the real deal he was huge! He was the closest thing to a silver back gorilla I think I’ve ever seen. He even carried my bag around for me and stood by it making sure no-one messed with it. A few times we walked into packed restaurants with no available tables. Tony would ‘have a word’ with the manager and instantly an extra table & chairs would appear and we’d be eating the best food in Mexico.
One night we got stopped by a bunch of cops which is something you don’t want to happen in Mexico, especially if you’re in a people carrier with a bunch of white boys. Anyway, it turned out Tony knew the guy behind the guy and they let us get on with our business no questions asked. This happened on a few occasions.