M5 Photography

Published…Image in Dirt Rag

I Have a full page image in the new issue of Dirt Rag. We shot this photo in the hills of Simi Valley. I used my strobes to light up this really cool cave like feature we found and Charles was able the make the squeeze through that small opening and ride through it for the shot.


Crashes at the Rampage

While there are always amazing highlights from the Red Bull rampage….there are also the crashes. Here are a few sequence shots I captured.

Chris Van Dine..amazing move and crash

Graham Agassiz ejects mid air

Kurt Sorge Crash Sequence

Mike Hopkins gap jump mid air eject

Published on:
October 11, 2010 4:19 pm

The Rampage…the photos

I’m hoping the images within this post will do some of the talking about the Rampage as a mountain bike event. Since this is my photography blog I’d like to stick to the photography side of what went down in Utah this past weekend. OK a few words about the event. Even if you aren’t into mountain biking at all….I know you’d be blown away at the moves these guys were pulling all weekend. Huge, large, massive, insane are a few words that come to mind. Sure it looks big in photos….it looks even bigger in person.

Having watched the 2008 event on DVD I had a few ideas of what I was in for from a photography perspective. One thing I knew going in was that it would be dusty. Not a huge deal for me as I shoot outside most of the time. I did nothing out of the ordinary to prepare my equipment for the dust. The only thing I guess I wasn’t ready for was the wind storm that blew in on Saturday afternoon….The gear was fine as I put it away knowing the riders were done for the day. It is very dangerous for them to be up on the ridges in that type of wind. My eyes, ears, nose and skin weren’t prepped for the red sand storm that hit them. Maybe I’d pack some goggles next time? (Note to un named hotel in St.George…sorry for the red towels and shower..it was a LOT of dust)

Two bodies. Not only was I wishing I could divide myself in two in order to cover more ground during the event, I also wish I had brought my second camera body. There is so much action going on both at a distance and close up that having one body with a wide angle and the other with my 70-200mm would have been ideal. Switching lenses outside in the dust isn’t the best practice either….I do it all the time though…Do as I say not as I do.

Waiting for that one shot. I wish I had taken up a few more secluded locations and waited for the riders to come to me. I found myself trying to shoot their entire runs which was nearly impossible do to the size of the event. Again having two of me would help here. It’s very hard to sit and wait with the riders out of your view while you listen to crowd go nuts over what that rider is doing out of your sight….not only as a fan but as a photographer you want to see the whole run. But sometimes you gotta miss all that to get the shot.

Overall it was an amazing weekend filled with great riding. I met some really cool people who love the same things I do and were willing to hang out and talk shop. There was one photo guy from europe..not sure what country..who plopped himself right in the way of my shot…he refused to move at first but finally did after a verbal “REALLY?” from me. You know who you are straw hat euro dude.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the photos. . . Click the images for the large view.


On a Rampage…

I’m off to Utah this week to shoot the Red Bull Rampage for IMB….Should be out of control and amazing!.


Letting go of the camera

I’ve blogged in the past about firing my flash units remotely allowing me to place the lights pretty much wherever I want it. While there are a few ways to trigger flash units, I choose to use Pocket wizards. One of the main reasons I went with Pocket wizards for my flash trigger was that I also knew they would work as a camera trigger too.

Inspired by many others before me I knew I wanted to do some remote photography. Meaning I wanted to place the camera in spots where I couldn’t go myself. I wanted those unique POV shots that make you wonder how the photographer got the camera in that spot and how he pushed the button. By purchasing a couple of Pocket wizards I had the first piece of the remote puzzle in place…getting the camera out of my hands. The second piece would be connecting the camera to the objects I wanted to shoot. This is where the magic comes in to play in the form of the Magic Arm by Manfrotto.

The Magic Arm doesn’t pull rabbits out of hats or do card tricks, but once you’ve used one you’ll understand why they call it magic. On one end there is a removable camera mount where you ..well…attach your camera. On the other is the Manfrotto Super Clamp. OK I guess this thing is Super and Magic…anyway the Super Clamp allows you to attach the Magic Arm to just about anything it can fit on to. With a set of pocket wizards and a Magic Arm the next step is coming up with ideas where you can use them.

You’ll notice above that I said you attach your camera to the Magic Arm. So the gear heads who polish their cameras daily and fret over each scratch can stop reading here. There is a risk involved here and your stuff might get bumped, dropped, scratched and or run over. It is the chance you take with these types of set ups. In the skateboard shot below I’ve included the set up shot so you can get an idea of what I mean. I remember posting this shot to flickr and calling it “Trust”. Not only did I need to trust the Magic Arm, I also needed to trust my friend Jason who was doing the riding. If he were to let both feet off the board the camera would drop to the ground. I think the risk was worth it for this shot. The second skate shot I took alone…..and had to really keep in mind what I was doing because after each shot I wanted to hop off and check out what I captured by looking at the LCD on the back of the camera. Again hoping off would drop the camera to the ground.

The two biking shots below each had their own challenges and gear risk. The first shot is of my son who is riding in the street with the Magic Arm attached to the head tube of his bike. He was 8 years old at the time and yes I trusted him to remain in control. We did about 10 tries on this set up and ended up with the right amount of blur while keeping the rider in focus. Notice I didn’t use him in the skateboard shots :-)In the second photo below of the mountain biker, the challenge wasn’t trusting the rider but figuring out the camera settings to get the shot I wanted. I wanted a few things going into this one. I wanted a wide enough angle to get the rider and capture Utah’s amazing landscape and I wanted both in focus. So I had to use a smaller aperture to have both in focus…BUT I also wanted wheel spin to show movement. So to get wheel spin I needed a slower shutter speed. My wants were starting to back me into a corner. Shooting in the afternoon allowed for the smaller aperture, but the slow shutter speed was starting to allow too much light. After a bit of trial and error I was able to get all the things I was looking for in the shot.

For the BMX shot below I placed my camera on a mini tripod and fired the camera remotely. Again there is risk here with the riders narrowly missing the camera each time. These guys were experts and kept their lines straight each time.

There are a number of ways to get remote and POV shots. I’m hoping my post encourages you to get out and try a few. You don’t have to have a Magic Arm or Pocket Wizards to pull these off.


A bit of news…

The PocketWizard company recently showed me some love with a Facebook, twitter and blog post. This is always helpful in getting more eyes on my work.

Here is a link to their blog post.

I’ve been using their Plus IIs for a few years now and they are bullet proof.


Dark Side of the Lens

Really love this video and the words that go with it…

DARK SIDE OF THE LENS from Astray Films on Vimeo.


In Print..2011 Titec catalog

Happy to share that I have three full page images in the 2011 Titec catalog. Click image for a larger view.


A day at the ranch….

Every once in a while photography opens a door or two for me. I’ve been shooting at the local BMX track for a number of years now and have met some fantastic people.  I’ve watched a few kids go from fast to off the charts fast in those years. One of those kids who is now a young adult recently invited me out to his families ranch for a morning of shooting. It was a no brainer for me to go as I knew the talent would be top notch and the options to shoot would be wide open. Seemed weird to keep this all to my myself so I invited my friend Jerry who specializes in video. Jerry was excited at getting a chance to shoot some action.










Upon arriving at the ranch we were blown away at both the size of the property and the size of the track. The track design was more along the lines of what they call BMX Supercross as all the jumps and berms were over sized. As with many things the photos don’t give you the full picture of what we saw.










After watching the riders do a few warm up laps it was time to pick a location. The great thing about the ranch was the lack of items in the background of my shots. The local track has power lines all over, out houses to dodge and a lot of other clutter to deal with. No such issues at the ranch. Photog heaven it was. I got my lights out for a section where I needed to fill in the riders as the sun was making them very back lit. Jerry picked out his spots to video and the riders started doing their thing.












I think the shot above does a pretty good job of showing you the distance these guys were jumping. Amazing how far they were getting with out a motor.















Another great thing about being at the ranch is that I was able to try a few shots out that I couldn’t do at the local track. For the shot above I connected my 7D to a mini tripod, attached a Pocketwizard and left the camera in front of the starting gate. Did I mention they have their own starting gate to practice on? Pretty cool. I was able to stand off to the side and remotely fire the camera while the guys practiced their starts. They were more worried about the camera than I was. It was close..but worth it.












After practicing their starts over and over (wasn’t a full play day for the riders) they took turns airing out numerous jumps for us.












In the shot above you can see Jerry taking his chances sitting in the landing area of a large gap jump. The board and supports are there for the guys who come up short on this one.

It was a great morning spent with very talented riders.




When everything clicks…the making of a shot

In my experience I shoot my best photos when I’m not trying. In other words my personal favorite shots come when I’m out shooting for fun and there aren’t any expectations from the shoot. I’ve heard writers say similar things…their best work is when they aren’t trying or there is not a deadline.

This isn’t always the case for me as the photo above is one of my favorite mountain bike images. This image was very intentional and involved a bit of “luck”. The image was taken on a planned photo shoot day with the intention of getting some shots for a 2011 catalog. I had made arrangements to shoot two riders in an area not far from where we live. I had been to this area before and did have some shots in mind prior to heading out.

After parking the car and unloading all of our gear, we began to walk along a fire road and looked for spots to shoot (jumps, drops, etc). After walking for a bit I realized the ground we were on was getting softer….really soft. I stopped the group and let them in on my idea. We had taken along a small army shovel in case we found something that might need a bit of a modification. My idea here was to use the shovel to create a small and temporary berm in the place we were walking. In my mind I was picturing a shot where the riders would rip down the fire road and blast into my poorly carved berm…throwing up a nice amount of dirt towards the camera. I put down my photo gear and began to dig(someday I’ll be able to hire someone for this type of thing ;-)…and within a few minutes we had what I thought was an “ideal” set up for the shot. Now it was up to the riders to help paint the picture that was in my head.

It took the riders a few attempts to understand what I was looking for….but it wasn’t long before I knew we were getting close. To light the shot I used my two light kit by Boling and fired them via Pocket wizards. I had placed one light on the ground camera left and had my voice activated tripod (aka Jay) holding the 2nd light camera right. One light to fill the rider and bike and the other to hopefully catch/freeze the dirt in action. I mentioned a bit of luck earlier and that luck showed itself in getting the sun into this shot. I had set my exposure knowing I was shooting into the sun and using lights……and wish I could say I knew ahead of time that I’d get the sun and its flare into the frame of this shot, but I hadn’t. Seems I was too busy digging.

We attempted this set up about 10 times and according to my viewfinder we got the shot. It was once I got home that I realized the team effort and a bit of luck allowed me to get one of my favorite images…oh and it made the cut for the 2011 catalog. I’ll blog about that later.

Camera Settings: Canon 7D – 1/250th @ f/16
Lens: Tokina 12-24mm f/4
Lighting: Boling 2×300 watt strobes w/battery pack
Additional: 2 X Pocket wizard Plus IIs
1 Voice activated tripod (Jay)

Top! © Copyright M5photography
Social Links: