Catching Up – 2013 Crankworx Red Bull Joyride

Out for a Joyride!

2013 CX RedBull Joy Ride-1

It’s been a month since I left Whistler after 10 days on the mountain with Crankworx, and what a month. I’ve been back to Whistler for event shoots with 5 Peaks and the Meet Your Maker Ultra Marathon event as well as keeping busy in Vancouver with corporate, commercial and more event work. The busy season still has a lot of fight left in it. It was great to be in Whistler again for Crankworx but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of some great folks including Patti Houston whose ‘sponsorship’ package made the week possible for me. Thanks to the gang at SUPERDROP for keeping me energized and alert with a week’s worth of buzz from their new energy product and to Ultra Runner, James Marshall, for the case of Cariboo which was a cool welcome home after a day in the dust, or rain, on the mountain.

In some ways Crankworx feels a bit like a working holiday, although I am certain no one on our team would describe the week in Whistler as a vacation. For me it feels a bit like a holiday because I was able to focus on one thing for the week at the expense of the day to day chores of life at home. Despite arriving in Whistler with a ton of work on my desktop, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to shoot every day. I believe and I have mentioned it before, there is no substitute for intensity and immersion when it comes to photography and honing your craft.

This year Crankworx was also a tremendous learning experience in adapting to challenges. Leading up to Whistler I was starting to notice that my camera, a Nikon D300s, was not performing quite as expected and my auto focus was starting to act erratically and unpredictably especially when using the otherwise exceptional Nikkor 14-24 f2.8. While I have since upgraded my camera body, more on this later, on event week my ‘gear frustration’ was at a high point and I ended up shooting on manual focus much of the week when using the wide glass. It is a testament to how talented and hard working sports photographers were prior to auto focus, power drives and long before the digital era.

Below are a few images from the Red Bull Joyride event int he Whistler Mountain bike park. There were plenty of spills, chills and thrills to go around.

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2013 Crankworx – Tales from the Whip

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I am catching up with my inbox and a variety of to do lists since getting home from Whistler on Monday afternoon. It was a pretty intense week in Whistler and driving back into Vancouver was a challenge. After a week of walking, bikes and tall trees, the sheer scale of the city filled me with anxiety. The noise, the traffic and the expanses of concrete and asphalt left me looking over my shoulder toward Whistler wishing that it was easier to stay.

Today’s images are from the Whip Off contest on Crabapple Hits just below mid mountain. The Whip Off must be among the most exciting Crankworx events to photograph. The quarters are small, the airs huge and the crowds are very enthusiastic. There were no shortages of close calls for photographers and spectators alike, and I even managed to catch a tumbling bike and rider.

The challenge with events like the Whip Off is that the action directly in front of the camera is generally so exciting that I found it difficult to pull back and consider not just the individual components, but the event as a whole including riders, the terrain, spectators and the scores of photographers on hand. I’ve been looking at the work of other photographers that were on site last Friday with envy and humility. What I see in the photography of others is often what I have missed in my own approach to a scene.

Crankworx produces such great photography every year, in part because it attracts so many of the most recognized names in the industry, but also because of the sheer numbers of photographers who descend on Whistler every year. You can’t swing a GoPro at the end of a pole without poking a guy in his 300 f2.8. Crankworx is a glass fest and the competition is fierce.

This is what the Whip Off looked like to me, but you should also check out the action at Pink Bike:

Pink Bike’s look at the Whip Off Worlds.

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2013 Crankworx – Ultimate Pump Track

Thursday Night at the Pump Track

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Yesterday was a tough day. As I shot, I saw little in the camera that excited me, rather, a lot that filled me with anxiety and doubt. Early on I had a mentor who said “I’d rather be lucky than good.” I never understood that. I always thought that if you were good enough you’d never need luck. I never wanted to rely on luck, to leave certain things to chance; when I got it right, I wanted to get it right not because I was lucky, but because I am good.

When I wrapped last night at the Rockshox Pump Track in Whistler’s Olympic Plaza I was feeling neither good nor lucky. I wasn’t looking forward to the arduous task of choosing my least bad images to share with the Crankworx photo team. It turns out being lucky isn’t so bad. I came away with a few images from last night that I am happy with. Not to say there aren’t a lot of images bound for the bin, because there are, but rather, I am grateful for having something to show that I am reasonably happy with.

But maybe luck is a outcome of experience, maybe it’s true that the harder one works, the luckier one gets.

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2013 Crankworx – Over the Hump

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There are many quotes about doing what you love, many of them, in the context of career, suggest to pursue your passion and the money will follow. I don’t believe it’s this easy; I like what Henry David Thoreau has to say about passion.

“Do what you love. Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still.” -Henry David Thoreau

It’s contrite and simplistic to believe that one will follow the other just because. It is more likely that through sweat, effort, failure and exhaustion that success will follow for some, but likely not all. I have been pursuing my passion now for 12 years with some significant ups and downs. I have been in a staff position at three newspapers, I have shot commercial product in more than 20 countries and for every piece of paid work I do now there is another that is done as personal work, as portfolio development, as an exercise in honing my craft.

I didn’t wake up one morning with the thought “Today will be the day I become a photographer.” I have always loved photography and over a number of years in my 20’s it came to have a greater and greater significance in my life. I was a member of the UVic photo club, I took a job at a camera store, I went back to school to study photojournalism and for time when my father and I seemed to argue every choice I made about life, school, etc, photography was the one point we could see and communicate eye to eye about.

My father, at the age of 49, lost his fight with Cancer 15 years ago this morning, and I suspect I will spend the rest of my life struggling with this at some level. A few days later, we held a service attended by more than 300 people, it was standing room only, in the hours that followed the service friends and family gathered to celebrate his life. I was lost, I was no where and this is when two dear friends sat me down with a bottle of Oban and mapped a course forward. It was another year before I finished my BA and two more before two more before I had the clarity and capacity to return to school and the following spring I was working at a daily paper with some of the best mentors in the business.
I am doing what I love, but it is not without sacrifice and to sure, I can’t say that I would be here, doing this, had my father survived. When looking forward it helps to consider how far you’ve come.Now that I have laid my somber self before you, here are a few pictures from yesterday on Whistler Mountain, yesterday was hump day and the best is yet to come.2013 CX Robert Shaer Review-12¬† 2013 CX Robert Shaer Review-24 2013 CX Robert Shaer Review-25 2013 CX Robert Shaer Review-30

2013 Crankworx – The Dust and the Glory

“Write your injuries in dust, your benefits in marble.”

-Benjamin Franklin

This morning, between editing photos and sips of coffee, I have been fighting a losing battle. It is dry in Whistler, the fire hazard is listed as extreme, the dust is everywhere and it is saturating. My hair feels like straw and every sip from my water bottle includes what feels like a mouth full of grit. Cleaning myself is one thing, but dust is especially hard on camera equipment. It gets into everything and glass can act like a magnet for dust looking for a surface to land on. Dust requires constant maintenance; gotta keep your gear clear to get the best from it, and I think we can all agree that the challenges that come with trying to capture a mountain biker 20-30 feet in the air or another deep in a berm at 50km/hr are enough without battling the elements as well. But dust is also beautiful, it captures light and creates an aura of place and experience. These are a few shots from Tuesday on Whistler shot in and around the Garbanzo DH course and through the dust.

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“Whether we fall by ambition, blood or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.”

-John Webster

Event Week – Crankworx 2013

I’ll be posting a few pics through my week at Crankworx starting with this past Sunday. Yesterday, Monday, was a down day and I took the opportunity to get caught up with some of the work I shot last week. I arrived in Whistler with a mountain of editing and post production to work through and I was grateful for the time to make some headway on it.

On Sunday my day started at the top of A Line with the Giant Bicycles Liv/Giant event which closed A Line for the morning to provide coaching and training for women downhillers. Watching  the best in the world huck these jumps belies how difficult some of this terrain can be for some one starting out.

Women’s Only Liv/Giant A Line event:

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I closed out the day in Skiers Plaza at the bottom of the Whistler Bike Park shooting the finish line of the Canadian Open Enduro. It was great to connect with so many familiar faces, many off course, and a few as they crossed the line. It was exciting to watch riders charge the finish line after an exhausting day, some throwing arms in the air in celebration and others at near collapse.

Stage 5 Finish – Canadian Open Enduro:

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BC Bike Race’s own Andreas Hestler:

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Today’s Archive Image – Steve Smith at Crankworx 2012

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There are daily reminders that Crankworx is less than two months away. Crankworx turns Whistler into a gong show and it was the most fun I’ve had shooting almost anything in a long, long time. There are more than a few photographers in town over this ten day period and competition for access is intense. I hope to return in 2013, and have submitted an application, while in the mean time reaching out for any assignment that will get me on the mountain.

I am excited that this image in particular, of Canadian Steve Smith coming over Heckler’s Rock during his winning run at the Canadian Open Downhill, has had so much traction, but it has also been a bit of a lesson for me. When you are contributing to a pool of images it is difficult to track where your images end up and whether they have been used with appropriate attribution. These are things that you learn with either a vanity search or with Google’s reverse image search where you can upload an image and Google will locate any number of pages on which your image has appeared.

In the days that followed Smith’s winning run, this image appeared on Facebook, in print and on a dozen different web outlets, some are included below. The exciting thing for me is though my week in Whistler for Crankworx had been a total gamble I saw my photos sent out to the Mountain Bike community world wide, especially cool since is Mountain Biking is among my favourite things to shoot, but also something I consider to be a weak link in my portfolio of experience. Now, almost a year later, this image still has legs and has recently appeared a travel magazine, with permission and attribution, destined for thousands of hotel rooms in Whistler.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

The Whistler Question:

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MTB Review:

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Pedal Magazine:

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Sick Lines:

Sick Lines CX Steve Smith Screen Shot

Where Whistler:

Where Whistler CX Screen Shot

Ten Years of Crankworx

Today’s Archive Image: BC Bike Race Powell River

2012 BCBR Personal-35

Winter is all around us in Vancouver these days. The past week has been foggy and cold and I am growing increasingly jealous of friends spending time in Hawaii, California, Key West and other places where you’re more likely to see an umbrella drink than an umbrella. Despite the weather I’ve started training for a busy summer of bike riding. and though I am still recovering from a car accident last fall, back and neck issues, I got out on the bike twice this past week and starting logging base mileage in preparation for feeling healthier and stronger in the weeks and months ahead.

January has been quiet and I’ve been spending a lot of time combing my Lightroom archive for forgotten gems, and images from travels long ago. Without having to reach too far back I’ve pulled this from last summer, from my week working with BC Bike Race, with whom I’ve enjoyed an event week operations role the past two years, and look forward to returning this July. BC Bike Race is a traveling circus of a bike event, with stage races in seven different BC communities over seven consecutive days involving nearly 700 people including riders, crew, volunteers and rider support. Base Camp is rarely quiet, even after dark with mechanics working around the clock prepping and repairing damaged bikes for the next day’s stage. It takes a pretty tight knit and committed group to make this happen from the management on down. This week has been a difficult one for the BC Bike Race family, we lost one of our medics this week when he was struck by a dump truck while in a crosswalk. Though I didn’t know Rollie all that well, he was a colleague and an integral part of the BC Bike Race Medical Team.

Riding between patches of fog and sunlight, yesterday, we enjoyed a social ride talking about last summer and the summer ahead. Back at the parking lot we shared a few thoughts about our colleague with the prevailing notion that we should never waste an opportunity to get to know someone. Rollie was a name, a face, a colleague to us, and so much more to the people who knew him best. I am sorry that I didn’t get to know you better.

The above is a image from a sunnier day last July at the start line of the Powell River stage of the 2012 BC Bike Race.

I’ve been looking for pictures of Rollie in my BCBR archives and was able to find only this, from Easter weekend in 2011, on the ferry home from a weekend retreat in Cumberland on Vancouver Island sharing a funny story with a couple BCBR friends. Rollie is on the right rocking the toque and sunglasses.

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Events: 2012 Crankworx – Redbull Joyride

A few more from last night’s Redbull Joyride at Crankworx. It feels like it’s been a pretty long week, but we are back at it for one more day. Last night was the crown jewel of Crankworx, it’s the big money event and the winner, Thomas Genon, suggested that he might buy an ‘ippy van’ with with $25,000 prize money when he gets back to Belgium. Clearly I have no fear in dating myself, but I can remember summers in Whistler being pretty quiet, those summers have long since passed; 25,000 people watched yesterday’s event, which has to rival almost any winter event held in Whistler barring the 2010 Games. The scene on the ground in Skier’s Plaza was only eclipsed by the scene in the air above us. With high winds and broken clouds athletes were pushing 60 foot airs and dipping deep into their bag of tricks. It has occurred to me that it isn’t that these athletes pull these stunts, it is the casual way in which they appear to approach them. For Genon and others there must be some pretty serious things going through their heads as they prepare to hit ramps and drops with blind landings, but as a spectator it can be a little bewildering to see riders hit jump after jump after jump holding little back. I’ve always understood that it’s more than just talent or nerve, or um, Prairie Oysters; as young as they are, Genon and his competitors are professional athletes and their evaluation of a stunt goes far beyond how we might consider a line, trail or obstacle. Today is the Canadian Open Down Hill, time to grab a coffee and clean my lenses.