Capturing the Action – HSBC National Downhill Series Round 4

So Round 4 of this years HSBC National Downhill Series was at Rhyd-Y-Felin which is just down the road from Revolution Bike Park. Ideal for me as I could just walk down the road and to get there.

The Rhyd-Y-Felin track (also known as the Bala Track) that was going to be raced was very similar to the Pearce race that was held there at the end of June so I sort of knew the track as I covered the Sunday race day. After walking 1 mile down the road to the race venue I found the media people signed in and collected a media Jersey that was all mine for the weekend.

Saturday was practice day and by the time I had walked down, got my jersey and then made my way up the hill it was on it’s way to 11 o’clock. I set up in my first spot and got shooting, I was just above the first fire road and the sun was out. This proved to be a great spot and I was here for about an hour and got some really awesome photos.

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Ems from Rideio sending it in style

After this spot I ventured further up the hill a nice rooty/stummpy section. There were a few lines through these and one epic fly or fail route over one of the stumps in the middle of the track.

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Joe Breeden riding for Intense Racing

After I spent some time in the stumps section I headed back down the hill a bit. There is quite a cool stump that almost everyone was sending it over. I had photographed there when I was shooting at the Pearce race so knew it would work.

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Becci Skelton sending it

I was here for a while before making my way down into the woods section. I spotted a good place to photograph from on my way up the hill earlier in the day that I wanted to visit so headed there for a bit.

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Eyes on the prize – Gareth Brewin nailing the wood section at Rhyd-Y-Felin

I had to leave about 4 so I could walk back to Rev’s and get my lift home with Tim. This proved a good time to leave and it rained quite heavily afterwards!

Day 2 – Race Day

So on to day 2. It rained during the night, not a little bit of rain, A LOT of rain. On my walk down to the track on Sunday I bumped into George and Richard of Making up the Numbers Race Team and they were plastered in mud, head to toe. George said that it was carnage in the field and he was right. The field is the first part of the track you get to see and its a steep grass slope out of the woods. When I passed it looked to be a 90% fail rate, literally everyone was sliding off this way and that.

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Wales is natures slip and slide!

I headed up the track to the first fire road as I had a spot in mind from the day before. I set up on the fire road and shot up at the stump jump, it also had a well placed tree that I could shelter under!

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Rider 335 sending it in the slop

I stayed in the same place for the end of the practice runs and then headed up the hill for seeding. It had got much brighter and the track seemed to be drying out much to the riders delight.

I headed to my spot in the stumps from the day before but had a different angle on it as there were less people around. I was shooting further up the track and getting some nice results.

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Local shredder Danny Batemen negotiating his way through the mud and roots

During seeding the heavens opened and it smashed it down, proper welsh sideways rain! Fortunately I had brought my new umbrella with me yay! (I have upgraded my umbrella on a stick to a full on fishing umbrella!) with myself and my gear safely stowed away I was joined by one of the younger riders who was checking the track out after his seeding run – its a big umbrella!

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Meg Whyte taking on the track in the downpour!

I moved up the hill to the highest point media was allowed to go to. I set up all my gear and just as the race runs had got started there was an accident on the track. The lad that had fallen off had dislocated his shoulder and we would have to wait for an ambulance to get him and the first aiders to be back in position before racing could continue. The track was closed for an hour and a half! This meant that I didn’t get to see any race runs as I had to get back to Revs for 4.30 and it was now 3.45pm.

I did managed to capture some images of the elite men and women winners from their seeding runs.

In the elite women National Champion Katy Curd won with a 3:51.891

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Katy Curd taking the win in the Elite Women

In the elite men local rider Joe Breeden won with a blazing time of  2:57.110, Joe also got the fastest time of the day by 5.2 seconds!

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Local legend Joe Breeden taking the win in elite men

I had an absolutely amazing time at Rhyd-Y-Felin despite the rain and that I didn’t get to see any actual race runs!

Epic Bike Photography

So the title of this post may be a little enthusiastic on my part but I had an awesome time and the company that sells these bikes even used the images on their Instagram page!

Anyway, at Revolution Bike Park they have a fleet of hire bikes provided by Madison Saracen. In March the new fleet of Saracen Myst Pro’s arrived and I jumped at the chance to photograph these for Rev’s social media and website.

Before shooting the bikes I read up online about how to position the bike for the best possible image. Depending on what you are looking for side on with the drivers side towards the camera is best so it shows off all the components, also you want the pedals to be flat.

I set off up the hill to the Ffar Side track as this has some nice table top jumps in the top section and has a bit more light than some of the other areas on the tracks. I set up the bike by leaning it on a stick to keep it upright (which I later removed in photoshop) I used an off camera flash to light the front of the bike (this reduced the reflections that I had without it).

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Saracen Myst Pro 2018

I had an idea in my head for quite a while which lead me to purchase a load of smoke grenades in December. I got the Enola Gaye wire pull smoke grenades (usually used for paintball and airsoft so they are not dangerous to use). I knew what colour the bikes were going to be so got some yellow and orange smokes to compliment the colouring. You can purchase these smoke grenades online and they are quite cheap.

With the bike still set up I set the smokes off and started shooting. It was a tab more difficult than I thought, as I didn’t have a smoke grenade assistant I was having to move the smokes and take photos at the same time, fortunately the smokes last for 120 seconds and I had a few! Below are my favorite of the smokes.

Once I had finished up the top of the hill/ran out of smoke grenades, I moved to the tips at the bottom of the hill for some more standard photographs. Using the same method as before I let the bike up with a stick and started shooting. I used an aperture of about f4 to really defocus the background and make the bike stand out.

Really happy with the results I got from this experiment and I will defiantly be getting more smoke grenades for other product/portrait photos. Also it is really cool to see my photos on websites other than my own 😀

Using flash when shooting sports

Just wanted to go into why I sometimes use a flash when I am photographing mountain bikers.

So as some of you may know there are many many trees at Revolution Bike Park – it being a wood and all! This is great for beautiful back drops but it does somewhat reduce the amount of light that gets to the tracks. The photos can be left looking a bit flat with the camera settings required to capture the fast action so I sometimes us a flash gun off camera to fill in some of the shadows and create a more dynamic image.

I place the flash gun so it is off to the side of the track and will not flash straight into the riders faces and then can change the settings in camera to add or lessen the light from the flash. I use a Sigma EF630 which is capable of High Speed Sync (HSS) so I am able to use the fast shutter speeds to keep the riders frozen as well as adding in some extra light.

Flash BlogThe 2 images above show the same rider on the same section of track (taken about 20-30 minuets apart). As you can see on the image on the right the rider stands out more than in the image on the left.

 

So that is why I use a flash when photographing some of the action 🙂