Monday, October 24, 2011

My first national feature story: Mountain Bike Action, December 2011

December 2011 Issue Mountain Bike Action Magazine
Well it is finally official.  I have a feature in this months Mountain Bike Action Magazine.  I have been holding mum on this since June, so this is going to be the real story, finally!

How the shoot came about is perhaps the best part of the whole story.  While at the Grand Opening of Cuyuna I had the great fortune to really hit it off with Hans Rey.  Hans in turn had a really inspiring time riding at the new IMBA Ride Center.  It so inspired him that the next month while at a Press Camp he touted it as perhaps one of the biggest potential stories of the season.  Jim "Jimmy Mac" McIlvain a good friend of No Way, heard that comment loud and clear and decided to send another GT Rider Eric Carter to MN to check it out.  EC had other reasons to leave sunny CA and check out Minnesota however as his in-laws also happen to live in the region, so it worked out for a trip to the land of 10,000 lakes. 

I was pretty stoked when my phone rang and it was EC saying that he was coming, was looking for a guide and was also looking for a shooter.  Do you know any?  
EC showing us how its done
B-lines and blood lines.
This was a pivotal moment for me.  I am a struggling and amateur photographer, I do however strive to improve and I have found that for me, really putting myself out of my comfort zone and pushing myself is the only way I jump levels.  This though, was a truly big leap.  Not only would I need to get some great shots, I would need to get a lot of them, and in one day.  MBA was going to push this as a "destinations" article.  I researched some old versions of those and realized that they are big articles.  15 plus images, 7 pages, basically a photo essay on a unique riding destination.  So I had to nail 15 keepers in one day, on the spot with a pro rider who I didnt know or have ever worked with!  Tall order for sure.  On top of that I needed to upgrade my camera at that point.  The article was the catalyst to do so.  So I called Eric back, told him I was good to go, I was the guide and I would be the shooter.  In that message, I had basically committed to not wasting EC's time, MBA's money and my reputation, it was some good positive motivation....

I will say that I truly wanted to tell the Cuyuna story visually.  I have been involved in the project for the past two years, working with a lot of really great folks and seeing a lot of hard work go into it from all sorts of dedicated builders and MN DNR employees and I felt that I could really get at what made riding Cuyuna so special through images and pay tribute to the folks that made this happen.

Smile says it all
I also called Nick Statz and Rori Stumvoll, two local guys I had been shooting since last year and asked if they would want to be involved.  They both of course were stoked to get part of the deal.  So now I had a date, a project and subjects.  I then started taking time in planning the shoot.  I was heading to Cuyuna a lot for IMBA anyway, so every time I headed over I met Nick and we did some scouting sessions.  After three visits I had 15 possible shots in my notes and had also scripted the days ride along with how to hit each of those shots as well as when the light had the best potential at each of those shots. I also took the time to learn my new Canon 5D Mark II a huge jump in both operation and image quality from my Lumix GF1 (although three shots in the article are from my GF1, can you tell which?).  

Vanity wound
Chillin at Serenity in the Pines

Yawkey talk

Yup techy stuff too
The week of the shoot came with a really positive weather outlook.  In fact it was due to be a bit cooler than normal which to be honest saved my butt.  I did the whole shoot in natural light, no speedlights.  Not because that was what I wanted to do, I just did not feel confident in the results because my skill level at that point did not allow it.  That has since changed (thanks to the and my buddy Ryan Marshek!).  In addition to Nick, Rori and EC, I had also invited Peter Gustafson and Peter Lillesve. So we had a solid crew.  We base camped at Serenity in the Pines.  A killer retreat literally on the trails.  Peter L and I set up shop there the night before and went out to start getting shots that night on Bob Sled.  We met the day of the shoot at 5.30 am at Pennington.  EC was the man, he had to get up at 4am from his in-laws and show up.  I was dubious, but he not only made it on time, he was the most cheerful guy in the group.  Luckily we were all birds of a feather.  You could not have had better group dynamics and thank god for that, because had EC had any other attitude, we would have been sunk before we hit the first shot.  I had budgeted some time for some run and gun shooting in the AM. We shot away on Miners overlook, hit Easy Street and ended the first session at Ferrus Wheel and that was where Peter G left us for the hospital.  

EC's riding was dynamic and gorgeous.  It was hard as a shooter to not to constantly just pick him out instead of the other riders.  He understood the shots inside and out and could have been on either side of the camera with no problem.  Luckily for me he was also very free with information.  He taught me a lot and I will be forever thankful to him for that.  However, he also threw down some riding that was fun for the other guys to try and emulate and unfortunately in one such move Peter G smoked a tree and paid in stitches for it, a lot of them!

Calm clear waters
 From there we went to breakfast at the Heartland Cafe and basically ate the place empty.  We were stoked, had already ridden three hours, nailed some great shots and we were hungry.  The Heartland did not let us down.  We finished up the morning at Yawkey and we really nailed it there.  The cooler than normal temps had put a fine haze in the air, so the light was perfect literally all day.  That saved us.  Had we had a really clear day, with harsh stark light, I would have been in trouble, however the soft, filtered yet bright light was amazing and I quickly filled two 8 gig cards that morning.  We returned to the Serenity Pines, dumped the cards, hung out recovered, listened to EC's amazing stories and regrouped.

The rest of the day was spent around the Pennington area.  I think we swam three times, EC loved the water and we were stoked to swim too. To me that is what is best about Cuyuna, the ability to just pull over, and get in the lake and have awesome swimming.  Eventually I ran out of planned shots and it became free for all time.  I think that EC was concerned I did not have the shots we needed.  That could have been because my insanely picky and perfectionist side was coming out since I wanted this to be A grade and I kept holding back on what I was capturing until I saw it on my lap top.  So as the sun started to set, EC started proposing shots and I was smart enough to let him and to learn from him in process and working together we sailed through another 16 gigs of shots and ended with an amazing sunset on Miners.

Cant even begin to comment on this photo
Might have something to do with previous photo...
At this point the full group was hungry tired and beaten.  Crosby basically shots down at 9pm and it was 8.50, so we hopped in the cars and crushed it for Maucieri's.  They had already locked the doors when we showed up but we pleaded our case and they stayed open for us.  The fact that I have sent perhaps hundreds of folks there this summer I think may have helped the cause.  Everybody had celebratory beers and we earned them.  I pulled up the laptop and we reviewed the first round of shots and EC almost hit the roof.  He started slapping me on the back and said that had he known I had so much already in the can he would have quit earlier!  He was right, we had 16 potential keepers by mid day.  By end of the day we had double that, and I will post some of those that did not make the mag today.  

Ultimately the story ran 17 shots over 7 pages, truly a solid accomplishment for me and the crew.  I was so grateful to them for the hard work they did and for all the other folks who helped me on this shoot, you will not be forgotten.  Also tons of thanks to Hans Rey, Jimmy Mac for taking the risk and Eric Carter for working so hard for me.  EC put in a truly full day as he had risen at 4am and we parted company on 210 at 11pm each with several more hours of driving before we found our beds.  Lastly a really big thanks to IMBA.  Without IMBA's support on my photography I would not be shooting at all. IMBA has used a lot of my shots (including the covers for both the last IMBA Trail News Edition and this months as well).  One small part of my job is getting the word out on projects that are making a difference in the mountain bike community and using photography is a very effective way to do that.  Thankfully IMBA recognizes that and because of that we have articles like this in MBA and hopefully they spread the word far and wide.  So do us all a favor, pick up the mag, spread the word and enjoy.

Thanks for reading.


A day well worth remembering


Anonymous said...

Awesome story. I can't wait to read the feature article!

Greg said...

Congratulations. Gorgeous photos and a tremendous story-behind-the-story. Cheers!

Joboo said...



monty j said...

Congrats my man!!! Great article and loved the pics as always...Hi to the lady and hope all is well in the homeland...Cheers bro!

Anonymous said...

very cool hansi, cant wait for the mag to come out. rock on

selfpropelledlifestyle said...

Congrats! I'm waiting to hear about a possible columnist job too; with bikes.

Jeremy Kershaw said...

Great write up and awesome shots! I'm so glad it worked out for you. Keep it going!

MrDaveyGie said...

Beyond fantastic, greater then great job.

Kyle Lindstrom said...

Awesome article in MBA magazine and love "The rest of the Story" you posted here on your blog. Can't wait until they give you the go ahead to do an article just like this on Copper Harbor, MI.

maugirl said...

May have to hit the newsstand today. Can't wait to see the shots!

TheRealGonzales said...

Congratulations! Jealous of your trails. I really wish we have those kind of trails here. -___-

sully said...

great feature in mt. bike action!! Ill be keeping this issue. thanks for the hard work hanssi! ride on