8 Jan 2018


WORDS & PHOTOS x Ewald Sadie

Hailing from South Africa, Ewald Saldie is the latest contributor we’re featuring in our regular series honouring them and their work. Just as much of a fan of #goldenhour as we are, Ewald’s work has been featured both on our website and in our annual coffee table book – Anthology – with him showcasing South Africa, his home.

Read on as Ewald answers our probing questions and also highlights 10 of his favourite photos, each with their own story.

Who is Ewald Sadie?
I’m a reinvented IT slave that became a photographer and found happiness. Based in the picturesque wine region of South Africa, I spend most of my time shooting anything relating to bikes and cycling.

2. What makes you happy?
Being out in the mountains. Good light. Walking the dog with my wife on the farm. Also beer.

3. What is your greatest fear?

Rainy days and muddy trails are somewhat of a rarity here in the Western Province of South Africa lately. Unprecedented droughts, literally the worst in recorded history in SA, have seen drinking water diminish at an alarming rate without any signs of proper rain ever showing up again in the near future. This shot was taken during the 2016 winter and it reminds me of crisp, clean air, green fields as far as the eye can see, and the fact that we must all appreciate this natural element which could disappear very quickly.
Bicycles are often claimed to be hand built... some manufacturers even put stickers on their frames like ‘Handmade in the USA’ when it’s blatantly not. Truly handmade bikes require the skill, craftsmanship and patience that I imagine only a number of people in the world possess. One such skilled individual is Dave Mercer - a soft-spoken, family man creating one-off steel beauties from scratch from his humble home-workshop. I recently had the privilege of documenting this creative process in action, seeing first hand how things go from bare metal tubes to man’s most noble invention.

4. Tell us something about yourself that no one knows (yet).
I’m also make wine.

5. How do you escape?
Taking photos or doing solo bike rides.

6. What must you carry with you at all times?
I guess only my phone. Every urgent can be handled with this device, and everything else can wait.

This is the guesthouse at Ezelfontein, a farm just outside the small town of Ceres. Solar and gas powered simplicity where the stars shine extra bright, good company come together and the only noise is that of the burning fire and hooting cape eagle owls. It’s a great place to slow down and unwind from the fast paced life that otherwise take up all of our time.
A big part of what I do as professional photographer is unrelated to the genre of mountain biking. Hiking, trail running and outdoor lifestyle photography still has me out there in the sticks on a daily base though, just a bit slower pace. Typically, with catalog work the garments are seasonal, which means you’re always shooting one season off, to be ready for marketing and advertisements - winter garments in summer and summer in winter... This shoot in particular was very tricky as we had to shoot winter items in the middle of February (high summer in the southern hemisphere), but somehow by studying the hourly weather predictions, having a flexible crew and a fair amount of Irish luck, we managed to get this window of properly cold, windy and rainy weather in an otherwise ocean of blue skies and high 30’s.

7. How did you get to this point in your life and what/who influenced those choices?
I’ve always been interested in photography but unfortunately followed the more conservative route after school and got qualified. After years of unhappily working as a software developer I reached breaking point and chose self preservation above everything else. I’m blessed to have found this opportunity and also to have a supporting wife without whom the initial steps into the world of freelance photography would not have happened. Fellow South African and legend photographer Gary Perkin has always been an inspiration and example of the success that can be achieved.

8. What would you tell the 10yr old version of yourself?
Keep yourself busy with the things that come natural to you, and to which you naturally gravitate. Raw passion and interest trumps everything else.

9. How do you describe your work?
In progress…

This is a tiny corner of the South African wine region. A region that I am proud to call home and hopefully never have to exchange for anything else. During a hike to scout for new shooting locations, the late afternoon wind brought in a wave of thick clouds and as we approached sunset, this display of sun beams and colours made it one to remember.
My regal-AF, adventurous, intelligent, mild mannered, photogenic, rescue dog called Phoenix. We adopted her about 3 years ago from the local animal welfare centre and she’s been by my side almost every day since. Dog lovers know the unmistakable connection between them and their best friend - something one can’t really express in a couple of sentences.

10. What does your crystal ball show you about the future of MTB media?
It has grown and is growing very fast and with that, the speed at which results are produced. Turnaround times with regards to event photography will be pushed harder and harder to fit in with the right now and immediate nature of the world we currently live in. Adventure photographers will be pushed further to find more epic scenery, combined with great light and pro-level riding, to stand out from the rest. But ultimately, this push and healthy competition will benefit the industry as the gritty and raw emotion of mountain biking will be captured more and more accurately.

11. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why.
Never been there, but from what I’ve seen and heard, New Zealand. Adventure seems to be available in abundance and that landscape is just next level.

12. What do you do to make flying and travel more comfortable?
International travel from South Africa to anywhere typically puts you at the 15 – 20+ hour mark door to door. So a good understanding of my timeline and taking it easy from the beginning reduces the frustrations and stress. Comfy over-ear headphones and a fresh t-shirt is a must. Falling asleep in economy class isn’t always easy for us tall people, so hitting a couple of whisky’s and perhaps a herbal relaxer makes things a lot easier 😉

A few years ago, my brother and his wife moved to the USA, and as a result we only see each other every couple of years. Unfortunately busy schedules, a shitty exchange rate and a 40 hour one way trip to the States have somewhat dampened our intentions to make it out there... but I’m hoping the day will come that we finally connect the dots. During their last visit to SA, we put together a little family shoot of them and their daughter at the local park, and got lucky with some sweet #lightbro.
One of the more memorable projects I’ve done so far in my career - shooting the action and BTS for the South African leg of the MTB Heroes series. Casey Brown absolutely killed it, and was always happy to do ‘one more run’ - even though it was the 20th ‘one more run' of the day. She’s also one of the nicest, down-to-earth and friendly people I’ve ever met, and it’s amazing to see that the fame and popularity has not gone to her head. This is one of the last shots of a very long day, as we milked the hazy summer sunset and dusty trails to get the perfect shot.

13. What’ the most expensive mistake you’ve made?
Very soon after moving into a new house a few years ago, the place was cleaned out in a burglary, before I had changed my insurance to the new address. Every piece of photography equipment, laptops, mountain bike, everything had to be replaced from scratch…

14. What is your greatest memory from working in the world of mountain biking?
Probably when Greg Minaar became World Champ for the 3rd time on home soil in PMB. I was there in the finish line media zone to capture it all. From crossing the line with a green light to the out-of-control crowd celebrations.

15. Why is telling stories and/or taking photos important to you?
It’s just something I naturally gravitate towards… It’d be difficult for me to sum up why I do this in a couple of sentences.

Travelling to France to shoot EWS round 5 in Millau this year, was a real eye opener. It was my first time at one of these world series events and the sheer level compared to local enduro’s back home was mind blowing. The level of steepness, liaison lengths, difficult terrain, and super human riding really gave perspective on things, and what I thought was possible. It was also the first year of racing EWS for my buddy Matt Lombardi who managed to finish 10th overall in the series in the under 21 category. Given the huge disconnect between what we have in terms of training and preparation (short stages with very little to zero technical riding), and what is out there at top level, this is an honourable result in anyone’s books.
In 2015 I started a passion project called Trail Daze - the premise was simply to shine a light on, and remind people about the best trail riding locations within South Africa. This project quickly gained momentum and now three years later it’s still going strong with monthly photo essays to inspire people to get out there and ride. Though there are many memorable outings throughout this project, this one certainly stood out for me. A helicopter drop-off on top of one a plateau, high up in the Drakensberg mountains, and the four hour descend that follows. Rough, un-manicured, steep and in some places non existent trails surrounded by surreal landscapes and views made this one a particularly special day on the bike.