29 Jan 2018


WORDS & PHOTOS x Justa Jeskova

As we keep saying, Eskapee is nothing without our contributors. They are the people who do all the hard work and get outside, they are the people who capture the magic, and they are the people who write the words that inspire us. It’s people like Justa who help make Eskapee and mountain biking an amazing and beautful sport.  Learn more about Justa and her amazing selection of photos below and always remember that it’s the contributors and content producers who are the heroes of mountain bike media.

Who is Justa Jeskova?
A planner and a doer.

What makes you happy?
Time spent outside, friends, alpine views, road trips, wine, chocolate. Not necessary in that order. But if it was, chocolate might be first..

What is your greatest fear?
Missing out on adventures or life. Way too often I say I am too busy with work. I need to change that and say yes to more opportunities that involve time outside. Sometimes I worry that the whole work/life balance tends to lean more towards work which can be scary. It’s hard to step away from work when you love it so much. I am striving to keep a more equal balance though!

This picture is from a recent overnight hiking trip. It took over 2 days including 7-8 hours of scrambling over a scree field. Every step was totally worth it. While most of my trips are with bikes I like to mix it up a bit for a change. Each trip is unique and offer different rewards. On this trip we didn’t seen another person for 24 hours and the sunsets and sunrises were unreal. I sometimes feel sorry for my friends on these missions, the moment the light gets good in the evening, I boss them around so I can get a shot I want. Also I make sure I am quite noisy in the morning so they are up and “ modelling” during sunrise.
I always wanted to be wildlife photographer, unfortunately I never figured out how to make a living out of it as it requires lots of time, travel, and a little bit of luck to capture the right shot. It’s not for everyone, you need to have good dose of patience. When you get that shot you feel like you just won the lottery. I always dreamt of photographing polar bears and penguins. This trip cost me a fortune but it was worth it to stay in the tundra for a week and follow the polar bears from sunrise till sunset. While we saw a lot of males, it was the last day we came across the first female with her 2 cubs. It was definitely a special moment. I remember I just got my first digital camera and wasn’t sure if I should bring it or still shoot on film. I am glad I did as on my first day I shot 33 rolls worth of film.
Tell us something about yourself that no one knows (yet).
I was attempting to play golf with some coworkers. It was my first time golfing and boy do I suck at golf. All eyes were on me, everyone was quiet and when I was about to do my swing, I let the loudest fart out. The worst part is there is a video of it too. (I guess 3 of my ex-coworkers know it so technically a few people already knew.)

How do you escape?
Roadtrips, bike rides, hikes, anything outside with a close group of friends and not too many other people around. When my body and mind is tired, I try to treat myself to a good massage and chill session at the spa. It is an amazing feeling when you can turn off your brain and really relax.

What must you carry with you at all times?
My wallet and phone. Even if I don’t use them all the time, they come handy when you need them. Buying wine without a wallet can be kind of difficult so yes, very handy.

I was born in communist Czechoslovakia. Mountain biking did not exist there until recently and I am happy to see there is a healthy number of riders in my hometown area. I hooked up with a few of them to explore the trails back home. Laco Tomas has been my guide back home for years and he told me about these castle ruins with a trail in the foreground. We knew we would not leave until I got this shot. I wanted something different and was pretty happy when we came up with this shot.
This is one of my first biking images that I was really proud of. It was taken during Deep Summer Photo Challenge in 2012 and I was just getting into mtb photography. Both Ollie Jones and Steve Storey were pretty unknown at that time and it is amazing to see how driven they are and how they both carved their own path in mtb industry.

How did you get to this point in your life and what/who influenced those choices?
I feel like I got to this point by being driven and stubborn. I was told that I need a challenge to be happy. In a way, that person was right. I always have a plan, a goal to be reached – either personal or in business. Whenever I wanted to achieve something in life I go after it. And once I’ve achieved it, there’s always another goal to work towards. I just don’t give up. Failure motivates me more than success. It makes me work harder.

What would you tell the 10yr old version of yourself?
Don’t waste your time with people who hold you back.

How do you describe your work?
I’m more driven by capturing the story and emotions of a scene rather than focusing on the action alone. I like to step back from what’s happening and try to figure out a way to capture it so people can feel and see the whole scene. l really like capturing the candid moments of travel and mountain biking too. I feel there’s a lot more soul to those times that are easily missed out on.

I always thought this photo would end up published as a double spread but it never did. It was taken during a DH race in El Salvador. I was struggling to find anything interesting, nothing was lining up. I ended up on small clearing by the road and noticed the big flowers. All I needed was a small gap in the trees for the rider. Luckily it worked out.
This kind woman saw us huddling underneath a tree with our bikes during an intense thunderstorm and invited us into her home. She took six of us into her small shelter and offered us dry clothing and let me photograph her cooking and weaving – a lesson in kindness I will never forget.

What does your crystal ball show you about the future of MTB media?
I hope that it goes in a direction of quality over quantity and more original content. It’s sad the way it’s been going the last few years. I hope things can change and focus in on upping the quality. I used to follow most bike media religiously but over the last 5 years it’s been less and less, there’s just been too much to sift through to find the good stuff. There are only a few MTB media sites and magazines I read now, Eskapee obviously being one of those.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
Since I was 15 yr old, I wanted to move to Canada. As a huge hockey fan, I wanted to watch my first NHL game in Canada and Canada always meant freedom to me. Through hockey I met a few Canadians back in communist Czechoslovakia and they were super friendly and proud of where they came from. I knew I wanted that Canadian pin on my jacket one day. Once I moved to Vancouver and sorted out my permanent residency I moved to Whistler right away. This is my place and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I met my man here, started to ride bikes here, met like minded friends and it has the best community around.

What do you do to make flying and travel more comfortable?

Overnight flights work better for me. Few healthy snacks, book and lately compression socks are always in my back pack. Because my bags got lost a few times now I add basic toiletries, extra socks, underwear and a T-shirt to my already fully packed camera bag which I carry on.

India. What an incredible country. Love and hate relationship, but mostly love. This day I was suffering from altitude sickness and laid down and napped most of the day while the guys were working on their lines. It took a lot of energy to focus on shooting but once I saw the sunset I knew I had to push through the sickness.
Root bridges, the reason why we went to India. I saw a similar picture 3-4 years before our trip and wanted to go there with bikes. We made it….however, 80% of the trail was unridable. The whole team was sick with Giardia and we had a hard time to completing the 17 km trek. Most of the time was spent puking or shitting ourselves in bushes to a point that I thought I might faint. I saw black spots any time I stood up and walked. I was sitting by the bridges when my man Steve told me: Remember you wanted this moment for years, so don’t give up now. Despite the sickness this was one of the best moments from the whole trip.

What’s the most expensive mistake you’ve made?
Well up to now, nothing really. I guess that means it is still ahead of me. Ugh!

What is your greatest memory from working in the world of mountain biking?
It’s a very personal one for me: Crankworx 2012 – meeting my man Steve, being part of Deep Summer Photo Challenge and Dirt Diaries and seeing Steve and my friends on the podium racing. That week was insane and it started a whole new chapter in my life. In general – Steve Smith winning the World Cup

Why is telling stories and/or taking photos important to you?
Seeing clients get excited about their photos is probably the most satisfying part of photography for me. I love photographing people in their element. It doesn’t matter if I photograph a small child on playground or professional athlete – capturing the moment they might not remember a few years later is the most important to me.

My man, Steve Storey. My daily inspiration. We met 5 years ago and he quickly became my Number 1 when I needed a rider or just a friend on my side. We both have very high standards when it comes to any media we create and we work great together. We have endless talks over dinner each night and talk about our dreams and than we make them happen. It is really cool to find someone you really click with and share the same values. In this picture he came home freezing from a storm he got caught in and the moment he walked in I made him to go outside again so we could take photos of his muddy face. He was shaking from the cold and wet but stood there until I was done and that’s why I love him so much. There are not too many people who would do that.
This is from my first real bike packing trip. We did an approx. 90km loop in 8 days shooting in Peruvian Andes at high elevation. (4500m - 5250m). Each day was a challenge on its own - battling the cold, altitude sickness, getting over another pass or passes, and unpredictable weather. We had the mountains to ourselves the whole week. Your mind really clears up when you are out there for so long without seeing other people or any phones or computers. The only thing you are connected to is nature and that’s a feeling I treasure more and more.