9 Oct 2017


WORDS & PHOTOS x Patrick Russell

This week we’re continuing showcasing the people who make Eskapee what it is and we’d like to introduce Patrick Russell, from Colorado, USA. Without contributors we’d be a blank page and it’s people like Patrick who make us what we are.

Patrick also holds a warm place in our hearts and that’s because early on we learnt about his true character. When we published his Short (For (Personal) Record) and asked for his details to send his contributor payment he instead insisted that we donate his contributor fee to a local Colorado mountain bike charity. Something we will always remember about him.

Who is Patrick Russell?
I’m just an average guy who probably gets interested in too many things to be actually really good at one of them. My day-job is working as an engineer in the bike industry. But beyond that (read “not professionally”), I fill my time as a photographer, musician, cook, road-tripper, and star-gazer.

What makes you happy?
Time between the wheels, on skis, behind the lens, or with hands on a fretboard. My eyes light up with the changing colors of Fall and I’ll never pass up a sunrise in the mountains.

What is your greatest fear?
Losing the physical ability, age allowing, to do the things I love.

Music has been a part of my life since age five. Over the years, I've picked up different instruments and learned countless songs. It's been a journey full of joys and depression, drunk nights singing with friends or solo strumming in a stairwell. It's cathartic in a way to be able to hide behind the persona of a performer while putting your emotions out for everyone to hear; to have the freedom to delicately fingerpick a soft melody or turn the volume up until it rattles your chest. Shot on the Minolta SRT SC-II film camera.
The best time of the year...This is what it's like to ride during Colorado's peak fall season. It's hard to describe flying through corridors of aspen trees while the air glows gold around you. Your vision blurs from turn to turn and your nostrils fill with the slow decay of the summer's bounty. The air around you whooshes with tires carving over damp dirt and your voice echoes the hoots and hollers from your friends mid-turn in front of you.

Tell us something about yourself that no one knows [yet].
I pissed myself in first grade; in overalls. Can’t hide that one…

How do you escape?
I love that sensation when emotion or motor reflexes take over from brain processing and situational evaluation. On a bike, it’s a unique sensation when you’re looking three or four rocks ahead and your body is reacting to things already out of your vision. The speeds pick up, but the trail slows down.

Playing music also has a unique ability to transport me to a different mindset when the notes and rhythms flow seamlessly and effortlessly. It’s like you’re connected to a radio tower, beaming melodies and pulses through your hands, ears, and chest while you sit there almost trance-like. It’s pretty profound when it happens.

What must you carry with you at all times?
My eyeballs. Really, I like getting out somewhere totally unencumbered. It’s nice to fully disconnect at times. Sometimes it’s best to just use my eyes and take it in for me and only me.

My dad's old film camera really opened the door to photography for me. It was the first SLR that I really looked through, and something about the split-line focus and fully manual controls piqued my curiosity. It's a different kind of camera experience - one that is decidedly non-instant. One that makes you really think about what's in front of the lens and second-guess your settings as the light-meter needle floats around in the viewfinder. Which reminds me, I should really shoot with this one more often.
I'll always hold a special place in my heart for the coastal northwest. The trailbuilding there was really eye-opening, and it was so cool to see how much community support goes into it. Squamish in particular left an indelible mark on me, with electric green forests, the dank smell of wet dirt, and placid sunsets over the sound. I felt like a little kid again, giddy with excitement and energy.

How did you get to this point in your life and what/who influenced those choices?
I decided to enter school for mechanical engineering – it seemed to fit with how my brain worked. After cutting my teeth in the aerospace industry making some pretty cool stuff I decided it was time to find a job with more creativity and to feel my age again. A job in the bike industry popped up just down the road from me and I was lucky enough to land it. It’s fun working for a smaller company – one day I’ll be creating technical drawings to communicate to suppliers, another I’ll be machining test fixtures to characterize prototypes, another I’ll be out testing different suspension tunes. I love that variety in the day-to-day.

I’m really fortunate to have awesome parents that took our family exploring, and it’s with them that I my love for the outdoors sprouted. They were always pushing me to do my best and challenge myself intellectually, but also very supportive of my need for adventure and self-expression too. They signed me up for tough classes as a kid but also endured the clanging of a teenager upstairs on the drum set with poise.

I also have a lot of friends around me to thank for influencing my creative side. Friends who are professional photographers are a constant source of inspiration and motivation (whether they know it or not), and my trustworthy college friends have always supported my musical and photographic endeavors.

What would you tell the 10yr old version of yourself?
Good job staying true to yourself. But don’t be so self-conscious; nobody really gives a shit.

How do you describe your work?
Self-taught and learning as I go! I guess landscape photography with an escape artist inserted into context every once in a while.

The MTB selfie has been a fun ongoing project for me. It's fun to be able to attempt a shot exactly as you see it. From the camera angle, to shutter speed, body language & style, and edit, you're in control of every step of the process. More often than not though, I realize how much I look like a goon on a bike. But that's all part of the fun right?
As an employee of the bike industry, some of my rides end up being so analytical and somewhat emotionless - it's a necessity to do part of my job. It's becoming all the more important to me to recognize the true fun that riding bikes with friends brings. To cherish the opportunities we have to be ridiculous and not take ourselves too seriously. I'm fortunate to have friends that share those values and don't hesitate to turn up the fun meter. Cheers to each and every one of you!

What does your crystal ball show you about the future of MTB media?
I think people are finding it all too easy to scroll through the endless shots of the same looking corner or run-of-the-mill shredit and not really feel an emotional connection to it. Everybody has a camera in their pocket now, and the amount of MTB content right behind your lock screen is unfathomable.

But we’re also not all straight-faced kitted-up pros that carve every turn perfectly and can manual for miles. It’s important to remind ourselves that all people crash, blow a corner, and maybe love a little bar-hump. That stripped-down personal connection and a fresh perspective are going to become so much more valuable to readers/consumers, but maybe more and more difficult to find in the giant sea of content. Luckily, I know of one website that’s got all that right on the front page… [Ed: Oh, what may that be? 🙂 ]

Oh, and long live the selfie!

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
BC…I fell in love with the coastal Pacific Northwest years back – such friendly people, nature at its finest out your back door, biking and skiing aplenty, and just a little refreshing rain.

What do you do to make flying and travel more comfortable?
Oreos. Must-have for long road trips. For flying, noise cancelling headphones and Global Entry.

Switching things up as the seasons change gives a much needed break from full-on mountain biking. There's nothing quite like being in the winter backcountry on a ski tour - complete silence all around and fields of untracked ski lines beneath you as trudge the last glides to the ridge. Your body temperature rises (jacket humidity too) and heartbeat quickens, but your voice goes silent. It's a quiet excitement as you rip your climbing skins; a calm anticipation as you wait to drop into white smoke.
Happy to be surrounded by family that enjoys goofing off with me. It's hard to beat riding up in the hills in the morning and then cool off in the lake with some back flops. Here's to many more summer road trips to enjoy both foreign destinations as well as the backyard.

What’s the most expensive mistake you’ve made?
It’s hard to recall a specific one, but we used to joke that there were “dollars” and then “aerospace dollars” – just tack on a few extra 0’s. Make a little blunder or forget to check an obscure requirement, and you spend a few aerospace dollars pretty quickly.

What is your greatest memory from working in the world of mountain biking?
I was on a road trip around BC and we were riding Fromme in North Van. My buddy and I were pedaling up the access road and stopped for a break when this guy in a pickup rolls up and scopes around in the trees. We start chatting about the amazing trails there and about trail access in the States versus Canada. It was an eye-opening conversation to hear how the bike scene in that area started and just naturally supported biking. He introduces himself, “You can just call me Digger”. I didn’t find out until after that trip who Todd Fiander was. Legend.

Why is telling stories and/or taking photos important to you?
Part of me likes hiding behind a lens while getting the opportunity to share part of my perspective, in a similar way that a musician can hide behind a stage persona but still have a cathartic emotional release. I’m able to share a little bit of myself from the comfort and confines of shyness and relative anonymity. There’s an emotion behind the lens, in how I edit a photo, or buried within the notes and words; part of what makes storytelling so interesting to participate in and listen to are the numerous ways you can tell yours.

The annual Yeti Tribe Gathering is essentially a motley and rowdy group of fun-lovers thrown together for a long weekend. Between all the good-natured shit talking, beer drinking, full-contact bike racing, mustache contests and dance parties, we're all there for one reason - celebrate the sport we love and the wonderful people you meet along the way. I've yet to find a place where you could arrive not knowing a soul and leave with 300 new friends, with the hangover to prove it.
Taking pictures has really caused me to look at what's around me with a different perspective. It forces you see details on a more micro scale or to really appreciate how dynamic light is. It makes you cock your head an an angle and wonder what could be. Like every other artistic expression, there's really no rules and that's what makes it so fun. For this shot, I had just taken some Milky Way pictures, and the light striking this pond really reminded me of the stars arcing across the sky.