8 Aug 2018


WORDS & PHOTOS x James Vincent

I find my spark of inspiration for photography can come from anywhere; whether it’s a great painting, a riding vibe that you just have to try and capture, or in this case, a quick and dirty phone photo that threw a whole new light on a particular section of trail.

But first, let’s back it up a little? There’s a techy rock slab (AKA The BadStep™) mid-way down a local trail that I’ve been looking at for years – to both ride and shoot. The first time I saw it, I simply shook my head and mumbled something about it being some kinda Rampage nonsense. I mean, it was hard enough to walk, let alone contemplate riding. Obviously there were always going to be those who could send it, but they’re from another planet and stuff like this is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals like myself. Except that it forms part a longer killer descent, so we kept on coming back to work out how to link it/ride it as to make an unbroken descent. Every time I got to this feature, my brain would whir through the motions of ‘what if’, and I’d start looking for lines, only to bail at the last moment, jump off the bike and staggering down to the next rideable section.

Then one day a friend rode it and made it look so damn easy. That was the spark of inspiration to not only ride it myself, but I saw a magic shot in it too that I just had to get. Although I had my camera with me that day, I didn’t even think about taking a picture and by the time I realised what was going on, he was gone, and I was left both picture-less and humbled. 

Eventually I plucked up the courage to ride it, and have captured it on video, crashed on it, and ridden it cleanly several times. However, that elusive image showcasing the utter madness and sheer gnarliness of The BadStep™ had still eluded me. Because it’s so steep, if you shoot from above it compresses everything and looks flat, while if you shoot from below, you don’t get any real sense of scale as you’re shooting into the sky.

I needed to work out how to get the shot that was now sitting in my head.

And then one cloudy evening last year my mate Dan snapped a quick phone shot of me on the slab, and that was it. He’d found the angle. It wasn’t anything fancy, just sideways on to the action, eye level, no crazy wide lens or anything like that, just a simple phone shot was all it took to give me that final inspiration. It looked steep, it looked gnarly, and I knew if taken with a better camera it would be that incredible image I had imagined.

All the pieces were now in place. A crew who could ride it, a location where to take the shot from, and now I just had to wait for a nice summer evening when the sun would be in the right position.

And that day came.

After a good hour and a bit of hiking to the summit, we dropped in to the top part the descent in the most glorious, hazy, late evening sunshine (#lightbro). It hadn’t rained for weeks, and the trail was somehow both dusty AND super grippy on the bedrock – it was running so sweet. I hardly took any photos on the beginning of the descent and as a result, we quickly arrived at The BadStep™ and I asked Sam if he was good to go.

“No mate, not tonight,” Sam answered.

In his defence, Sam had a rather nasty OTB incident not long before, and his confidence was naturally a little bit shaken.

Guess I’ll be riding it again then.

But first, I had to get the shot setup so Sam could take over button pressing duties. I went to where Dan stood all those months earlier and tried it with a rectilinear wide angle (16-35mm) and it looked good, but the 15mm fisheye gave that extra fraction of width to squeeze in the trail leading off to the right, and the subtle curve of the fisheye worked perfectly. I underexposed by a stop to allow for shooting directly into the sun, pre-focussed on the trail, and handed the camera to Sam.

“Here you go, focus is set, just press the trigger when I appear top left and keep firing”, I instructed Sam.

Safe to say, he nailed it.

Inspiration can come from anywhere and it’s even better when that triggers a plan and it all comes together.


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