2019 Round up !
So here we are 2020. Sounds so futuristic doesn’t it? It’s Man Down Media’s first new year and what a crazy year it has been. I knew joining the slightly crazy world of the mountain bike media circus was always going to be interesting but I’m not sure I was quite prepared for all of it. I mean it’s not like it’s all crazy wild parties and chilling out in the mountains. That being said every race feels like a party to me! Yes it's hard work, yes there are deadlines and dramas along the way but us media squids get a front row seat to all the action, seeing it though our lenses trying to capture that moment that attempts in some way to sum up the courage, skill and engineering harmony of rider, bike and the ground. Sometimes it works, although more often than not you just can't sum it all up and do it justice (some may say in my case it's more miss than hit). However, that constant pursuit for the perfect shot and the perfect lighting combined with a rider doing something out of the ordinary is what gets us media squids up at stupid o’clock in the morning, normally after a long night of editing photos with very little sleep. So next time you see one of us lugging a bag the size of a medium sized house up the side of a track feel free to show us some appreciation!
So, I think I’ve smashed all the clichés and the usual moans and groans. Honestly though it’s the best job in the world! However maybe I should try and get to some kind of point I mean that’s the purpose of a blog right? I mean this is my first one so we will see, right now it feels like it’s the ramblings of a mad man but you never know that might just work.
Ok, so I was going to sum up some highlights. Ummm where do I start . . . I think it’s conventional to go with the beginning so we will go there. To be honest it was a tough one to top for us after the Mini Downhill event at the Forest of Dean. My little camera and I headed off around Wales to mix it with the big boys (and girls) at the HSBC UK National Downhill Series 2019 Round 1 in Rhondda Wales.
You remember that moment I mentioned before? You know, the unicorn moment, all that harmony of bike, rider and ground well I only found it (who said this was hard work anyway) I even manged to lead a fellow photographer (we will cover that later) to this magical spot.
HSBC UK National Downhill Series 2019 Round 1 Rhondda Wales
Yeah I mean I always say “it’s better to be lucky than good” (this is message to live by trust me), but wow it was perfect. I saw a few riders through and bam there it is - Rachel Atherton in her world champs jersey (not the normal choice for practice) on the brand new Atherton bikes downhill rig. It’s safe to say I was made up with this shot and it was one of the moments from this year I’ve looked back and gone wow I can really do this. I mean it was even sunny in Wales! As perfect moments go, this was up there.
SORRY ALL MOUNTAIN BIKERS CAMERA GEEK MOMENT BELOW !!!
I want to make a quick point here that shot was not shot on some £6000 Nikon D5 with a £3000 lens on it. I shot that on a used Nikon D7200 with a Sigma 17-50 F2.8 lens on it (if you have a crop camera this is a stunning lens!). Yep on a crop camera with a third party lens. Although we all love shiny kit and fancy toys, really you are the most important thing in the act of taking a photo - the gear is second. The sooner the whole gear snob rubbish vanishes the better!
Ok, I got distracted sorry.
So, Rhondda was mega and what a race!
The next highlight for me is a little more personal, won’t mean much to you guys, but I have an amazing friend who races downhill and will be moving up to expert this year. So I was treated to the privilege of shooting photos of Dirtworks bikes’ Bradley Shields laying waste to downhill tracks all year has been just insane (remember the best seat in the house thing and all that) so yeah I love this shot from Rhyd y Felin. This was Brad’s first national series race win of the year. It’s not a perfect shot but I like it more for it’s meaning to me rather than anything artistic. The combination of a friend riding for another friend’s bike shop just makes doing photos for them special (massive shout out to Matt Smith at Dirtworks for all his help and support this year! If you haven’t already you need to check this shop out!) Also, that race was amazing fun seeing the elite boys humbled by the rain making the section through the field essentially like riding on ice. It’s sometimes good to see that even the best sometimes run out of talent.
HSBC UK National Downhill Series 2019 Round 3 - Rhyd-Y-Felin
Next up is something I didn’t think would happen in 2019 but little old Man Down Media made its way north of the border to shoot at the UCI Downhill World Cup. This is the big leagues and it was a little nerve wracking. Not only rubbing shoulders with the big names in downhill racing but the major names in the media world too, all with the constant reminder of the Red Bull TV and their live broadcast looming over your shoulder. This is not a place to make any rookie mistakes!
We were shooting that weekend for the amazing guys from KHS in the good old USA. Thanks for the opportunity guys, it was mega, and I hope we didn’t disappoint. It was incredible to be contacted after the race weekend by the awesome guys from Hunt Wheels (more on this some other time).
Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Fort William Scotland
But yeah Fort William. I have ridden the track at Fort Bill and trying to take photos in sideways rain with 55mm falling on the Saturday was almost as hard work as riding it even at my very average riding standard. All I can say though is that amazing comradery between all of us media guys and girls struggling through the weather along with the marshals and the riders. Just battling on through this insane rain made the event for me. Well, that and being in the woods shooting on finals day with Fort William's just amazing fans! Please please never change guys because you make this event what it is! (I think the world cup will get a blog all of its own)
I’m going to wrap this ramble up honest, but first the biggest highlight for me spawned out of the very first highlight really. That photographer I bumped into in the middle of the Welsh wilderness at Rhonda was Joolze Dymond who was doing the coverage that day for British Cycling themselves. We hit it off and had a laugh all day (this job always goes better with a laugh!). This fortuitous meeting and some back and forth on Instagram (not sure how I got this far in before I mentioned the Gram!! A subject for another day I think) Joolze asked me to cover the HSBC British Cycling 4X National Championships (I thought she was mad) but it was just amazing fun and a privilege to cover this pretty important event.
HSBC UK National 4X Series - National Championships 2019 Port Talbot
I’m not sure I knew exactly what I was doing and as you can guess my writing isn’t the best, but we made it work. That was it I was hooked! We ended up covering the Downhill National Champs too (this would have been a highlight if someone could go around a berm!) and several other events for 5311 and British Cycling, something I have enjoyed so much and watch this space for 2020! There is news to come. I just want to thank Joolze at this point, without her support, guidance and the opportunities given to me I wouldn’t be as good of a photographer or in the position I am in now without you.
So their my highlights of 2019 for me (yeah I know it’s almost the end of January so it’s a bit late). I mean there are loads more but I’ve rambled enough. Check out some of the images below and give us a follow on Instagram @man_down_media and the same on twitter (once I work that out). I will be doing more of these picking out races and topics I want to write about. Please let us know what you think of them. It would be really good to hear from you guys and see what you enjoyed in 2019 and looking forward to in 2020.