A while back on this blog I had mentioned that I had a new project in the works that I would soon be launching. Well, after it taking on a life of its own, and getting pushed back due to other more pertinent work, it’s finally done and up. It can be found on my main site here.
The series actually came about by total accident. One day this past fall I was at Englishtown Raceway Park in NJ with some friends for an open drag strip day, and when I was leaving after the event , I happened upon the MX practice at one of the two tracks there. After pulling in and watching for a bit, I decided to go up and ask if I could get a bit closer and take some shots of the riders on the track. One signed release and an orange wristband later, I was slipping and sliding in mud up to my ankles along the perimeter of the track trying to juggle my gear and not fall flat on my face in slop, oh, and also trying not to get clipped by these guys soaring over my head on their machines.
I wound up trying to get as much as I possibly could shoot with the daylight dwindling away, and the sessions winding down, and afterwards wound up hanging around and talking with a few of the riders and trying to get a feel for what goes on in the sport. I learned the schedules and when the practices and races were, and went home to look at some of the shots I had casually taken from the short practice I caught.
A week or so later there was a race being held there and I decided to go down and see what it was all about. It was a pretty packed venue, RVs, bikes, riders, and spectators all over the place. They were running heats pretty much all day. I went up to the tower and spoke to the organizer and asked if he would allow me to have a media pass or permission to get out on the track to shoot some of the riders during the race. Since there were other photographers already there on the track , that are affiliated with the venue, he declined and I was relegated to whatever I could muster from behind the fence. Oh well.
Over the next few weeks I went back down a couple more times to catch the practices. One time I showed up and the place was a ghost town, since the practice had been rescheduled (I had no idea), and another time I went down to find the session frozen due to a rider injury. Figuring third time would be a charm, the last practice I made it down to I wen tin to the main office to request a pass to get out on the track once again, but even after explaining that I would gladly sign a release, and that I wasn’t trying to steal any other photographer’s thunder, was turned away when the powers that be found out that I wasn’t with a big name company, or wasn’t shooting for a magazine, or wasn’t tied in with a manufacturer…… all I was trying to do was take some cool shots of the sport to see what I could put together for a portfolio. The other issue I was dealing with was a lack of control over who and what I was shooting. So I had no say in what the riders did, or what they wore, or how clean their bikes were or if their ensemble matched or not. I basically had to work with what I was given.
So, here they are. My goal for this series was to try and show the sport in a different light. It always seems to be covered with such an in your face, gritty and “extreme” attitude. What I tried to do with my images, was to kind of pull it back a bit. Tame it a bit. Even though its a undeniably dirty, smelly, gritty, and noisy sport, I wanted to capture a more serene take on it. To freeze the moments, and really give the viewer a chance to take in what is happening in that split second that the bike is flying over your head, or the spray of must is slamming up against the riders,and the look of concentration in their eyes. I found that the mechanical aspects of these bikes are quite interesting, the suspension geometry, the plumbing on the engine components, the colors and shapes of the fairings, and the way it all comes together. I found the way the cleats on the tires tear through the soil, the waves of heat zig-zagging off the engines, the wafts of blueish smoke pumping from the exhausts, and the way the huge amounts of suspension travel just soak up so much of the uneven terrain actually quite captivating. This is what I am attempting to convey in the images. I also opted to tame the color and mute the tones and compose the shots so that it took on a more fluid and staged look versus what most seem to capture with highly saturated colors, wide angle lenses, and very busy composition. My goal was to make these a bit more surreal and easy. I hope that you take the time to view them and enjoy them, I’ve got to go rest my eyes and pick some more mud out of my teeth. Again, here is the direct link to the gallery on my site.
Here are a few out takes from the shoot days. I would like to thank all the riders that were cool enough to take the time to educate me on the sport and share some stories, and to Englishtown Raceway Park, even though you wouldn’t allow me out on the track, I still managed to put together a kick ass set of shots.