Sometimes, in this fickle business we find ourselves in, conditions converge to produce a nice picture. And today was one of those days. The shoot was with XC pro Rab Wardell who had just taken delivery of his new bike and Orange Monkey team kit and needed some images. He lives in Scotland but was in London for a few days so we decided to get it on. Only the previous day I had called it off at the last minute as the light was fading rapidly and I knew from bitter experience that I would be chasing my tail after a decent iimage. That left precious time to get anything since he was scheduled to go back up north and had other engagements in Town. We arranged to meet first thing to try and catch the weather. Any weather that wasn’t rain.
As luck would have it, the winter sun was shining nicely and we bagged the images I think are requisite for a team rider i.e rider with bike, rider from waist up for ‘hero’ cards and tighter mugshots. Then we moved onto the good stuff which is the action. I have shot many times in Epping Forest and ridden there even more so I know where to go for close access to good photo locations. Bearing in mind the forest floor was flooded in the low parts and very muddy everywhere else, riding to locations was not a great idea because the kit would be spoiled before we even started. I found some harder ground around one of the many ponds and we shot some nice action there amongst the huge roots that litter this ancient oak and beech woodland.
I actually wanted to use natural light, but the sun was constantly in and out and I couldn’t achieve the effect I saw in my mind’s eye. So the speedlights and Pocket Wizards were called up for duty. I used the MiniTT1 transmitter and Plus IIIs for their Hypersync capabilities. And -bonus upon bonus- I found that I had left the TT1 on and exhausted the battery. I had no spare but I was carrying this short cable in my bag which saved the day. And then the rains came. And some. We sheltered in the car and waited. I had cleaned up at the first location but was set on shooting at a place I had ridden past umpteen times. It is a huge root bed of a very big old beech tree. The roots are covered in moss and when the sun hits the moss it goes a bright green – almost emerald.
The rain slowed and then stopped. The sun once again came out and shone directly into my lens through the tree trunks. Perfect. Now all I needed to do was light the moss and make the fresh water on it shimmer. All Rab had to do was ride it! One practice run and he was in the groove. I had to pump quite a lot of light onto the scene to counter the backlight and I got some nice flare through the trees, and the bike frame. I shot with a 14-28mm lens nearly at its widest point so I had to get back from the subject to avoid the bike wheels distorting and looking like two eggs. The outset of that was it allowed more of those fantastic tree trunks in the upper part of the frame. Some tweaking in Lightroom: I added a vignette to bring the sky down and pulled the shadows up a bit – and all was done. Rab pedalled off for lunch in the City (after a shower and a change of clothes, but you never know) and I drove home chuffed with a set of images captured in a small window of opportunity. And I still reckon if it had been sunny all the time the image wouldn’t have turned out nearly as nice.
NB: Rab will be paying for this shoot in coffee for the rest of his natural life.