So almost a month ago my son Patrick (Paddy) Dukes invited me up to the Forest of Dean to photograph him and his friends having fun on their Mountain Bikes. I know most of my sons friends, so this was always going to be a fun day out.
Left to right, we have: Paddy Dukes, Ross Carter, Ben Lee and Will Arkle
I gave Ben a lift up to the site, and as we arrived at the Forest, the heavens opened up - torrential rain, the other guys turned up and the rain eased off.
Given how wet it was and that the terrain was unknown to me, I decided to walk into the woods with a small selection of kit, leaving alot of my kit in the car. I quickly bungled my camera, a spare lens, a Yongnuo speed light and trigger, a Flashbender, a camera rain-cover and most importantly some drinking water into a ruck-sack - and we wandered off into the woods.
I have to say, I'd never photographed in these conditions before; the rain-cover that I bought from Amazon was relatively inexpensive (£6 for 2) and was little more than a polythene bag, shaped so it'll go over the camera with a pull-cord around the lens end so that it can be tightened around the end of the lens.
What I didn't count on was how difficult it would be to use the camera with the rain cover in place, I was struggling to see the shots on the LCD back panel; also the view-finder kept misting up so it was really hard to know how well I had a shot setup.
I was soaked, my ruck-sack I later found out wasn't water-proof at all, and despite having plenty of black bin-liners with me, I didn't get chance to put the kit into one before it was all soaked!
I have to say the Yongnuo flash dealt with the conditions admirably, and apart from one complete setup where i'd forgotten to switch on the trigger, and another setup where the batteries died - it did really well. The flashbender, straps to the top of the speedlite and you can bend it to help shape and direct the light; this equally worked very well, was light and portable - and after getting very wet and muddy, wiped clean!
In truth I could have done with another flash with me.
There were parts of the forest, like the one above where the light falling onto the soaked ground was just so gorgeous (even without extra lighting) - so this couldn't be ignored.
What isn't visible from this shot is an 8ft drop off about 4-6ft behind me, so as soon as the guys were jumping they were hard on the brakes, trying to avoid the trees and also the drop off (I know they could all have handled the drop, but getting back up with the soaked muddy ground would have been difficult)
With all the water, I wanted to find a large puddle that they could ride through, that we could try to back-light:
This was really hit/miss, where we'd placed the light wasn't great, and because we only had one light I could either back-light or front-light but not both :(
This was close, real close - in truth I could have done with slightly less back-light and also some front-light - but you work with what you have; next time I'll nail it!!
After a lunch break, and a review of the mornings images with the guys, everyone was in good spirits for the afternoon .. and the weather started to dry up a little, with the odd splash of blue in the skies.
Here's Will (The Pencil) - I've still not had chance to go through all of the images, for me the day was about practicing and learning - it ended up being more about dealing with the elements and trying not to fall on my backside!
But above all what came out from the day for me was the great friendship these guys have, which can really be seen in the first image above - despite being soaked, and muddy, and not really riding like they would normally (as they're all just doing one jump and walking back to do it again so that I can try to get the photo right), and despite photographic failures on my part - these guys stayed up-beat, totally enjoyed themselves and were happy to help me as much as possible -- Ross even became a human light-stand at one point!
Thanks guys, it was a terrific day - i'm still processing images - there were some awesome jumps and stylish bike riding, sadly not quite captured perfectly by myself; but I guess this gives us another excuse to go out and do it all again :)
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