How it works *sometimes*0
neil posted in bikes, Neil, Trails, 5Dmk2, Night, Bristol on December 24th, 2011
The idea for the above picture popped into my head almost unbidden. This is how realising that idea came to pass.
Last winter I was mucking about in Leigh Woods shooting ultra-long exposure images of myself, inspired by Alejandro Chaskielberg’s images made by moonlight and published in Burn magazine. I never really made any good images, but became acquianted with the effect and technique. The bright lights of Bristol painted everything an unusual orange, unlike the uncontaminated skies in Alejandro’s work, and I didn’t really have a subject.
The idea went in my mental toolbox. It was only when the pumptrack was built under the Brunel way flyover that I found a use for it. The image in my head looked quite different. I didn’t anticipate how bright the floodlights would be, relative to the bright mountainbike lights. We used two powerful exposure mountainbike lights to produce the shape hovering above the trail. While setting up I knew I would be a long way from the pumptrack, stuck up on a ramp up to the flyover, so I had a friend assisting and keeping an eye on my gear. She actually found the angle from which this photo was taken, speeding things up immensely. I set up my tripod, dialled in the exposure at around 90 seconds or three laps of the pumptrack. Unfortunately the rear light of the bike did nothing to illuminate the “away from camera” legs of the track so our tame mountainbiker had to ride the track twice forwards and once backwards to get complete coverage. He still persistently laps me when we ride the track, I guess he got in a lot of practice while I sorted the balance of natural, flash and bike light out.
After sorting out these details we made the above image, I wanted my flashes to freeze the rider in the dark under the flyover (top left) and then his headtorch light join with the light of the pump track to make a continuous loop. This was possibly a little unreasonable as it meant riding onto the pumptrack at an awkward angle while looking in the completely wrong direction. Because he hadn’t managed that minor miracle, you can see a gap in the above image. So I asked for another go, however three bmx’ers had shown up and riding the track backwards is considered impolite to other users. They turned out to be polite and we managed to make the picture when they were having a break. In the end I actually quite like having them sat semi-motionless amongst the ethereal tracery over the track itself. The flashes fired badly on the last go and the picture worked better when I cropped out the ‘frozen’ rider. Sometimes you get that better picture by going with the flow, just a little bit.