From our editor/publisher Ben Sykes comes the first in a little series focusing on the best or most memorable photos our contributing photographers had in 2018.

My Best

2018 was a different year for me to 2017 in photo terms. Without a major international event in Australia like Derby (which I missed) and the World Champs in Cairns (which I was at), 2018 didn’t have as many opportunities to take photos of international riders ripping it up here in Australia. I also had a different focus, with different clients and trying to build up a network of contributors for the site here.

I’ve put together 5 of my favourite or most memorable shots, and tried to explain their story.

Harrison Dobrowolski, Leura

First up here’s Harrison Dobrowolski in Leura. Harry is a good mate and I’ve shot a lot with him over the past couple of years. It’s been good to watch his progression from a talented kid, to being Junior National Gravity Enduro series champion in 2017 and then picking up a great sponsorship deal in 2018 aboard Specialized, Fox and SRAM. Things in 2018 took a bit of a change for him though with work and different disciplines of cycling, so for me this photo is memorable as it’s getting rarer to see him shred an MTB lately.

These shots however never ended up anywhere really – I submitted a couple for photo contests over the year but nothing more other than some social media exposure.

Before this shot was taken there was a pretty heavy rainstorm, it cleared quickly and we got out to get some shots, this is using a larger size smoke emitter behind him before hitting the jump.  I was shooting with my new (second-hand) 1D Mark IV at full 10 frames a second so there’s a lot of frames to choose from, with a 70-200 f/2.8 lens, every MTB photographer should have a good 70-200.

Drone shot, Wentworth Falls

A new client for me this year was Eskapee. Started a couple of years ago by Canberra photog, Damian Breach, it’s a website that focuses on a different side of MTB. I had the idea that basically although MTB is about the outdoors we are often wedded to our cars in getting to places, shuttling etc so I wanted to write a narrative thought-provoking piece about the car and what might happen if we didn’t use them.

This shot was taken with my new DJI Mavic Pro drone, which is a great little tool. I set it to float just east of where I parked the car and checked the view in the drone’s video feed, and set it to record a still frame every 5 or 10 seconds then just mucked around in the spot I was in. In the background is the valley of Wentworth Falls/Katoomba and a pretty sombre sky – this day was overcast and rainy, unfortunately. But I’m finding I don’t mind the weather being poor as I shoot more – there’s a lot you can do in post-production to compensate.

Ethan Corney, Lithgow

I didn’t shoot as many races as I’d have liked this year, but I did get out to Lithgow in the middle of the year to shoot the DH round at Lithgow. This was part of the NSW state series. Down near the finish there’s a pallet jump with quite a large runout to the lander plus loads of space either side to stand for spectators, and also for photographers to get shots like this.

I stood probably around 20-30m from the side of the jump, set the camera to a low shutter speed, turned on image stabilisation mode 2 (panning) and just tracked a few riders across the top of the jump. Ethan Corney managed to hold a bar tweak just long enough for it to hold a good panshot, while the background of the valley full of foliage made for a solid panned background.

Sunrise Silhouette

This one I’m sure everyone has seen by now. Sunrise at Narrow Neck trail, Katoomba. 

This shot was pretty much purely done for the AMB photo awards. I actually had a different plan in mind but I also just wanted to get unique shots out for the awards.

To get this I was watching weather forecasts for a while. I needed a day that had no overnight cloud or rain, clear skies and the right temperature to try and maximise the chance of a cloud inversion layer in the valley. The day looked like it was coming, so I reached out to Dave Ludenia and lined him up for an early morning shoot – meeting around 5.45…

This shot feels like the middle of nowhere but it’s reasonably close to Katoomba and about 10-15 mins ride from where you can park a car. I had to trek through some pretty tough shrubs so I could stand at a good viewpoint to get the rock outcrop, rider and background visible but it all worked out in the end. Wide angle (about 24mm on my 24-70 F4L), narrow-ish aperture (f/6.3 from memory) and enough light to minimise noise in the low light of the early morning.

This was submitted in the AMB Photo Awards and came 2nd place in Composition category, which I was pretty happy with. I used some of the prize money to print up a metre-wide canvas print, which was auctioned off for Salt2Snow & Strength For Jared at the Black Panther ride later in the year, going for $270!

Selfie, Koscziusko Flow Track.

2018 was also a year of lots of #MTBselfies. This shot is from Thredbo Opening Weekend – I had a little gig to write about the Snowies for the upcoming issue of Mountain Biking Australia magazine. To keep things consistent without a crew travelling around the easiest thing to do was to take lots of selfies, I’m getting the process pretty dialed now. I put my 5D Mark III on a small mini-tripod, set it on a rock and attached the trigger setup into it, which lets me trigger the camera from the handlebars of my new bike which I’d just purchased that week – a Trek Fuel EX 9.8 (great bike btw!)

Another example of wide angle, narrowish aperture so most of the shot is in focus and a bit of extra processing to bring out the sky tones and detail of the landscape.

Tim Eaton,Stromlo

In September I made the trek down to Stromlo for the Gravity Enduro national round. On the practice day I followed a couple of guys around including Tim Eaton. He’s had a different 2018 as well, with a bigger focus on Enduro after a team change at the end of 2017 away from Giant and onto Trek, DHaRCO and a few other sponsors. There was some pretty dodgy weather rolling over on Saturday afternoon, so I snapped away a moody shot with the clouds in the background and Tim peering out into them. When you’re taking photos to support an editorial narrative from a race these shots always help tell the story. 2019 should be a big year for Tim – racing EWS on home soil and beyond.

Shot wise this was a pretty standard shot but I left the focus on Tim and let the background blur out, then dropped the exposure later on for mood. I played around with a different profile in Lightroom for the Stromlo enduro article for all the shots, to make something that looked different along with having Andrew Howieson as a second shooter.

One new experience from that race was I had an e-bike on loan, which made getting around super easy. From the carpark riding up to the top of Western Wedgetail/Rollercoaster only took around 10-15 minutes….

Stromlo Enduro Article

To finish off here’s a slideshow of all of my favourite shots from the year…