Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Some of the pics from Maskenthine XC

Last Saturday was the Maskenthine XC Classic race out near Stanton. Dave N was kind enough to let me tag along since I had never been out there. It had crossed my mind to race, but I REALLY need to save money over the next few months. So what was my plan to head out there? To improve on my photography skills of course!

I had all of my gear on my back in a sling style backback, complete with hoodie and two layers of cotton shirts on. I was sweating like mad by the time I nestled into my shooting position. I was really enjoying the trail, but at the same time I was trying to scope out possible places to shoot. Sunlight behind the racers is a huge problem because their faces turn out black. Sunlight on their faces can wash them out. Obviously didn't want to use flash on the rider's eyes. Solution? Head for the trees.

Patty suggested maybe shooting by the creek crossing. Get some muddy bike splashing water shots? Maybe. But man it was dark in there and I would probably get chewed alive by the mosquitoes over the next four hours. And after talking to riders, I'm glad that I wasn't in there. It sounds like there was a bottleneck and it brought things almost to a standstill.

Keep riding (good advice from Paul and Dave to bring my bike). I finally found the wall ride that we had all heard so much about. There were pictures up on facebook but nobody that I ride with had actually encountered it yet (built this year). And boy is it sweet looking!

I moved out some trimmed tree branches under the pine trees and set up shop. Had my GoPro with me along with my DSLR and point and shoot. My goal was to stay out of the way and get a great view of the riders. I found an opening through a few pine trees and took a few photos. Not bad. Lighting was tricky because of the sun overheard sneaking its way onto the trail and wood structure through the trees. I did have my flash unit with me, so I tried many test shots with it bouncing towards the ceiling of the trees. Seems to even out some of the skin tones on the riders even though they were in the shadows. At the same time, by bouncing the flash upwards, I hopefully wouldn't be blinding the riders during the race.

Now the only problem with shooting Cat 3 first is that most of my friends are in that class. And they only do one lap. Better get it right the first time around. Now if I knew the trail better, I could hop out of my hiding area and grab pictures of them elsewhere on the trail (like I did at Tranquility). But considering that I had never experienced Maskenthine, it was kind of like a one time shot. Do it right the first time, learn, and readjust if necessary.

Riders have that adrenaline rush before, during, and after the race. Believe it or not, photographers get the same. Or at least I do. After waiting for half an hour, I finally heard the sounds of the race come to life. I was pretty far into the trail, so I wasn't exactly sure when they started. But after about 8min past 10am, sounds of derailleurs changing, the squealing of disc brakes, and a racer asking can I pass gets closer and closer. Its a pretty cool sound. Just think of the sounds of the bike when you are out alone on the singletrack. The blades of grass lightly brushing the sidewalls of your fastest tires, the distinct sound that your shifters make as you go up and down those gears, and that hum of the tires contacting the dirt below. Now magnify that by a pack of racers going through the trail in a bunch and trying to move up in position. Yeah, that is the sound that I listen for. It's pretty cool.

Now its my turn to get that adrenaline rush. A photographer usually goes into a shoot with an idea in mind, even if they are unsure of their backdrops, lighting, etc. Seeing the wallride at Maskenthine, I knew what I wanted my pictures to look like. Now it's just a matter of getting it to happen. My goal while sitting there was to get multiple riders on the wall ride at once, maybe use a slower ISO and shutter speed. This helps to add some sense of movement and speed to your pictures. But abuse it too much and your pictures will be blurry. I've shot many races now and I have a good idea of what is necessary to make it work. ISO slower than 400 and your pictures will come out blurry (in the trees that is). Faster shutter speeds will give clearer pictures, but the riders are frozen in time. Many times its so frozen that you can see the individual knobbies on the tires. So not to bore you anymore with the photography mumbo jumbo, but its a lot of trial error to find out what works.

And then comes the editing. Editing photos is like a full time job! And I'm just doing light edits if any at all! At the time of this post, people that I personally or somewhat know of have their photos done. The rest will have to wait.

Back to the race. After the first wave of riders went through (Marathon and Cat 3), it was time for the fast guys of Cat 2 and 1 to start at noon. I was getting some good shots but I felt that I needed to change it up a little bit. I decided to stand behind the wall ride. It crossed my mind that if someone went over the wall ride, that I would have a mouthful of tire. Let's just hope it doesn't happen. First lap of Cat 1 and 2, I stood after the apex of the turn. Second lap I stood on the opposite side. And now I started panning the camera as the rider went by. I wanted to get a certain shot that I had in my head, but wasn't quite able to. The panning was producing some cool photos, and I also changed to a slower shutter speed to get some effective blur. Also with my Speedlight flash, I'm able to adjust the exposure setting of the flash. I just needed a little bit of help from the flash, so I set it to -3. That's all I'm going to say about that.

After 3 plus hours of sitting by myself in the trees, I was getting bored and hot. Forgot my water in Dave's pickup so I decided to call it a day. Got some great photos and had fun riding out at Maskenthine. Thanks to all of the riders for being my subjects for the day. Sorry if I was a distraction to any of the riders as they were going through that turn. Nobody said anything but you can never tell.

Once the rest of the photos are done, I'll post them in Picasa and post a link.


  1. Those magazines like Dirt Rag should be knocking on your door. I know I look forward to your great photos and info. Thanks Mike!

  2. did you shoot any of cat 3?

  3. I did. What number were you or what were you wearing and type of bike and I can see if I have any pics of you.

    1. I was #498,wearing a The Bike Way jersey,(blue,black,white. A silver helmet, blue gloves, and a painfull look on my face! Thanks,

    2. Oh yeah, my e-mail is tkjbike@gmail.com

  4. I guess you did not find any pics?