Ten Steps to Better Mountain Bike Photos - 3 of 10

Step 3 - Don’t just stand there

Janne and Darcy, Åre, Sweden

Getting higher shows surroundings, as well as bringing more “history” to the trail.

Height plays a big factor in purging your shots of the ‘meh’ factor - that unnerving feeling that a shot is familiar or mundane. The thing is, the vast majority of us see the world at a height somewhere around five or six feet; we’re used to how the ground looks, expect to see a certain amount around us and feel comfortable with that. When you simply stand there and snap away, the results are comfortable, expected and boring.

Fortunately, it’s really easy to change all that - all you have to do is move around. Not just laterally around the subject, but in a vertical plane too. See the above photo of Janne and Darcy ripping through the lush Swedish countryside, taken from a perch halfway up a convenient tree (it has to be said I spend so much time in trees it’s become quite the source of amusement for anyone I shoot with). By getting just a few feet higher, the whole feel of the shot has changed. Because I can see more of what’s behind the riders - the trail stretching back and winding through the vegetation - a sense of history and place is baked into the photograph, telling way more of a story, not only of what’s happening right now, but what just happened.

Janne and Darcy, Åre, Sweden

Getting low removes a lot of context, but gives a unique perspective.

Naturally, the opposite is true if you get lower. This goes hand in hand with my previous tip of using the environment to your benefit (these things are all connected), but by getting right down you can not only remove much of the distractions of an environment but also erase a good deal of the implication of what’s going on in the shot. The above image was taken on the same shoot as the previous capture, but by getting lower I’ve hidden the fact they’re riding along a wide ski cat-track, and made a feature out of the bobbly little flower things (I’m quite the naturalist, I’m sure you can tell). All by simply lying down and shooting from a different perspective.

Next step tomorrow: Your camera’s a bully.

Did you miss anything? See all the steps so far.


I’ve got so much more to give

Dan Barham Photo Clinic 2011

Come to the Yukon with me. You’ll love it.

Want more info, as well as one-on-one help and advice? I’m running a trip to Whitehorse this June with Yukon company Borealé Biking:

Dan Barham Photo Clinic 2012

3 days of intense tuition, discussion, riding and awesome shooting possibilities in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever taken a mountain bike. There’s only a few places left, so if you’re interested now’s the time to book.