How I Got the Shot – Mountain Bike Jump

By Lane Erickson

“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Today’s How I Got the Shot image is about one of my other hobbies: mountain biking. I live in Pocatello, Idaho. The city I live in is surrounded on three sides by rolling hills and mountains. It’s a hidden gem for mountain biking.

After I moved to Pocatello, it didn’t take me long to find a group of mountain biking friends. We would ride in the evenings and on the weekends. Total fun. Except, the best time for mountain biking was also the best time for photography.

Every time I went riding I would see awesome things I wanted to photograph. The only problem: I didn’t have a camera with me. 

It was 2008 and the digital SLR I owned at the time was the game changing Nikon D70. I say game changing because this camera was the “bridge” for me between my serious film photography and digital photography. I could finally use my collection of Nikkor lenses on a digital camera.

Because the D70 was my only digital SLR, I was hesitant to take it with me mountain biking. The reason: I took my fair share of endos, spills and outright wrecks.  I really didn’t want to destroy my “nice” and expensive digital camera and my head told me that if I brought my camera it could easily bet broken

Despite my concerns, I listened to my heart instead and did take my camera gear with me on a ride. 

The Idea

It was a spring Saturday, in 2008, at around 11:00 am. As we were riding down the trail, we reached a spot where the trail dipped down. At the top of this section of the trail, someone had built up a small jump. Once I saw this I knew it could be a great photo opportunity. Now all I needed was a guinea pig. 

The Raw Image

I talked my good friend JB (first and last initials to keep him somewhat anonymous) into taking the jump. I positioned myself below him just off the trail.  He was a good sport because I had him take the jump several times while I shot lots of images at the highest frame rate possible, which for that camera I believe was only 3 frames per second. I was able to capture this image: 

Man mountain biking on trail in outdoors

The technical info for this photo is: Nikon D70 camera with the Nikkor AFS 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 DX kit lens, zoomed all the way back to 18mm. The exposure was ISO 200, 1/640 at f/8.  

The Published Image

Several years later, a local magazine started up. One day I saw that the magazine was seeking photos from the area. I submitted this one. A couple of months later, I learned they had chosen my image to be printed as the cover for their May/June 2013 issue. Here is the final published image:

Technically, this photo isn’t my best work.  However, given the camera/lens combo I used I’m happy with how it turned out. It just goes to show that you don’t need a pro camera or expensive lenses to create a great image. If I re-shot this image today, I would likely find a different angle and use the gear I have such as my Fuji X-T1 camera with a telephoto lens with a much higher frame rate so I would have more images to choose from. 

When I ride now, I always take a camera with me but it’s usually a pocket point and shoot like my compact Canon S110 (which sells for about $60-80 on ebay). It has a pretty versatile 24-120mm lens and can shoot in a burst mode . Additionally, it has both aperture priority and all manual settings, which I use regularly. Most importantly, if I wreck and break it, I won’t feel nearly as bad as I would if it were my expensive gear.

If I had listened to my head, I would never have brought my camera with me on that biking adventure. I’m so glad I listened to my heart instead and decided to bring my camera along.

That’s How I Got the Shot of the Mountain Bike Jump! I’d love to hear any questions, comments, critiques or suggestions you have.   Thanks for reading.

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