Oh man!! One of our biggest inspirations in the grey area between the photography and cycling obsessions, is our friend Damian Riehl. With a strong work ethic, a good eye, and a love for analog photography and vintage track bikes, Damian is a true legend.
Here’s some words and some beautiful black and white medium format/35mm photos from his experience this year at the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships in Portland, OR…
“Look down. Look up. Where’s the firm ground? Where are they? Shit. Do I go left? Maybe it’s less crowded that way. Maybe I can get around and into a better position. Maybe I should take this decent shot now, but I might be losing out on a better shot if I keep going. Damn it. Almost lost a boot. Watch where you’re stepping. Point those toes. Eyes ahead!! Run. Carefully, though. But run!!”
I am chasing after a gorilla in a cornfield trying, among many unknown other things, to capture him like some kind of Sasquatch, trying to keep my Nikon F100 from knocking my teeth out. Seems that wet suit material is great for comfort in a camera strap, but its elasticity while charging through muddy farmland is a bit like a hazardous bungee cord. But mostly I’m trying to maneuver myself and my Hasselblad for at least a couple shots as the racers sprint through a forest of corn, trying to find their bikes and ride into further chaos. I’m beginning to realize that I might be working harder, running with old heavy film equipment through mud in rain boots, than I might be riding through the peanut butter like everyone else.
But I’m pretty sure I might be having more fun, even if it’s decidedly different than being in the saddle. I got my my turns in on the bike years back when it was in Portland last, and I’ve shot it before back in SF with film as well. But this was different. SSCXWC 2011 in San Francisco saw me shooting film on assignment in very difficult light conditions with too many manual film cameras. I had only been shooting a year and I’ve learned a lot from the maddening experience. This was different. I had absolute freedom this year. I could’ve raced. I was signed up, but didn’t have the cash to afford it. Then I was offered another chance to register after it sold out, but I opted to shoot instead as photography is very close in competition with riding bikes to me. I even had a chance to take someone’s place the night before, but I had this plan set. I was going to relive shooting the event in San Francisco, and do it right.
And no matter, I was still holding my breath right until pulling the film from the tanks. I was still hoping the one or two snaps of the shutter here and there was sufficient. No 10fps here. Meter. Adjust. Focus. Shoot. Wind. Reload. Run. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
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