September 2014

On September 20, the 18 Hour Scouts Honor mountain bike race was held at Camp Brady Saunders in Maidens, VA. I had spoken with the organizers about documenting the event, but in a slightly different manner, and they were excited to hear my idea. Rather than capture action shots, which was handled by Mark Zaragoza, I thought it would be interesting to capture black & white portraits of the riders on a simple background. As the idea rolled around inside my head, along with the realization that some of these riders were going to be riding challenging single track trails for a period of up to 18 hours overnight, I began to see the possibility of capturing a progression, or at the very least, a before/after scenario.

Portraits of riders of the 2014 18 hour Scout Camp race

A couple Before/After images that seemed to work.

Portraits of riders of the 2014 18 hour Scout Camp race

I knew challenges would be many, as I would need to be set up outside to do photos for a period of about 20 hours. I wanted the look to remain as much the same throughout as possible, and this meant constantly adjusting my set up on the fly as the sun changed position, dipped below the horizon, and then snuck up again on the other side of the world 12 hours later. I found that flagging the sun worked fairly well, and then lighting with my own strobes, adjusting the flag as needed. At one point late in the first day, the sun, coming through a diffuser, took the place of my edge light.


The setup

The setup

I knew any amount of wind was going to cause problems with my background paper, which is why I selected a location adjacent to a 2 foot high fence built of 6×6 timbers. My sandbags helped the c-stands remain fairly stable, but using a ratchet strap to secure them to the fence was crucial. It was for the most part calm, but the wind did in fact tear the paper from the clamps at the bottom at one point, and it raised like a giant black flag into the breeze. The c-stands hardly wavered, tho, and I felt better about my set up at that point.


As a side note, the place of my set up provided another challenge I was unaware of. Unbeknownst to me, the 2 foot high fence served as the boundary for the rock throwing range. Of course, this attracted all the children in the camp to come and throw large rocks adjacent to all of my photo gear, which fried my nerves a bit. For those who do not know, a 3 inch chunk of gravel propelled by the errant hand of a 10 year old boy will, in fact, make a nice hole in Savage background paper.

Portraits of riders of the 2014 18 hour Scout Camp race

Another challenge I had in the morning was the heavy dew that covered everything. Much of the photo gear was fine, and the camera fared well, being covered in between shots (moisture on the lens was an issue for about a half hour period). But the background paper was streaked with dripping dew from top to bottom. Initially I thought it actually might photograph pretty well, and before I had a chance to test it, a rider arrived for a portrait, and this was done on the streaked backdrop. As it turns out, I did not prefer this look, so cut off the streaked paper and rolled out fresh for the remaining images.

Portraits of riders of the 2014 18 hour Scout Camp race

The biggest challenge I had was communicating with the riders what I was doing. It was somewhat last minute, and thus word had not gotten to the riders ahead of time. I did what I could to spread the word, but felt awkward at times approaching riders as they were just coming off the trail after riding intensely, for several hours. To those that did sit for me, I am grateful for your patience and willingness to get in front of a camera at what may not be your most beautiful moment. But the human spirit was evident, and there is certainly beauty in that.

Portraits of riders of the 2014 18 hour Scout Camp race

If I manage to get out there again next year, or attempt something similar at another venue, I will have the advantage of this experience and hopefully can spread the word of my intention ahead of time. But, then again, maybe I’ll be riding it next year!



I’ve been running around the woods and on the roads of the Richmond area for the past couple years photographing people riding their bikes.  It is exhausting at times. The incidence of poison ivy infliction and chigger bites goes up tremendously when you are standing just off the trail, in the knee and waist deep greenery, while others fly by.  Lying down trailside with my camera, as is not unusual for me, only compounds that fact.

For once, I thought it would be fun (and safer) to have them come to me.  So, yesterday, I set up a backdrop and some lights in my studio and invited members of the RVA Racing team to drop by.  Mykl, Eric, and Mike came by with their bikes, and we got some fun and interesting images.  And then we went for a ride…Studio Photography of Mykl Egan

Studio Photography of Eric Sanders

Studio Photography of Mike Sacks

And after the ride, I had to get in on it too…Studio Photography of Jeff Saxman

See more bike photos (and other goodies) at