Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blood, Sweat & Gear - Cycling Adventure & Photo Shoots

This has become a annual trip during the Labor Day weekend. A group of friends converge on, what I believe is the best mountain biking destination on the East Coast, Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia.
As you can see from the image above, it's quite a view. At the top on the left side (white dots) is the resort and just past that is the house we rented for the weekend. On the right at the bottom of the mountain is the golf course. The area between is known as "The Western Territory", a series of downhill trails that is serviced by a lift in the winter. Elevation drops 1,500 feet in 1.5 miles. The trails are actually longer since they switch back down the mountain and you continue another .75 miles past the ski lift to the road and take a shuttle bus back up.

Details on the trails and video after the jump.

First day was my attempt a downhill riding. I'm a cross country rider and have attempted downhill before and a high speed crash has made me skittish about doing it again. I was convinced by my friends that I had the skills to ride down and that nothing was too difficult as long as I kept my weight off the front of the bike and controlled my speed.  Much like skiing, you link to different trails for a longer run. We started off on "Cupp Cake", then "Cross Over", "Ninja Bob", "Missing Link", "Powerline" and finished on "Short Bus". This was an equal mix of Green(easy), Blue(intermediate) and Black trails(difficult). Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Had I known that I was going down a Black run, I would have freaked and had more trouble. In hindsight, I couldn't tell a difference between the Blue & Black runs.

I found this video on YouTube showing the "Missing Link" section of the course. You can see how steep the course is when you see those riders climbing up the course with their bikes.
It was fun, exhilarating, and challenging. I survived unscathed. Unlike the riders in the video, I was not attempting any jumps or tricks. My objective was to ride the course and make it in one piece. Mission accomplished. Although I didn't want to press my luck on this trip by doing this course several times, I'm considering doing more of it next year. I'll have to make sure to bring the proper protective gear. I spent the rest of the day riding cross country trails.

Day 2 was all cross country riding and getting a workout in. It's this part of the trip that feels like a training camp and as tough as the ride is, it's still enjoyable and works up an appetite.

This shot was at the top of "Airport Runway" with cross country riders made up of Lisa, Laurie & Elizabeth. These ladies know how to ride, can keep up with the boys and even out climb the guys.
At this point we were only 5 miles into an 18 mile day and the toughest climb of the day. As you can see to the left (above Lisa's helmet) is the resort where our ride started. It was an easy 500 feet descent over 3.5 miles, then a 500 feet climb in 1.5 miles. Did I mention how great the weather was. Temps in the morning were in the low 50's and only got up to mid 60's in the afternoon.

After the 18 mile ride and some lunch, I headed down the other side of mountain to check out the stunt area and shoot some images. I had just gotten setup when I met up with my group of friends. I was able to get some nice action shots as well as some nice posed group shots.

The video below shows off the stunt area. As you'll see this area is built up specifically to push your skills.
After watching the video and seeing that there are easy lines to by-pass some features, I wish I had ridden this course. I'm already wanting to go back. Although I'm glad I didn't and got these shots instead.

The last section of "Raging Bull" has these 2 blue walls that I setup for my shots. I brought along my 580EXII, set it on the ground with a mini tripod. I wish I had brought a small light stand to get the flash higher off the ground as it was lighting up the ground as well.
I like these shots, but will try another setup next time. Maybe 2 flashes on each side on light stands.

The next stunt required bikers to ride these boxes with ramps at the end. Same setup as above with flash on the left side.

Next up was a group shot. This was one of the guys' idea and I think it work out really nicely.

Because I couldn't see Scott's face in the previous shot and he had to keep his eyes on the trail to make the landing, I changed my position to better see his face exiting the wall.
The second shot came out better in my opinion. By the way, we only did 1 or 2 takes on these shots. Just goes to show you how much riding experience these guys have.

I got one more group shot in before packing it all up. I could have shot for a lot longer, but it was already getting late and these guys were tired. When riding a course of this difficulty, you're only going to get hurt if you keep riding when fatigued.

I got some more cross country riding in on the last day. Discovered a new XC trail next to the house that was along the ridge, so no really big climbs. We did hook up to an easy downhill section that came out to the lake. I'll post landscape pics from the lake in another post.

After lunch, I setup behind the house to take some environmental portrait shots. This time I used a 60" reflective umbrella with a 580EXII. These were quick shots as they were heading out to get a couple runs in before the shuttle stopped running.

Lisa & Scott organized this trip as they've done in the past and it keeps getting better every year.

Dante. We joked about his prison striped jersey.

Elizabeth & Lisa heading out with the boys for some downhill.

Kenny, an all-around great guy and practical joker.

Ernest, he broke his collar bone last year. No injuries to report this year.

We all survived with a couple scrapes and bruises.  I love mountain biking and photography. A weekend of doing both, and hanging out with great friends, I couldn't be happier. Already looking forward to next year's trip. Thank you Scott & Lisa for organizing the trip.

If you're looking for a portrait photographer in the Atlanta area, visit my portfolio.

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