Recently I had a chance to photograph the Tenino Motorcycle Drill Team, a group of motorcycle riders who perform choreographed stunts for crowds. The Chronicle (Centralia WA) had me shoot this assignment for an upcoming Life section article. Writer, Carinna Stanton and myself met up at the base of the tower at the Olympia Airport where the team would be practicing. We were greeted by 8 stereotypical looking bikers, all of which were VERY friendly. Tom Iyall, Scot Haskell, Jerry Rowland, Dan Wojtech, Chad Bowman, Ed Phillips, Jesse Lamp, and Gary Young made up the group. Out of the 8 bikes, 7 were Harley Davidsons, 1 was a Can-Am Spyder or a "Snowmobile" as the rest of the guys joked.
The Tenino Motorcycle Drill Team, from left: Tom Iyall, Scot Haskell, Jerry Rowland, Dan Wojtech, Chad Bowman, Ed Phillips, Jesse Lamp, and Gary Young. Not pictured: Wayne Mudartegui, and Steve Lorenzo.
I was impressed by the maneuvers that the team put on, and it was a very fun assignment to shoot. The airport was a great place for it, the backgrounds were fairly clean, and the clouds in the sky created a nice effect as well as a nice soft, even light. The conditions were ideal.
The Tenino Motorcycle Drill Team rides in formation during a recent practice at the Olympia airport. For the past 32 years, this non profit group has performed at variety of events throughout Washington state, all for the love of pleasing crowds and riding their motorcycles.
I always want to make my images interesting, and one way of doing that is by finding different angles, perspectives, and composition. Carinna suggested I hop on the back of the "Snowmobile" and get a riders perspective during some of the maneuvers...GREAT IDEA! I hopped on and began firing away as we followed the group up and down the strip. At one point we performed a "Suicide", and that made for one of the best images in this set.
Rider Jerry Rowland, pilots his motorcycle through the middle of his oncoming teamates, performing a manuever called a "Suicide".
Every year, Landon Currier and his crew seem to put on more and more camps for motocross riders looking to hone their skills on the track. Spring camp, Summer camp, Fall camp, and small sessions around local NW tracks in between keep Landon and his fiancé, Justine, very busy.
Anytime there's a camp in session, I always make a point of stopping in, saying hi, and taking some photos of all the students. Young or old, there is something for everyone. The advise and relationship between the instructors and riders is second to none. "Keep your elbows up", "lean back more in this section", "weight the outside peg when in this corner". The words of wisdom don't fall upon def ears, young and old alike, they all soak it up, and can be seen improving lap after lap.
Woodland MX played host to Currier's camp this time around, and the weather (at least on Saturday) couldn't be better. With somewhere close to 40 riders spread out between 3 different stations, instructors, Landon Currier, Alyas Wardius, and Darrin Currier (Landon's father) schooled the riders on starts, corners, jumps, passing, and everything else in between.
I was able to gain press credentials for the Tacoma Arenacross. Originally, I had an assignment to follow around a couple local riders throughout race day, but those two individuals ended up not racing at all that weekend. So I decided to go shoot the event anyways, who wouldn't?
After picking up my media vest- which was the sickest photographer vest I have EVER worn (so many creature comforts, and BIG pockets)- I worked my way around the pits. Never attending an Arenacross event, I was intrigued at how the pits were setup. I'm used to the typical outdoor, out of the back of a truck pits. This however was just a bunch of pop-up canopy's and bikes everywhere all willy-nilly like.
I then made my way out to the track, and was happy with the layout. Typically, at a Supercross race, there are very few areas you can shoot from. Due to the tight confines of stadiums, and the unpredictability of riders at time, it's important to keep photographers in a "safe" spot to avoid any collisions that may occur between an out of control rider and any media person that isn't paying attention. Tacoma's layout was great, I could navigate from lane to lane without having to cut the track (which, by the way, is a no-no). Lots of room to stand means I'm not pigeonholed with all the other photographers, and getting the same photos.
The remaining evening was spent running up and down the stadium, getting different angles and enjoying the freedom of being able to go wherever I needed to get my shots. Although I was unable to get the shots of the riders I was originally there for, I did meet some cool people, and got some sick shots.
Shout out to Mike Vizer (@mikevizerphoto) for giving me the run-down before the start of the show. I had no idea what to expect or how the night show was going to play out. It was a bit different from a Supercross, and a lot more fast paced.
Let me preface this blog post by saying: I realize that I typically shoot photos of everyone at the track, and thats what I've done for a long, long time. This time however, I did not do that. I used this weekend as an opportunity to learn the track, find the good angles, and just to simply have a good time. Being on the track for every moto, and trying to get a quality photo of every single rider is a difficult task, and rather than use up loads of memory shooting some mediocre images, I would experiment with new techniques and take the day to learn.
My Wife and I left Chehalis around 2:00, en route to Richland. It was a beautiful drive that I could get used to taking several times a year.
My original plan was to get to the track and have enough daylight to pull a few riders and their bikes aside and take some portraits, but thanks to several stops during the drive, that plan didn't work out. Instead, we found our camp spot, and setup our tent. With a little bit of light left after the sun went down, we walked the track to get a feel for what I needed to look forward to. I snapped a few shots of the tractors doing maintenance , then made our way back to the tent to turn down for the night.
Saturday morning, 6:00am. Rise and shine, Jesse. It was cold, and difficult to sleep in, so fuck it, it's time to get ready for the day. I started by taking some photos of the CATS doing more track work, then wandered back to the pits to catch some early morning prep by riders and their mechanics. Stopped by the Motosport Inc tent, to find Brett Cue and Rory Sullivan setting up shop.
Practice comes around, and like any practice, it's chaos. All I can really do is identify the riders I know and start paying attention to who's doing the cool stuff (whips, scrubs, going fast in general). Right off the bat, guys are throwing whips, and hauling ass in the pro/intermidiate class. I locate Barn Pros rider, Chris Howell, the number 91 is scooting along at a fast pace, and looking smooth. I also notice the 910 machine of Carson Brown, that kid has some style! He will be one that I will keep my eye on for the rest of the day.
Some of you may have noticed my Wife and I out on the track with a big flash, and wondered, "what the hell is that"? In the spirit of trying something new, I stepped out of my comfort zone and added a different style to my photos, one that I've never done, at a track. Ever pay attention to the factory riders? Specifically the photos of them on the posters that they sign at Supercross and the Nationals. They all have a polished look to them. The colors are crisp, there's no glare on the plastic, shadows seem to be non existent. Thats because they are lit with high powered strobes, much like you would find in a studio. Turns out, they do a great job at overpowering the sun, and make for a VERY unique look.
Needless to say, the day was amazing. I had fun, I learned some stuff, met some fellow motocross photographers, and discovered that I love the facility there in Richland. I look forward to hitting up the final two rounds of the NW National series when it comes to Burnt Ridge, and seeing many of you again. Enjoy the rest of my favorites from Saturday.