It’s simple, ride your bike every day in April. Lots of people seem to be doing it and as I need to really up my fitness ahead of some big trips coming up I thought I’d get in on the action. I’m taking a photo of each ride too, you can keep up with these over on my instagram feed www.instagram.com/cmjdavies

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There’s a feature going out in Singletrack Magazine this month which we shot up in the Rhinog Mountains in North Wales over Christmas. You can see it online here: http://singletrackworld.com/2014/02/issue-87-sneak-peek/

Here’s how we did it….

Whilst I know we make it look like a few of us head out, ride our bikes and take some pictures there’s actually quite a bit of prep that goes on before we hit the trails. I chat with the Editor and Art Editor so we know what style of shots we need and really important for me is to agree a shot list. I speak with the riders and talk through the magazine’s requirements and ensure things like bikes, clothing and equipment are befitting of the article being written.

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The night before it’s time to get all the kit ready. For a shoot like this I’m prepping three cameras (although I only carried the 5D3 and the little Fuji x100s on this one), a selection of lenses (I think I took a 24-70, 70-200 and 50mm), batteries, cards, remotes and a small tripod. With the weather being very changeable everything is in weatherproof bags. 

As this is a riding shoot, meaning I need to do the whole route on a bike too, I also need to consider myself so packing as light as I can get away with means I leave out things like flash and some of the other lenses I’d normally carry. I also need to leave a bit of room for some butties and a flask!

It’s an early start, 6:00 leave from home to get up to Wales and meet the riders for a quick briefing before we head out. I’ve worked with Tom before but Greg is new to me so I like to have a quick chat so we know how to work with each other. We go over the shot list and agree how we are going to do things. For me it’s important that everyone has fun and we don’t become slaves to the photography - these guys have travelled a long way to do this ride - but we do have a job to get done.

We load up and head off. I sit behind the riders to begin with, looking around for the backgrounds we need. The start of this ride gains quite a lot of height so we didn’t want to be stopping too often. We grab a few frames to show the changing terrain and move on to find the bridge that the route is named after - Pont Scethin. It’s crucial to get some good images here, from plenty of angles so we take our time. The clouds roll in and out giving us some awesome lighting.

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 There’s a lot of pushing on this route too!

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As it’s a pretty cold day I try and minimise stops and keep the athletes moving. There’s always a few times you need to ask them to ride a section ‘one more time’ so you need to keep them as happy as you can! 

It’s probably a good time to mention personal organisation too. Having your kit organised well in your bag means you know where stuff is when you need it. That way you change lenses quickly, keep them nice and clean and lessen the risk on damaging anything. The quicker you can be with your kit, the quicker you can move on to the next shot.

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Lunch can often be on the top of the hill where it’s drizzling and blowing a gale but it’s a good time to check through everything - including progress against the shot list. 

The afternoon on this ride had most of the singletrack we had come for. To get the shots of the guys really smashing it I go on ahead with the only instruction being  ”give me five minutes”… enough time to find a location, get my bike out of the way, set up the camera and shoot.

I’m really pleased with what we got. It was a freezing cold day and although the route was short it was pretty tough. The light was crazy with rich egg yolky yellows colours coming from the low sun with intermittent ghostly cloud blowing through. The scenery seemed always to be in front of us which was a challenge as I’m not a fan of bum-shots but by moving around, looking for different angles we managed to fulfil the brief.

Check out the feature online or on the Singletrack Mag App although to really appreciate the pictures I’m a huge fan of the print mag… available in all good shops!

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We shot this cover near to Malvern only about 30ks from where I live. Whilst it was great to get a cover shot in my beautiful home county of Worcestershire, the two ladies, Amy and Rachel, are from the Worcester Breeze Network a local ladies only cycling group.

We lucked out with the weather, it stayed dry but was terribly cold so it was a shoot where we all had to keep moving. It was a shoot where we broke the rules too. The original brief called for a single rider, centrally positioned. Of course we did these but I always like to throw in a few extras for the art editor and I’m really pleased they chose this one.

For the camera nerds: the setup used a couple of stobes either side of the riders, just to separate them from the background a little. Not too much to appear obvious though.

Huge thanks to the editor Lara who took care of the riders, bikes and clothing. 

Mike Summers and I pulled together a little piece on this weekend’s #MTBMeetup  and it’s going out right now over on SingletrackWorld, Check it…

http://singletrackworld.com/2014/02/riding-bikes-tweeting-tweets/


I like to refresh my snowy images as early as I can in the season so I flew out to Innsbruck just before Christmas. I drove up to the tiny village of Galtuer, one of the highest in the Austrian Tyrol and spent a week shooting the beautiful landscapes day and night. The skiing was pretty good too!

See the full-res image here:
http://www.chrisdaviesphotography.com/Other/Art-Work/i-M6vbNpm/A

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I know it’s a strange post for a photographer but in the ten years before going pro I was a Crime Analyst with West Mercia Police. I have a Masters Degree in Crime Science from the Jill Dando Institute at University College London. 

In my capacity as a bike enthusiast with experience of Policing I was asked to speak on the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Breakfast Radio show in response to some data they had which showed the Police recover very few bikes of the many thousand that are stolen each year. 

The question was put to me; who is to blame? You can hear the interview here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01jjzt8 forward to about 2:38.

I thought I’d expand on a couple of the points. You see, studying Crime Science taught me a recipe for crime which goes beyond just seeking out the offender. For a crime to take place, as well as a motivated offender you need an attractive target and lack of guardianship. Knowing this helps you design a prevention strategy. 

Sure you can try and catch the offenders but with only one in five thefts actually reported and such a low conviction rate this arrest-strategy for crime reduction will never be effective. More successful will be to look at changes to the “attractive target” and the places which lack suitable guardianship.

Place managers can improve facilities for cyclists. I mentioned a cafe in London (Look mum no hands) which provides bike locks. This is a great initiative, not only does it increase business but it means cyclists don’t have to worry about carrying heavy locks and they can enjoy their coffee knowing their bike is safe. If only Tesco had thought about this when they chucked me out of their store for going in with my bike because there wasn’t anywhere I was happy to leave it outside.

Despite the claims by the Bike Association, manufacturers could do more. RFID chips might not help with bikes that get broken down but they would make identification and ownership quicker to find out. 

I don’t think it’s helpful looking to lay blame. As I said on air, if we dealt with plane or train crashes in this way - looking to work out whose fault it was instead of investigating whether situational changes could be made - then we would still have pretty high death rates from crashes wouldn’t we? There is something fundamentally wrong in policing is we only think about crime in terms of offenders and not the wider situation, or why the crime occurs.

The way forward involves everyone taking a role. I suggest a few ideas:

- Lock bikes up but do it better. Lock them even inside garages. Encourage place owners to provide facilities for cyclists. I saw coffee shops in Melbourne where customers hung their bikes in the windows like art.

- Look at technology to make bikes harder to steal. RFID or built in locks.

- Encourage better reporting. Police Crime Analysts can get a better picture of the problem and can target resources more efficiently.

- Everybody needs to report suspicious activity. If people want to stay anonymous then use Crimestoppers.

- Don’t buy stolen bikes or parts. If there is no market then there is no point stealing.

- Reduce flyparking (locking of bikes in unauthorised places). Building better bike storage and locking facilites in areas of high flyparking.

- Set Traps. This is the bit the police need to do more of. Make it more risky for offenders.

If you’d like to know more then I here are a few sites that might be of interest:

http://www.popcenter.org/25techniques/

http://www.popcenter.org/learning/60steps/

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/jdi - tell them Chris sent you!

If you’re a place manager or a bike manufacturer who’d like to discuss anything I’ve written about above then please get in touch using the contact form on my website.

I’ll get back to the photos now :) 

When you are a photographer you rely on certain tools; your cameras, lenses, tripods, flashes, batteries, memory cards, models, locations, even the weather to help you get the shot. But really you’re only half way there. Printing is a huge part of the business. You have to give your clients the very best product or you’re selling yourself short.

What good is taking a great photo only to have the beauty compressed out of it printing in one of those supermarket machines or high street stores? To get the icing on the cake you need a printers who check over your images, lavish time on hand finishing your albums, use onsite craftsmen to build beautiful frames… even make their own bespoke cardboard boxes to reduce waste… This is why I use Loxley Colour.

A couple of weeks ago I called in to see first hand how my images images are turned into the products I give to my clients. The Loxley Colour Lab in Glasgow is enormous. Stepping into the glass atrium you are first greeted with the Loxley sign, shining proud over the entrance to a reception where all of the products are on show for you to see and try out. My friend from Smugmug, Alastair Jolly and Callum from Loxley took me to see where the magic happens.

I was particularly interested to see the Alumni products as these work awesome with my action sports images. I met the staff who make the wedding albums I use and saw how much care and attention they put into their work to ensure we, the photographers, get the products that make our images pop and our clients come back for more.

Think seriously about where you get your images printed and make sure you can develop a great relationship with them.

I’m really pleased to announce that soon you’ll be able to see some of my skiing and biking images hanging on the walls at Loxley and on their roadshows. Go along and check them out and see why I speak so highly of this awesome outfit.

Remember too, all images ordered from my website www.chrisdaviesphotography.com are dealt with and printed exclusively by Loxley Colour. Try an Alumni print, they’re amazing!

The blog is back! (My Mum will be pleased)

Travel Photography tips

Now that I’ve got my blog back on my website (my Mum pointed out she missed it when I relaunched with the new Smugmug) I’m going to make more of an effort to start writing again. I’m very lucky that I get to combine two of my passions in life, the outdoors and photography and I’m often asked about what I do, either from magazines looking for an editorial or by enthusiasts wanting to take similar pictures or sometimes just by people wanting to know a little more for general interest.

 

I love teaching and as I spend so much of my time learning I think it’s important to give a little back. Just last month I was contacted by a young chap who wanted to do a study on me for his course work and asked if I’d do an interview for him. Sure I’m busy and probably won’t get a great deal back from this but I learned a long time ago to always sweat the small stuff.  It was helpful for me too. It made me reflect on what I do and why I do it. It made me think about how I do it too.

 

That was useful when I got asked over on Facebook: How do I take photos like yours?

 

It’s quite a general question but I dug a bit deeper and it was more around the travel photography I shoot. I don’t really have a handbook on this, maybe I should, but here’s an insight into a few things that I think helps take great travel photography.

 

Three simple steps - I love to teach and whilst there are many technical aspects of photography that take years to learn and master I tie the basics down to three simple steps, background, lighting, subject. Most people go for the subject first, but if the background is rubbish it will ruin the shot. Equally you might find the most amazing subject and background but if the lighting is too bright or too dark (and you can’t correct with flash, tripod, filter, ISO etc) then you can’t have the shot. When you find what you want to shoot, run through these few steps. Walk around a bit and check you haven’t missed something. Frame it up then grab the shot.

 

Indulge – Don’t be one of these people that has to have a photo of everything. Find things you are interested in. Find out about what your subject is doing and why, talk to them. If you can’t, read a guide book about the place you are visiting, what is the history? Why are these people here or what does this landmark symbolize? Being interested makes you interesting and this will show up in your work. This will help you take photos that tell great stories instead of snaps that say ‘I was here’.

 

Practise – I like this one as it mean you’ve got to keep travelling! Although I think a lot of great travel photography is having the balls to take a shot where others wouldn’t. The street vendor, shop owner, kid on roller blades, lady walking her dog…. You know, the kind of thing where they give you the look that says either ‘don’t take my photo’ or ‘I want paying if you take my photo’. How do you get good at overcoming this? For me it’s Street Photography. Google it. You don’t need to travel to do street photography just head into your local town at the weekend. Go to the market, find the colours, patterns, interesting people. Find out what works, is it a tight frame, or a shallow depth of field? Is it posed or completely natural? Slow shutter speeds will give crowds movement showing the scene alive. What time of day works best? I spent years doing street photography, and I think it developed my documentary style that comes out in my adventure work. It’s a useful skill to have and it’s come into use even in my commercial work. I find I get ‘the shot’ a bit quicker than some would imagine without having to keep asking models to re-pose or go around again. Thinking about it Street Photography gets you on the ball, you will always have your camera ready and you’ll know how to flip settings without having to look. These are great skills to have for capturing the moment in a world that can go past at 100 miles and hour.

 

Hopefully that’s given a little of an insight into my mindset and some inspiration to go out and shoot.

 

I’ve got a few ideas for the next post but shoot me a message on Facebook or Twitter or G+ if there’s something burning you want help with.

 

By the way, anyone fancy a photowalk?

The new +SmugMug 

I’ve been a customer with Smugmug for over six years and always had a great relationship with them. When I turned pro just over a year ago their awesome team helped me through the complicated process of customising my site to make it better appeal to my audience of editors and outdoor companies.

You can imagine how stoked I was when a couple of weeks back I got the top secret call to take a look at the new site before launch. Isn’t it just amazing? What budding pro wouldn’t use them to host, promote and sell their images? It’s so easy now to create a stunning site with all the fantastic features that come with being a Smugger. I’m still putting the final tweaks before I launch my new look next site week but it’s looking awesome and so fresh.

The second, and really cool announcement is that anyone checking out the new themes is looking at my images right now!  +SmugMug are using some of my work in the MAX template so my images are popping up on desktops all over the world alongside fellow#Smugmugpro photographers +Ivan Makarov +Kevin Winzeler +Scott Kelby and +Michael Bonocore. Pretty cool for a kid from a small town in England eh!

One of my favourite images from last winter is the main feature in this article on my photography in the current issue of Turning Pro Magazine.