Jackson Hole is featured in the May issue of BIKE Magazine with 15 pages of writing and photos that feature the greater Jackson Hole mountain bike scene. From the Jackson Hole Bike Park and Cache Creek Trails to the riding on Teton Pass and at Grand Targhee, the article captures the essence of the local riding. Author Kim Cross was a cross-country mountain biker looking to step into the world of downhill and she dove head first into the valley’s trail network. Beyond just riding the trails and learning about the downhill aspect of the sport, Kim delved into the history of downhill trails in the valley by covering the Teton Freedom Riders, the group responsible for the bulk of the trail system on Teton Pass.
The Jackson Hole Bike Park also landed itself on the cover of the magazine, and the cover and all photos were shot by local photographer, Jay Goodrich. Jay’s images immerse you in the culture of mountain biking, from the trailhead to the apres-ride beers and all of the great action in between. Because the images had us beside ourselves with excitement for biking season, we decided to sit down with Jay and ask him a few questions about what it was like to shoot the images featured in the article (not to mention the hundreds of other publish-worthy shots that were part of the process).
Pictured: May 2014 Cover of BIKE Magazine. Rider: Kyle Dowman Cover Photographer: Jay Goodrich
PN: You moved to Jackson Hole fairly recently. What’s different about the riding scene here than you’ve seen elsewhere?
Jay: There are a bunch of differences. I think my main observation is what I would call “variety within proximity”. I have the ability to throw a leg over my bike in my garage and head out on a 20-30 mile cross country ride. Or I can throw a bike on my truck and within minutes ride chairs at JHMR, legendary trails like Lithium off of Teton Pass, or push through some epic hundred miler over in Idaho.
In addition to this, there is the access issue or should I say lack-there-of. There are amazing trails all over the U.S. Some have too many riding restrictions governing their use or others are down right completely illegal. Here we not only have done away with the illegal trails, we have National Forest Trails that are designated for Downhill Use ONLY. I am pretty sure that is a first.
PN: The article in BIKE features a ton of photos of JHMR athlete Andrew Whiteford. Could you describe the dynamic between athlete and photographer that makes a shot come together?
Jay: I think the photographer truly has to be able to adapt to any given situation. Pro athletes all have their own unique style. It doesn’t matter what sport is their focus. You as the photographer have to be able to identify their style and shoot imagery according to how that athlete performs. For example, some riders are great in the air, others are great at leaning into berms, and others can make a bland shooting situation look fantastic. If you can quickly identify an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses you can shoot that athlete for their strengths.
However, athletes like Andrew make it significantly easier to accomplish just about any creative idea, because they just say yes to every concept you throw out there. And yet they also have the ability to tweak their style to perfect the composition or even the focus of that particular frame.
The photographer/athlete relationship is as much of a mental game as it is a physical one. The more you shoot with someone the better the photos. Eventually it almost just takes a nod to communicate an idea.
Andrew and I shot together multiple times a week for two months for this project. We discussed a list of photos that I wanted right from the beginning. Towards the end, we were both just crossing things off the list as if we were in a grocery store. Then it was time for some major beer. Actually, that happened across the entire time frame.
PN: Often times when I’ve shot mountain biking photos in the past, I’ve found it difficult to capture the necessary feeling of motion/action. Is there a particular strategy you employ to make your mountain biking images come to life?
Jay: So I am going to get a little metaphysical on this one for a moment because I believe there are two answers that help define the question. First, if you know me the way my wife knows me, you would say I am a moody mother…(fill in the blank) Those on the outside would say I am passionate (that’s the nice way of coining my personality). But I guess what I am trying to get at here is that I wake up EVERY day, completely excited and stoked to be a photographer. I don’t care about downturned economies. I don’t care that the profession is over-saturated, devalued, etc. I want this, I am inspired by this, and gosh darn it I’m…(again, fill in the blank)
So you take all of this mental excitement and then you push it towards the actual activity and I then personally have the catalyst towards making me a creative guy. Now infuse this drive and creativity with hard work and the desire to suck up more knowledge than a sponge and you’re half way there.
So in comes the second part – knowing your competition, knowing what is being published, and then heading out there and using all of this to produce something that is akin to what the market is using. But you can’t stop there; you then need to make it your own. You need to say ok, I have something that is cool, now how do I make it cooler. Digital cameras allow for this in the field. I review every composition after I shoot it. And then I make guys like Andrew ride it again and again (probably 10 miles to my 1) always tweaking what I see in each trial and error shot. Sometimes my first shot is the best and sometimes it’s the last. I adjust my aperture, my shutter speed and even my ISO to allow for blurring or completely stopping that motion, but it also matters how you place that athlete in the frame as well. My best advice: keep the subject out of the middle to start.
Editor’s Note: If you are interested in learning about photography from Jay and soak up some of this passion in person, check out his multi-day photo workshops.
Pictured: Jay Goodrich captures a unique look at some of the riding in the Jackson Hole Bike Park.
PN: Mountain biking vs. skiing. What’s more difficult and which do you enjoy shooting more?
Skiing is way more difficult in my opinion because of a lack of a specific trail. When I am shooting skiing we use radios (when I remember to bring them), pointing, and the old snow ball trick (just pull pin and toss where you want athlete to land – works about 10% of the time). Mountain biking has that trail. You know exactly where your athlete is going. The only time adjustments happen is when they get way more air than anticipated, but for the most part the only time a bike is going somewhere unexpected is when there is a crash associated with it. Then I get pain and suffering in my photos too – true photo journalism.
I love shooting both because they are both my sports. And honestly, I don’t really care what is in front of my lens, photography is my life’s pursuit, so as long as I have that little black box in my hand, I can sleep at night. That’s probably a bit more info than you needed to know, but seriously, every assignment and contract possesses a different ending/outcome. I head out there and look to getting something I haven’t shot yet or trying something new that may wow the client a bit more than before. Mountain biking and skiing allow me to do this every day of the year so that keeps me inspired and on the lookout for subjects in either focus.
PN: Your ideal day involving bikes. Shooting and riding or just riding. Describe the day.
Now here is where I make a lot of friends mad…Shooting and Riding. Why? Because inevitably, when the camera is at home or in the truck, the sunset or air of the century unfolds. With that being said, I also try to let athletes/friends have fun when I am out there shooting. I try to think fast and move fast so they get to at least perform at a higher level than just standing around waiting for me to set up. I just want to ride sometimes too, and I think those bonds you create when you shoot with someone for an extended amount of time allow both things to happen. I will also try to plan rides without a camera if it is just a place I want to explore. Then I can always come back when the light and shooting conditions are optimal already knowing where the best images are going to be taken.
My perfect day would start early, with a cool breeze through warm sun. I would head over to Pearl Street Bagels in Wilson to grab a quad twelve ounce mocha (I lived in Seattle for five years) and meet a couple of friends (wife is already with me – my best friend and riding companion – see DirtRag #175). Then head out to ride laps on the pass, or put some miles on a cross country ride as the day warmed up. Camera would be attached to my eyes, and weigh in at half an ounce. I could shoot perfect compositions by just visualizing something as I rode by (almost in an out-of-body way). Then grab lunch at a place like Local (because money would be no object). After lunch do the opposite riding style of the morning, through sunset, again getting the best compositions and light. Finally, finish by getting some bourbon, tequila, and beer at a place like the Mangy Moose, Stagecoach, or VC. Also, hangovers wouldn’t exist. And my bike(s) would amazingly regenerate to a brand-new condition over night so that we could do it all over again tomorrow. The images would automatically be mastered and sent to the proper editors, who would only want images shot by me, and in hours would be on every cover for every corresponding magazine in the industry. In winter, you could change the word “bike” to “skis”. Wow, were only about 60% there in real life…not bad.