Riding spots are literally everywhere if you happen to know what it is that you are looking for. To the average person, a set of stairs with a handrail is just that; but to a rider it’s an entirely different story. I think that once it’s in your blood you will never be able to look at a city in the same way again. If you have the eye for it and know what makes a spot a good spot that will never change. Riders spend days, weeks, months and years looking for spots. Some riders like rails, some like stairs, some like gaps, some like technical set ups, some like ledges, and some like whatever it is you put in front of them. As a photographer it is my responsibility to have a solid directory of spots ready to go for any riders that are down to shoot. Over the years I have spent countless hours on the hunt, always visualizing how certain tricks will look on certain set-ups. When a rider comes to town, I always need to be ready to cater to their specific style and bring them to spots that I know they will be pumped on. Basically I wanted to take some time and talk about all things spot related. If I have your interest by now, keep on reading and enjoy this weeks TTL.
The search is always on. No matter where you are in the world spots will show up all over the place as long as you know what it is that you are looking for. You really have to analyze spots and imagine certain tricks going down on that specific set up. Essentially you can have the best rail that you have ever seen that happens to have a shitty run-up, which leaves the rider with no set up time making it pretty useless. On the other hand, you can have the most amazing rail ever and you just need to find a rider that’s down to send it.
When it comes down to it, there are no rules to riding spots in a certain way. That is what makes BMX so unique is having almost limitless options when it comes to a good set up. Take a good rail for example. With a talented rider that has four pegs, it’s almost crazy to think of how many tricks are possible on that single rail. It all depends on the rider’s ability to visualize the tricks going down. Then it’s up to the photographer to take all of the elements and put them together to make the best photo possible.
I tend to also search for spots that simply look aesthetically pleasing to the eye to be honest. As a photographer it’s my number one job to show up to a spot and make the photo look good with the set up that is there. Typically it’s a lot of pressure to work with the elements you are given depending on the surrounding scenery. The lighting could be off, something could be in the way of shooting it how you think might look best, there could be people in the background taking away from the main focus; whatever it may be, those are problems that as a photographer you need to learn how to overcome.
It’s about doing the spot justice. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you can’t make a spot look big enough even though it might be. That’s when you need to really understand the importance of checking your angles and then double-checking them after that. Especially if you have a rider that is putting his body on the line to get the trick the last thing you want to do is not be sure of yourself on the angle. If you get nervous about it, then the rider gets weird about it, and the vibe is ruined. You need to be checking fisheye, checking long and everything in between to make sure you are doing the trick proper justice. This may not seem that important when you are shooting with a few riding buddies but at the pro level, it’s not something you want to mess around with. Some of the stuff I have shot over the years has literally been so scary to watch that at times I swear I had my eyes closed during the photo cringing and instinct took over to make it happen.
Sometimes it takes a bit of searching to find the next best spot. Search neighborhoods low and high, cruise around and see what you come up with. You might be surprised. Check every alley, check every bit of your surrounding area and always keep an eye out for construction. That typically means something new is about to pop up, or something interesting might be temporarily set up because of the construction itself. The best part about taking different riders to the same spots is to watch them use their own style to put the spot to use. You may take five riders to the same exact set-up before anyone does anything on it.
Also, the best way to explore a new city is to hit it up on the weekends. Schools are closed, a lot of businesses are closed and typically you can get away with more so always keep that in mind. Schools can be just as good as any skate park depending on the set-ups you might find inside. Don’t be afraid to hop some fences and find a way in, you never know what might be right around the corner.
Well, there’s another TTL in the bag. Hopefully this gave you some insight into how important spot selection is not only for riders but for photographers as well. As always thanks for the support. Also be sure to check back next Wednesday for the forty-third edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at [email protected] and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @jeremypavia.
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