Interview by Mark Noble
For this instalment of FIRSTS we track down Lloyd Ramsay – a rider who, after spending a few years in the UK, moved back out to South Africa to work in the bike industry, and then break out on his own to work on a new site and branding – or, as he puts it; “I wasted a large amount of time producing digital media for a bicycle company recently and decided I was done making other people rich and working on a BMX frame they were being underhanded with. So I started my own company. The focus is on the lifestyle and passion of people involved in Action Sports. No pro riders. No regurgitated videos / photos. No competition coverage. No press releases. Simply real people who pay for their own bike or skateboard telling a life story we all can relate to. The people that keep our sports alive. I’m not going to plug it and say what it’s name is, but I am sure readers will figure it out.” Prior to this, Lloyd has produced some really impressive video work for a wide range of subjects, from Rockstar’s BMX racing team to Nike’s Pool contest. So we figured it would be a good time to work out Lloyd’s FIRSTS.
First BMX bike you had:
Technically my first ever bike was a chrome something or other with blue parts and my brother had the same one but with red parts. When I quit racing motocross I said I would take up BMX racing but never did, and then many years later I got my first freestyle bike. I had just got out of a long-term relationship and felt that despair where you are not sure how to get through the next day. I was living in the UK at that time and walked past a bike store, which had a Haro Revo in the window. Right then and there I decided that I had to be on a BMX and bought it. I would wake up really early in the morning and go ride the local skatepark when nobody was around. That Haro got wrecked. Eventually I had to replace all the parts and the bike itself as I rode more and more. What that bike did for me was recall that feeling I got as a kid riding my blue BMX around the swimming pool pretending I was in a race. Simply going somewhere on your BMX was enough for me.
First BMX Video you watched:
It might have been Props 45 with Brian Terada on the cover during a Primo trip – their first DVD release I think – or it was Road Fools 10. I had kept an eye on the X Games in 1995 and 1996, but never knew there was so much more to freestyle BMX like the culture and road trips for example. It was new and very exciting. I had rider’s names to learn, unheard-of brands to buy and new ideas of things to try on a BMX.
First BMX event / comp / show you went to:
My first ever event. It might have been Board X at Alexandra Palace. I had seen variety shows held there on TV as a kid growing up in South Africa so was cool to see it in person and filled with people like me. They had an artificial ski slope out back littered with really cute snowboarder girls. Alistair Whitton was there and sat right in front of us between runs. I studied his bike and thought it was amazing that we pretty much had the exact same quality BMX. I was used to motocross where the guys with money have really exotic parts. Not BMX. Also this well-known rider was sitting right in front of me and so accessible. Some guy offered me mushrooms which was annoying, and Whitton started one of his runs with a huge wheelie across the park which I thought was awesome. Tobias Wicke was there as well and blew me away with his riding. I am a huge fan of the Wethepeople brand from their design to their bikes so it was a bonus to see one of their riders in the flesh.
First Video you watched and thought, ‘I’m doing this’:
There have been so many, but I would say there was definitely one in particular that I watched which sold me on the DSLR video thing. One of the guys I first started riding with was Craig Tull and he later started his own site called Emulsure. Craig produced an edit at Windsor skatepark and it inspired me to be ‘doing this’. Even though to this day Craig may feel that his work was futile, I would not be making video or writing this if his video had not planted that seed.
First Pro BMXer you met:
It would have been Jerry Galley. He knew some friends of mine so we got to talking one day at my local park in the UK. I recall something about his license being suspended. Shame on me, I actually had no idea who Jerry was until years later so did not think I had met a ‘pro’ rider. Everyone in the park was all star-struck, but he was just another BMX rider to me.
First camera you bought to shoot BMX:
When I lived in California the Dew Tour came to San Jose so I asked Bart from Fat BMX if I could cover it for him. He said “sure” and I thought it would be a good chance to help out my friend Shawn who owned a Canon 20D and was interested in shooting for someone. Initially he said he was in and I had the words covered. A few days before the event he changed his mind which left me in a lurch because there was no way I was going to shoot photos on a beat little Sony pocket camera. I bought a second-hand Canon Rebel XT with the stock lens and shot the event myself. These days I shoot video and still shots on a Canon 550D. I will only shoot photos on the odd occasion. Instagram and similar apps have made everyone a professional photographer these days so I only do it for fun. If you think I am wrong, take a look at the work 13thWitness does with his iPhone camera.
First rider you photographed:
My friend Rick. Not for a magazine or money or a website but simply for the want of making something that I was stoked on. Nobody will have ever heard of us or seen the photos but it was for the only reason we believe in: fun.
First trip you went on to photograph or film BMX:
I shot photos on a lot of road trips, but mainly for my own edification. Perhaps the first one was with a group of friends when we went to a competition in Reno. I have actually never been on a trip for a company as such — there was an opportunity once to go along on one, but I didn’t like the mix of people and did not consider any of them to be my friends. The name of the park escapes me now and it was owned by the Flatlander Gabe Weed and his wife, who were great to us. I love travelling and value time with my friends, so I had an awesome time shooting photos even though I didn’t even ride. I self published a short book and wrote about the trip in one of the chapters actually. If you search for “3mer1ka” on the iTunes store it’s free. Complete with spelling and grammatical errors.
First professional job for BMX photography or video:
My writing was published first and then the bulk of my photo/video work appeared on Fat BMX. Bart has always been so good to me and supportive which means a lot because I have had many, many rejections from editors. I did a shoot in LA once and submitted one of the photos to a well-known magazine which in turn was rejected. A few years later the same photo appeared in a full page ad in the very same mag. I had to laugh as I got my first published image with them whether they liked it or not, haha.
First mess up:
Almost every single photo I took at that first Dew Tour. I mangled the art of photography that day. It was very stressful. There was no way I wanted to let Fat BMX down so I put a lot of pressure on myself. Shooting on auto the Canon was not cutting it, so I tried manual and fumbled around with shutter / aperture / ISO the entire time. I only have one photo left from that event and it actually came out decent since I was clueless with a camera. It was a shot of Mike Mason the FMX rider throwing the devil horns. To get the shot I had to move into an area where no media was allowed and got asked to move eventually. I feigned ignorance and the lovely lady from the Dew Tour was fooled. I was still clueless of how to consistently take good photographs but learnt that day to follow your own path and think outside the box with your camera.
First photo in print:
Unfortunately, I do not remember when my first photo was published – I have three concussions on the clock. I had copy published in BMX Rider in about 2003… so maybe in 2006 I got the front page of a cycling newspaper in California. Not sure, I lost all the magazines I had work printed in. I am going to mess with this whole interview format and recall my last photo in print: the shoot was with a future BMX Olympian for a Surfing magazine aimed at teenage girls. Is this what my life has come to?! Haha… The editor had no budget to pay me and they printed my photo credit in barely legible point-2 font simply as ‘Ramsay’. Like I am famous enough for anyone to read that as: “Oh yeah, that’s Lloyd Ramsay’s work!”. The positive is that I did the shoot to help the rider out. There is a reason there is only one Albion in the world.
First video published / featured:
My first ever video in earnest was an interview with a downhill MTB racer. I shot it on a cheap Lumix in a parking lot using his car headlights for illumination. The colour of course was disgusting so I simply turned it into a black and white video. That’s my advice on saving any image: de-saturate. I was happy making it because I could combine my journalism, photography and editing all into one piece. It is always a creative challenge and I enjoy trying to give each edit its own personality and style.