If you have spent some time in BMX, you have probably seen one of Cody York‘s photos. His photos have graced the pages of pretty much all of the major BMX magazines, ESPN‘s BMX site, Red Bull and more over the last few years. I figured it was due time to find out a little bit more about Cody, how he got into photography, what he has been working on and more. There’s a ton of real good photos in this, so make sure you take some time to check those out. Aspiring photographers, there’s plenty of advice in here for you too. So let’s find out more about Cody and his work…
Name: Cody Stephen York
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Years riding: 14
Years shooting photos: 14
Drew Bezanson / Ray’s MTB Park / Cleveland, OH / Client: ESPN
What was it that first got you into BMX?
My friend Bill Vasil lived down the street from my grandparent’s house when I was growing up. Bill had a GT Interceptor and would let me ride it. I was instantly hooked and eventually bought my own Dyno VFR to ride with him. We started building little dirt jumps around his backyard and would race each other around his house. We had a blast. That eventually led to riding the original Chenga World skatepark and the beginning of meeting new people and traveling. Little did I know those days would change my life forever, thanks Bill!
What made you want to pickup a camera for the first time?
Watching my friends ride, traveling, going to cool places, seeing amazing things happen on a bike and wanting to show what I saw to the rest of the world. My Dad shot photos as a hobby and owned a camera. He wouldn’t let me use it though because it was so expensive, so the first time he went out of town I used it without his permission and went down to the trails and started shooting pictures of Dan P’simer and Josh “Pickles” Shriver at a trail spot called, Coe Lake. I was so amazed by what they were doing, that I had to take pictures of it and show my friends. P’simer is still one of my favorite dirt jumpers of all time.
David Grant / Operativ DIG Ad / Muncie, Ill. / Client: Operativ
What was your first camera?
My first camera was a Minolta 400si 35mm film camera. It was a piece of crap and it eventually broke on me. The mechanism that held the mirror lock open when you attached the lens was made of plastic, not metal like all other cameras and the little arm on it eventually broke off. I used tape to hold the mirror open and shot with it like that forever, haha, so ghetto. I tried to sell it to a camera store but they laughed at me because they knew all to well about Minolta’s crappy quality. When I first started out, that’s all I shot was Minolta bodies and all Sigma lenses because that’s all I could afford. My second camera body was a Minolta Maxxum 7, until I eventually upgraded to Canon and haven’t looked back since.
Larry Alvardo / Portland, Ore. / Published in DIG Magazine
I know you have a real heavy camera bag these days. What’s your current setup looking like?
Haha, yeah, it’s gotten pretty ridiculous. Especially when I cram everything into one bag. My setup is constantly evolving though; right now this is what I have in it:
Digital: Canon EOS 1D Mark II body, Canon 70-200mm L f2.8 IS, Canon 16-35mm L f2.8, Canon 50mm f1.8, Canon 15mm f2.8 fisheye. I capture everything on SanDisk memory cards and use an Apple MacBook Pro 15” laptop on the road along with Bridge, Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture to edit.
Film: Bronica SQ-B medium format body, Bronica 150mm f4, Bronica 35mm f3.5, Bronica 80mm f2.8, 3 120 film backs and a Polaroid back.
Flashes: Lumedyne 400ws Action Pack setup, Quantum X5dR Q-flash 400ws setup, Sunpak 622 with a Lumedyne Ultracycler and a Canon 430 EX. I trigger my strobes with a Pocket Wizard TT1 transmitter and 3 Flex TT5 receivers and meter them with a Sekonic 558 light spot meter.
Bags: Lowepro Super Trekker AW II, ThinkTank Airport Security V2 roller bag and a Tamrac Expedition 8.
Accessories: Assorted umbrellas, soft boxes, cases, grids, gels, light stands, tripods, filters, etc.
Launchin’ Lance / Red Bull Dreamline / Wabasha, Minnesota / Client: Red Bull
Do you have a dream setup at all? What would you love to open your bag up and find inside?
What I dream to find in my bag someday hasn’t exactly been created yet. I’d love to have a Canon 35mm DSLR body that’s full frame, syncs at least at 500th of a second or higher and shoots 8 frames per second or faster. Other than that, there’s all sorts of lenses I’d like to own, lighting gear etc. For portrait work, it would be amazing to shoot with a Hassleblad body stacked with a digi back, along with some Profoto or Bronicolor strobes and modifiers. Someday I’d like to own a Hassleblad Xpan film camera as well.
Ryan Barrett / Solstice Trails / Portland, Ore. / Client: ESPN
I know you have had the opportunity to shoot with a lot of the top BMX photographers over the years. Who are some of your favorite photographers BMX or non-BMX?
Yeah, I’ve been really fortunate to shoot alongside and meet a lot of great photographers that I admire. In BMX, that would be Jeff Z., Rob Dolecki, Adam Booth, Walter Pieringer and Keith Terra. Each of these guys brings something different to the photo that I appreciate. Also, they all started out shooting on film, like I did, and I greatly respect that.
Outside of BMX, I would say my buddy Darren Hendrix (darrenhendrix.com), Atiba Jefferson, Joe McNally, Annie Leibovitz and Ansel Adams to name a few.
Chad Kagy / Woodward West, PA / Client: ESPN
You have also had the chance to shoot with a ton of riders over the years. Who are your top 5 people to shoot with?
That’s the toughest question ever but I’m going to fire it out! There are so many amazing riders that I’ve been fortunate to shoot over the years, including big names like Dave Mirra, Jamie Bestwick, Mat Hoffman and other legendary pros. Though, there are some other guys that I have a closer relationship with and have shot with a lot more. They all do insane stuff and always keep a smile on their face while doing it. They are, Aaron Bostrom, Justin Simpson, Josh Suhre, Jeremiah Smith, Larry Alvarado and Johnny Devlin. Ok, that’s 6 but I couldn’t leave out Devlin, I miss shooting with him lately.
Bobby Simmons / Akron, OH / Published in Ride BMX Magazine
Are there any riders you haven’t had the opportunity to shoot with that you would like to?
I’ve never shot with Van Homan, Mike Aitken or Ruben outside of a contest situation; so getting to shoot some other stuff with any of those dudes would truly be amazing!
You do a lot of photo work for ESPN and Red Bull. Who are some of your other highlight clients that you have had the chance to shoot for over the years?
Yeah, I consider myself very fortunate and am thankful to work with such a great list of clients over the years. Aside from ESPN and Red Bull, two other highlight clients that I’ve been working with lately are, the band Cloud Cult, and a new apparel brand by Josh Suhre, called Operativ (www.operativbrand.com).
I’ve been blessed to go on two national tours with Cloud Cult to photograph and document their live shows and shoot their PR photos. My involvement with the band has been a dream come true and one of the best experiences of my life!
Operativ has been just as equally rewarding because I love the brand, the team, and the art direction is simply amazing! Getting to be part of such a progressive brand from the very beginning has been super exciting and I can’t wait for the things we have planned ahead!
Cloud Cult PR Photo/ Minneapolis, Minnesota
Are you more into shooting events or getting the planned “I want to do this trick at this place” kind of shoots?
I really enjoy shooting both because they both require a different approach and have their own challenges but personally I like the planned, “I want to do this trick at this place” shot better. That’s because most of the time at events you can’t light the shot how you’d like and your limited with a certain background, ambient lighting, etc. I really like to take my time, have full control of the situation, setup up the photo perfectly and light it exactly how I want it to come out and capturing something completely original that no one else will have shot.
Scott Powell / Cedar Point Amusement Park, OH / Client: ESPN
You are constantly on the move traveling all over the place. Where have you been the past few months? What would you say your top 3 favorite places you have ever been are?
Yeah, this whole year has been crazy! I’ve been all over the U.S. ten times over but in the past few months specifically; I’ve been to Chicago a ton, Milwaukee, Detriot, Cincinnati, Columbus…pretty much all over the Midwest. I was in Minnesota for the Red Bull Dreamline event and last month I was in Portland, Oregon for 3 weeks. Later this month I’ll be back in Chicago for a hot minute and then I’m out to California from January 11th-27th. It just keeps going…I love it. My top 3 places that I’ve visited would have to be Portland, Minneapolis and Colorado. I love Portland the most though!
Scott Powell / Cedar Point Amusement Park, OH / Client: BMX Plus! Magazine
Does photography completely support you, or do you have some other jobs to help keep you afloat?
Yes, photography completely supports me. I’m 100% freelance and available for opportunities, so please check out my website at CodyYorkPhotography.com and feel free to contact me at email@example.com for inquiries.
Did you ever go to school for photography or was it something you had learned on your own? Do you feel college is important for something like photography?
I pretty much taught myself. From the time I was 15 until I was 22, I learned everything on my own from trial and error, critiquing photos in magazines and from pointers from other photographers like Adam Booth and Jeff Z. When I started out, I would shoot film and handwrite letters to Adam Booth at BMX Plus! Magazine and learn from his feedback until I started getting stuff published. After High School, I went to the University of Kent for photography but dropped out because I was already traveling a ton and shooting what I wanted. I didn’t feel the need to waste all that time and money going to school. Plus, the program was garbage. So I eventually went to a community college called, Tri-C and got a 2-year Associates degree there. I’m glad I did and I really enjoyed the program there. The instructors and facilities were top-notch. Ultimately, I don’t think college is necessary to succeed in photography but it can certainly help if you allow it too. Photography is endless, so there’s always room to learn more and I’m all about that.
Aaron Bostrom / Long Beach, Calif. / Client: ESPN
What kind of advice do you have for the people out there looking to get into shooting photos?
Make sure you’re passionate about doing it because it’s expensive! Haha, no but seriously, shoot things your passionate about and the rest will follow. Do it because you love it, not for the money. Start out by buying things you can afford, and be patient. Remember, you can never know everything, be open-minded, ask a lot of questions, be patient, and most of all, have fun!
Where do you hope to take things in the future?
I just hope to continue progressing with my photography; shooting the things I’m most passionate about, traveling, living life to the fullest and creating unique and captivating imagery for my clients.
Do you have any shout outs or thanks?
Definitely, big thanks to Brian Tunney at ESPN, everyone at Red Bull, huge thanks to Jeff Z. at Ride BMX for all the support and tips, Josh Suhre at Operativ, Adam Booth, DIG, Ride UK and BMX Plus! Magazines, everyone in the band Cloud Cult, Dave Jacobs, Aaron Bostrom, Larry Alvarado, Johnny Devlin, Dean Dickinson, my girlfriend Danelle, the Leftovers, my family, especially my Dad for putting up with me on this journey of mine. Dan Levin and Jonathan Wayne at Tri-C, Nathan Kostechko at (NathanKostechko.com), Kurt for this opportunity, anyone that’s shot photos with me, coffee and anyone that’s ever believed in me, given me a place to sleep, inspired me and all the people who have taught me to never stop following my dreams, thank you!
Anything else you want to say?
Live passionately. You never know until you try and in the words of Arlen Peiffer, “Don’t forget to smile!”