Mountain Bike shoot with Conor Macfarlane

Last week mountain bike film maker Pieter Reichwein got in touch to say that pro mountain biker Conor Macfarlane from Queenstown had some features he wanted to shoot in Bannockburn, just outside of Cromwell. I arranged to meet the boys for a sunset and sunrise shoot to get the best light possible. Bannockburn is in the heart of Central Otago, with clay crumbling gorges, mounds and cliffs, perfect for interesting natural bike jibs. The evening was beautiful and we started to shoot. Conor had a multitude of different ideas, from wall rides, hand plants and cliff drops. I struggled at first to get what I was looking for but I started to work with the light and dust back lighting Conor, and began to get the results I was after.

Conor riding into his hand plant jib for the first time

The crew walking up to the next feature in the evening light

We walked up to a new area, and I noticed how beautiful the light was, streaming through the trees. I took some shots and then asked Conor to ride down as fast as he could towards me, past the thistles, leaving a trail of dust. I just LOVE moments like these, unplanned and not preconceived. This is my favorite part of photography…. Moments that just happen like magic, and you are there to shoot.


Conor walking back up for another shot

Conor’s wall ride

Shots always take a lot longer to shoot than you think. It takes quite a few times of the rider doing the trick until I find a spot to shoot from that I like. Trial and error plays a big part in setting up a mountain bike shoot for me. I experiment until I feel I like what I see… The light began to disappear fast and before we all knew it the sun had gone for the night behind the hills. This is the hard thing about shooting sunset. The golden light lasts a very short amount of time, and you need to be ready, as the sun wont wait….

Luke McCombie dropping in

Conor doing a flair on the small hip jump

After the sun had gone Conor and Luke McCombie started to session a hip that they had made. Conor was soon pulling flairs (inverted spins) and I shot a few frames. I struggled to make the jump look big, and even though what they were doing was very skilled, it looked small in single frame. On film it would look sweet, but stills didnt work so well. I tried to find interesting angles, but in the end I just gave up and watched these boys incredible skills with bikes.

Sunrise. The next morning we met just after 6am to start shooting. First was a step down that Conor wanted to back flip. The sun was still behind the Central Otago hills as we set up the shoot. This was another hard one to make look big. I struggled to find a good angle. I finally got one frame of Conor just after the sun crept over the hill that I am pleased with. I cant show it to you though! Here is one from warm up. All done with the help of my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra flash set off remotely with the skyport system. Couldn’t shoot mountain biking without it…

Conor hands free

After a decent session on the step down, we headed over to a cliff drop that Conor wanted to do a 360 off. The light was fantastic and I got some frames I am pleased with.

The boys sussing out the cliff  drop.

The last shot of the day was to be a line, steep as hell. Conor scaled up the sheer Central Otago crumbling face without hesitation and dropped into his line. 3 times he rode down this face, faster each time. Skills….

Conor scaling his line.

I definitely got some frames that I am happy with from the two shoots, its fun shooting natural hits, a bit like back country skiing, it gives more opportunity to get creative…