Panning For Gold

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Click on Danny for the full-resolution photo! [All Rights Reserved, Zach Faulkner Photography 2016}
  • This is my favorite photo of 2016 because it was a vision executed perfectly.
  • This is the best photo I’ve taken, to date (in my own eyes at least).
  • This is the final #panshotfriday of the year, and I think it’s the perfect shot to end on.

World Championships is an event about calculated risks:  Coaches push riders to ride harder, riders toe the edge of disaster in search of precious time, and mechanics tune bikes to the limits of their mechanical tolerances;  I wanted to give a World Championship worthy performance behind the lens.  I was under the gun to produce my best possible work, as I was on display as an individual, no association – it was just me, The Start Gate, and a week to try my hardest to produce top-tier content.

When Finals rolled around, it was sunny, the week’s wear was catching up to me, and trying to show the finish area of the venue in a unique way was going to be the Coup de Gras.  With a huge space as a canvas, and a 300mm lens mounted up, I wanted to get the most out of the lay of the land and my equipment.  I chose a perch atop a large mound of dirt (a jump from the 4X course) which gave me a 180* field of view, from the last 200m of course, all the way down to the finish line.  With myself in place, and settings dialed in, I made my Final Stand of the week with the last ten riders of the year still to drop in.

The idea was to use the dual setting feature on the camera to swap between a panshot on the step down, and a sequence shot through the corner, then possibly another sequence at the finish line.  It took a little patience to get the rhythm of the shot, as well as line up the appropriate focal points, but in the end, I managed to get it right when it counted the most:  penultimate rider of the day, and ultimate winner of the event, Danny Hart.

With this shot set up, it turned into a bit of a “spray and pray” gong show, just hoping that the camera pulled its weight, as I tried to keep its literal weight as steady as possible after a long week of shooting.  I will admit, that by my own standards, this is a little bit of a “cheater pan”, as it’s 1/40 sec.  But, I realized that I’d rather get the shot with the anticipated effect, rather than fight a 300mm lens at 1/25 sec and blow an iconic moment because of a personal hang up on a technicality.  Sometimes, the “Safety Pan” is better than no panshot at all, and I’m happy to have made the smart choice.

For me, this is what it’s all about:  taking creative risks.  I love photography as a medium, and it allows me to bring stories to life, immortalizing unforgettable moments in both digital copy and print.  These three instances of one larger moment show the intensity of the race:  Danny holds nothing back all the way to the line.  He sent it large off the step-down into the arena, then kept it ferociously wild through the second-to-last corner of dire infamy, and finally pedaled and kept it low to the line.  The timing board above the finish stopped working, so we were all uncertain if he’d managed to do anything remarkable.  The couple thousand spectators and all of us in the B-Zone held our breath as the announcers told us Danny had gone green, the fastest so far.  With only Troy and Aaron still to exit the gate, it was a tense ten minutes.  Troy didn’t quite find the speed, and it wasn’t to be Aaron’s year either.  In that moment, we all bore witness to the Triumphant Entrance of Danny into the annals of DH legend as he won his fourth race in a row, and his second set of Rainbows.  Amazing.

This is the sequence shot that came after the pan, just for reference to the text above. Click to enlarge! [All Rights Reserved, Zach Faulkner Photography 2016]
This is the sequence shot that came after the pan, just for reference to the text above. Click to enlarge! [All Rights Reserved, Zach Faulkner Photography 2016]

Click to enlarge! Finish line sequence for reference from the text. [All Rights Reserved, Zach Faulkner Photography 2016]
Click to enlarge! Finish line sequence for reference from the text. [All Rights Reserved, Zach Faulkner Photography 2016]
With Aaron Gwin dropping in last, and then blowing up his wheel, Danny Hart had done it: 4 race wins in a row, and his second set of Rainbow Stripes. Stupendous.
Danny Hart: 4 race wins in a row, and his second set of Rainbow Stripes. Stupendous. [All Right Reserved, Zach Faulkner Photography 2016]
This is what pride looks like. Pipo, the track builder, holding up the winning bike.
This is what pride looks like. Pipo, the track builder, holding up the winning bike. [All Right Reserved, Zach Faulkner Photography 2016]
Post Script:

As much as I’d like to say that his photo was good as gold, and produced a nice payday (the end goal and hope when it comes to shooting and producing quality work), it in fact did not.  After many attempts to entice brands with this unique shot of their star rider of the year, it was wholly rejected.  No one wanted it, not even an offer was made.  Now, I’m not complaining, it was just a puzzling outcome.  But, not all works get their just deserts, and so I am happy to have kept this one hidden away for the special “honor” of the Final Panshot Friday of 2016.  Thank you all for tuning in this year, it’s been an amazing and wild ride.

 

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