Caught on Camera featuring Chris Smith

Street riding is a tricky business in the cold dark depths of winter in the midst of a heaving post Christmas rush hour. Chris Smith, freeride extraordinaire, from Frome had his work cut out battling the throngs of bustling commuters and dodging the single minded motorists.

 We had set out to try to achieve a CCTV style photoshoot on streets of central Bristol, the creative idea behind the photographs was dark, high perspective shots, cut with incredible street manoeuvres from Chris, along with a slightly illegal, miscreant agenda . Taken as though each shot had been captured by ‘Big Brother’.

 We always knew this was not going to be an easy achievement, for multiple reasons. For one thing, nearly every great street spot in Bristol is either on private property or public property heavily guarded by security. There was also the height issue to contend with. CCTV camera’s are set high up, to catch a wide field of view; this meant we had to use ladders, boom arms and any available wall/trees to get a high enough perspective to make each shot look believable.

 When you are working with such tight parameters, every photograph becomes a challenge. It would be oh so easy to get up close and personal when Chris is riding such incredible features with such style and ease. But you have to remember to take a step back, think how and where a CCTV camera would be placed along with remembering that, although it has to look realistic, it has to be great photo as well.

 Luckily this is where Fin excels, despite the bitter temperatures, his photographic eye was on fire. Propelling us through the streets of Bristol with creative enthusiasm and child like excitement, he threw himself up walls, ran to the top of multi story car parks, scrambled to the top of ladders and snapped incredible shot, after incredible shot. This project was published in Mountain Biking UK as a four page feature, to achieve four pages of publishable work in a single evening is testament to the craftsmanship, skill and passion Fin has behind the lens.

 Of course, none of these shots would have been possible without the incredible skill and confidence Chris Smith has whilst riding a mountain bike. The structures he was choosing to ride on were just mind blowing, pieces of architecture that even Parkour athletes would struggle to tackle. And the consistency is outstanding, he can pull the same trick over and over until we get the perfect shot. For example, the photo taken from across the road looking past the pedestrians was absolutely crucial to get the correct timing on. With cars and buses only being stopped for a short while by the pedestrian crossing we had to time the trick, the traffic and the people walking across the street perfectly for the camera to be able to see the rider. This also relied on each piece of equipment working in harmony in the freezing temperatures from 20 metres away, not an easy task. But every time Chris nailed the trick and made the timing the only thing we had to worry about, as photographers, you couldn’t ask for more.

 This project was a great challenge, it was something that inspired both rider and photographer and we were able to get completely creative and free with ideas and locations. Even when it came down to the after effects and editing of the photo’s, as that is what really made them stand out in their CCTV style; The small details – making them black and white, creating grain and making the photos look low resolution, along with adding the time and date.

With this photoshoot more than most, it was the detail that really made the difference.