Photo of the Week 17 December 2013
Congratulations to Drew Wiedemann from Brooklyn, NY for his action packed Photo of the Week winning image “Colorado Climb.” We had the chance to speak with Drew about how he became involved in off road motorcycling and the way he is able to capture the sport’s culture. See more of Drew’s work on his website www.DrewWiedemann.com, his blog http://DWPhoto.tumblr.com, and follow him on Twitter @DWPhoto to stay up to date on his latest photography projects.
Where was the image taken?
Colorado Springs, Colorado
What was this shot with?
Camera: Canon 2D
Lens: 28-70L f2.8 (f7.1 @ 1/500)
Processed via Adobe Lightroom
What was this image taken for? (Personal, event, etc.)
This image, “Colorado Climb”, is part of an ongoing personal project, “Dirty Bastards,” which explores the action, equipment, landscape, and culture of off road motorcycling. The project started in 2006 when I was convinced to participate in a 1000 mile off road trip by a couple of friends who lived in Colorado. I was amazingly unprepared and instantly hooked. On this trip I purposefully only brought a point and shoot, as I was in desperate need of a vacation. After that trip, going through the snaps and editing them a bit, I realized I loved the imagery. Since then, the Dirty Bastards project has amassed over 60k pictures and I’ve traveled all over from Moab, Utah to Alaska.
Can you tell us a little about the process of how you came across this shot? Did you plan it out? Were you walking and saw an opportunity?
When I fly out to Colorado to ride and shoot, I always take a day at a practice area, set up by my friends, Brandon and Roberto who live in the area. I don’t keep a bike in Brooklyn so it’s a good time for me to get my legs back and get used to the altitude. The practice area isn’t big but it has excellent varied terrain. “Colorado Climb” came out of one of these sessions where one of the riders, Roberto was trying a new, technical line. I saw him going at it and decided to head over and shoot. It took around 30 minutes of failed attempts until he was able to reach the top. There are great sequences of him bailing out but I loved the plume of dust and dirt around him when he finally made it to the top. When you’re shooting action, even when you set up a shot, it’s still very organic. It’s almost a coordination between the photographer, rider, bike, and terrain.
Why did you choose to retouch the photo so it is black and white?
All of the work for Dirty Bastards is a black and white treatment with a split tone, which I jokingly refer to as, “Awesome Warm.” It’s a digital nod to how I printed in the dark room with selenium/sepia toning. As a rule, I generally prefer black and white but with Dirty Bastards, I was especially conscious about choosing it. Commercially speaking, motorcycle manufacturers are heavily branded to their color palette. If you open a magazine on motocross, nearly every spread will have a pristine bike, with factory colors, and a rider in clean, coordinated gear. It makes sense from a marketing standpoint, every bike is instantly identifiable even to those that don’t ride. The guys that I ride with, and most that I’ve come across, really don’t care about looks. The bikes have battle scars and the gear isn’t washed much less coordinated. Nothing is polished. To us, it’s not about how you look, it’s fully about riding. Stripping away the colors reduces the visual noise and lets me expose more of what I love about the sport.
Who are some photographers that inspire you?
Growing up, I always planned on being a painter or designer. When I was in my first year of art school, I attended a show of David Bailey’s, in Los Angeles, where he showed portrait from the 60′s, and decided right then and there I wanted to be a photographer. I had always been fascinated by photography but the cost of entry always seemed too much for me. When I saw David Bailey’s work I figured if I’m going to be a photographer I better do it now. Bailey’s work showed me that photography could can be as hyperrealistic or abstract as any other medium.
I also studied with photographer John Pack who was director of the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts on a tiny island in Greece. I learned camera and darkroom technique with him which was amazing experience. More importantly, he gave me my first real lessons in creative and critical thinking as an artist. 20 years later, I still apply those lessons every day.
What type of photography do you enjoy most for personal and professional projects?
My personal work is very much project based. But one project can be entirely different from the next. The project could be long term, like Dirty Bastards, which may have no real end, or it could be a short creative exercise, like my tongue in cheek Instagram project, “Seminal Work, 1-50,” that took less than a week. I keep a long list of ideas, some going back 20+ years, and I pull from that.
Professionally, I love shooting musicians and portraits but again, my work varies. I’m just as comfortable and happy shooting a tabletop still life as I am with photographing kids. I always try and bring something from my personal work into my commercial work, but I am always aware of what my client wants and do not expect my commercial work to be as creatively fulfilling as my personal projects. But, at the end of the day, any day I am able to take a photograph is a great day.
What inspires your photography?
Just like my work, my inspiration comes from all directions. When I’m shooting people and portraits, I always strive to capture some of the emotional depth of their character. I try not to over direct people, put them at ease, and focus on letting them be themselves. I try to get them to reveal a little more of themselves than just, “looking good.” I believe that is what makes a powerful portrait.
As for my work not involving people, I’m drawn to capturing the seemingly mundane with an unusual perspective. I’m really inspired by design, composition, and abstraction. I love the challenge of re-interpreting, or putting a spotlight on, things we see every day, take for granted, or just don’t see anymore.
Is there anything else you would like to include about your personal work or this photo?
I grew up on the Brandywine River in Pennsylvania in an area dominated by the art of Andrew Wyeth. Because I was young and exposed to his work constantly, I never cared for it until later in life. As I was working on the Dirty Bastards project, the images kept reminding me of something familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I finally realized, how I was shooting and processing the riders in these landscapes, with all the dried out grass, was totally reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World.”
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