Sea Otter 2011

Sea Otter 2011 Discarded number

Tired as I was going in to the event I really enjoyed this year's Sea Otter Classic. Building on the experience from 2010 I concentrated on mountain biking and didn't shoot a single frame of the road race series. I experimented with a variety of angles and lenses, often in positions that were technically challenging and occasionally dangerous... once or twice during the dual slalom practice sessions I had to scramble to avoid being hit by a cartwheeling bike. I shot tight and shallow while riders passed me rendering auto focus tracking useless. I prefocused and tried to time riders entering the frame... which given the variability of line and elevation made for a low percentage of keepers. Nevertheless it made things far more interesting than shooting at f8.

Although there was broad participation from all ages in the various brackets, it was the energy, styling and lingo of the young riders that powered the event. Overheard. "I can't believe how loamy that sweeper was" and "I was all gooned out through that one" Riders' kit and bikes are festooned with branding: SixSixOne; FiveTen; Fox; Manitou; Commencal; Turner and of course, Specialized, Cannondale and Trek. Helmets, padding, masks, braces, provide some protection but I'm amazed at the sheer guts on display. When you consider how high and how far these riders jump, the number of crashes is surprisingly low, but when they do go down they take a pounding.

Here goes then with some of my favorites from this year's Sea Otter. For the record, in the first shot below I removed a bag hanging in the tree behind the young man... should have asked him to take it down as I spent about ten minutes trying to get a bike in the frame with him.

Downhill fly by Air Bag Flyer Air Bag Flyer Slalom Finals Orange Ambassador Keyhole Keyhole Madras Fezzari Specialized flyer Cross Country Trebon suffering backwards portrait backwards inverted bikes young love

10 Responses to Sea Otter 2011

  1. Tim Cox says:

    Fantastic stuff, Michael. Youth certainly doesn’t appear to be wasted on these young ‘uns. I love the first 3 b&w photos and the last one is smexy.

  2. Kris Morin says:

    You are an awesome photographer! I love the picture you took of my son (with the mohawk). You captured something in his expression that is always just below the surface. Excellent.

    • Thanks Kris,

      Your son was terrific. While taking the photograph he did a great job representing Unique Sports and the Orange brand. Thank him again for me.


  3. Pingback: Sea Otter 2011. photo session |

  4. yenlai says:

    great photography.

  5. Eric says:

    WOW. GREAT! work Michael. I always enjoyed your work but with this batch you really show how well you “see” the big picture (sorry :)) and have a great gift of telling the story of an event.

  6. Always at your happiest when right in the thick of the action Michael. You were lucky nobody landed on top of you, they do take some remarkable crashes and all in their stride, no time to cry over bloodied knees, up and on with the race, if it ain’t hanging off, move on.
    The adrenalin would have kept you on top form as we can see from the images. Well done again.


  7. Ryan Glaze says:

    Hi Michael,

    This is some really amazing work as always! I was out at Sea Otter photographing some races myself, only my third shoot so far, and would like to say that you have by far been the biggest inspiration to me when it comes to cycling photography. Many thanks for sharing your work!


    • Thanks Ryan. Getting out and shooting regularly makes a big difference… if I miss a couple of weeks, it takes a few races/events to get really sharp again. Hope you enjoyed Sea Otter, got some good images and made progress. The better we get, the higher our standards become…. never quite satisfied ;-)


  8. Ryan Glaze says:

    Never satisfied indeed :). Thanks for the reply.