Photo of the Week: Łukasz Suszczenko

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You might recognize the name as the winner of the Hop Photo Contest. Łukasz has a pretty impressive portfolio and this moody 180 caught my eye in the Flickr feed immediately. A cloudy day is a photographer’s dream because it’s so easy to create your own lighting when the sun isn’t there to interfere. Łukasz took full advantage of the conditions and created this dramatic 180 with just one borrowed flash.

“The photo was taken quite spontaneously. I bought my first professional camera in May 2013 and as soon as the weather got better, together with a few guys we visited one of our favorite spots – California Pool Bemowo, an old irrigation pool situated in a military-owned area. I brought with me a camera and a lamp that I borrowed from a fellow Slovenian photographer (Uros Rojc). After a few hours of riding, when I got tired, I decided to take some pictures, accompanied by Skater, who is always eager to participate in such projects. I set the lamp intuitively and we got down to the business. Skater made a turndown, a onefoot table and a 180 barspin. After one ore two attempts we were perfectly satisfied with the outcomes. Finally, I asked Skater to jump over an old tire that we’d found in a pile of trash. We dragged it all the way up to the slope, Skater made some bunny hops and said that he was able to make a 180. The first few attempts were quite painful – Skater injured his knee in a fall the previous day, so our shots were accompanied by great amounts of “FUCK, my kneeeeeeee”s. I thought that we were finished, since we didn’t want to risk any serious injury. But when I showed Skater the pictures I took, despite his condition, he decided to try once again. After only 3 more attempts I finally found what I had been looking for. I quickly returned home and for the first time decided to use Lightroom. After an hour or so I learned all the tools, made some adjustments and the photo was ready.



Rider: Łukasz „Skater” Wysokiński
Location: California Pool Bemowo, Warsaw, Poland
Time of day: Around 3PM
Gear: Nikon D600, Nikon 24-70mm 2.8, 1 x Nikon SB-900, Pixel King Trigger
Settings: 1/640s, f3,5, ISO 640

Website: www.suszczen.tumblr.com
Instagram: @suszczen

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Through The Lens: Inside BMX Media

I’m not really sure who the intended audience of this mini “documentary” actually is, but it gives you a little behind the scenes look at what its like to be a BMX photographer/filmer. Despite being severely cringeworthy at several points, there are a few bits of good information sprinkled throughout. If you’re an aspiring lensman, check out the video and read below for a little friendly advice of my own.

I’ve only been in the game for a few years now and some could make the argument that I’m no more qualified to offer advice on this subject than the people in this video, but I couldn’t just have you guys ingesting a bunch of vague pointers. In my years of paying dues and finally getting my foot and my camera bag in the door of the BMX industry, this is the best advice I could give you if you’re looking to do the same.

-Do it for the right reasons.
I feel like I read this in every interview with any BMX photographer ever, but if you’re trying to make a million dollars from shooting/filming BMX, go to the nearest pawn shop and sell all your shit because its not going to happen. Shooting BMX should be, above all else, a labor of love. You should love this shit so much to begin with that getting paid for it shouldn’t matter until you can do what you do with one arm tied behind your back and security breathing down your neck. If you get no genuine thrill from pedaling miles on end while lugging a 50lb camera bag, you’re in the wrong business, friend.

-Know your craft.
This goes beyond reading your camera’s manual cover to cover and knowing what every function does. This is about shooting so many photos or filming so many clips that you can see what its going to look like before you even pull the camera out. This is about closing the gap between what your photos/footage looks like and what you want your stuff to look like. Not by going out and buying a bunch of expensive gear, but by knowing how to squeeze every ounce of capability out of the tools and the light you’re given. Some of the best advice I’ve ever come across is, don’t practice til you get it right, practice til you can’t get it wrong.

-Its not about gear.
As much as you think having a VX1k, 1Dx and Einsteins or a Panasonic with the whale eye will miraculously make your shit look like Jeff Z or Navaz’s, you’re sadly mistaken. Unless you’ve got tens of thousands of dollars to run through B&H like Supermarket Sweep, you should be more worried about doing what you can with what you have instead of worrying about what you could do with what you don’t. Always try to keep in mind that there’s someone out there doing better with less.

-Be your own worst critic, not your number one fan.
No one likes a dude who’s feeling himself to the max. And its even worse when their photos/filming aren’t quite up to par. If you somehow think you’ve arrived or are more worried about your Instagram followers than continually improving the quality of your work, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice and you probably look like a douchebag. Don’t buy into your friends telling you you’re the shit, you gotta see the things that you could’ve done better. Its easy to let a hundred likes go to your head, but if you think that shit matters in real life, I honestly feel bad for you.

-Network, network, network.
Social media has made it easier than ever to meet and communicate with riders from your town all the way up to your favorite pros. In most industries, networking is a bunch of shaking hands and trading business cards, but in BMX it can be anything as simple as saying “whats up, let’s shoot sometime” on Instagram to just sharing a blunt at the skatepark. But be cautious of your hunger level when it comes to stuff like this though, most people can spot a weirdo from a mile away. Which brings us to our next topic…

-Don’t be a weirdo.
In the modern BMX climate, you might be surprised how far being a normal, level-headed person could take you. You could shoot the best photos ever, film the crispiest clips, but if you’re a pain in the ass, next to no one is going to want to deal with you. Don’t be the guy poaching photos/clips of people you don’t know at the skatepark. Don’t be the guy bugging your one and only local pro to shoot on every social network every day. Just try not to be “that guy”.

-Do good work and things will happen.
Same as when it comes to riding, the longer you’re out there doing you and making it look good, people will eventually notice. There’s no better feeling than being the go-to guy for riders or companies, but the only way to get there is to be consistently dialed and reliable. As soon as you start wondering why you’re not getting the recognition you deserve or why people aren’t fucking with you, your mind is in the wrong place and you should stop and re-evaluate why you’re doing what you’re doing. You shouldn’t have to speak for your work, your work should speak for you.

“The Michigan Video” Interview

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Titling a video with such an all-encompassing name like “The Michigan Video” is a pretty daring move, and I was unsure of what to think. To me, the name suggests that it is the sole video to come out of The Mitten State and therefore had some pretty big shoes to fill.

Although the intro sequence initially caught me off guard (even going so far as to making sure I had started the video from the beginning) after watching it a second time, it made sense. Cory Wiergowski is not a new name on the scene by any means, but his opening part definitely cemented his name as one of the burlier riders of our day. His second-to-last clip was all at once completely unexpected, mind-blowing and definitely something that is NBD to my eyes. His last clip is just ridiculous. Connor Keating comes through with some of the crazier crank arm grinds to date (super smoothly too, I might add). Up-and-comer Mikey Tyra (whose section went online not long after the release of the video) made quite a name for himself, with his first line as one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen. Tyler Fernengel, another one who needs no introduction, completely destroyed every gap and rail in sight, and just as the smoke cleared and I thought the video was over, Nick Bullen came out of left field, screaming loudly “NOPE! THIS AIN’T OVER!”. There’s a good reason that he just got put on Subrosa pro and his ender section proves it.

When it was all said and done, I felt like the name was justified and after talking a bit with Cory and Alex Burnside (filmer/editor) about the creation, it was apparent that they really had no other choice.

Where in Michigan is everyone from?

Cory: Every person in the video that has a full part claims Detroit but a few guys are from neighboring cities like Dearborn, Taylor and the Bullen brothers are from Lapeer.

Did all you guys grow up riding together?

Cory: Nick and I grew up riding together because we’re from northern michigan. Than we both moved down to Detroit area and met everyone down there about 5 years ago. Everyone else grew up together though like all the young dudes Connor, Mikey, Tyler, burnside etc. Than when they started to all grow up we kind of all became homies just from all of us riding transitions skatepark together on a daily basis. It’s crazy to see all of them grown up and killing it. I swear, it feels like just the other day I was giving Tyler pointers on tail whips now he’s like the best rider ever.

Alex: I grew up riding and filming with Connor Keating, but didn’t meet anyone else in the crew until maybe 3 years ago when I made indoor park videos at TRP. That was my first work with Cory, Nick, Govan, dudes like that.

IMG_20130812_124502_387All photos courtesy of TMV

“The Michigan Video” is a pretty bold name- Did you include riders/crews from all around the state?

Cory: Every weekend I’d just send a mass text message to the normal crew asking if they wanted to go to X city for the weekend and tell them how much it’ll cost each. Whoever replied saying they were down would be at my house Friday morning and we’d go. Just stay in cheap hotels and film good times every weekend all over the state of michigan hence the name “the Michigan video”. It was supposed to be more focused on the spots around michigan and film the dudes from the area riding them. Southeast michigan is easily the epicenter of the bmx scene here. There’s still a little scene in Lansing including Luke Swab, Brian Block and a bunch of other little shredders coming up. The Grand Rapids crew kind of fell apart but the dudes I link up with there are Alex Burgnon and Jordan Youngs, those dudes are rad. The west side of michigan holds it down with dudes like Tyler Ellis, Pat Ellis, Chance Garrison, Alex Elko, Kyle Line and the rest of the holland crew. They’ll usually travel together, they’re the only other “true crew” in michigan right now other than our crew that has been kind of dubbed the ” tmv crew” as of late. There was a good scene in traverse city, MI with Steven Ramos, Domke, Marcus, Mikey and a bunch of others but it kind if fell apart after there indoor park closed. As for not including people in the video, Alex and I would film everyone and anyone willing to ride in front of our lens.

How long did you film for? Were there any major setbacks/injuries?

Cory: We ended up filming for about 7 months we set out to get it done in one year because we didn’t really want to just sit on footage for a whole winter in order to film for 2 years. We def sat down a few months and all talked about filming for 2 years but we didn’t all want to stay in michigan as much this year and we had enough footage at the end of the year to make it happen, everyone killed it. There were only a couple set backs during filming, Tyler broke his foot trying that half cab in his intro. Which put him out for about 3 months. That was the only real injury the whole year other than rolled ankles and Nick got knocked out trying this big kinked rail in suttens bay. The last month or so of filming we only had one camera because one of our dvx’s broke and we didn’t care to get it fixed but even that wasn’t really a set back. We got lucky, everything kind of fell into place.

Was every single clip filmed in Michigan?

Cory: Yes.

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What was the inspiration for the intro?

Alex: The inspiration for the intro actually came from Cory. We were sitting in my room one night trying to find a good song for the intro and he must have had an epiphany because it’s one of my favorite parts of the whole video. I really wanted to break some stereotypes people had for the video and we felt like a raw intro would fit well with our theme and also break the mold for what a ‘normal’ intro usually is.

Is there any one outstanding story behind a certain clip?

Cory: So many stories that I don’t know where to start. When we went on a trip to the upper peninsula for a week, I had prior knowledge of this reservoir spot that my friend Scott Wanhala took Tony Neyer to last year to shoot that primo advert. So while we were in Marquette (about 9 hours from Detroit) Scott hit me with a google earth location, little did we know the spot was at a federal water reservoir about 45 min deep into the woods with a mile long hike after you’re there. I don’t know I’ve never been to a spot with an adventure like that. It’s so rewarding in the end. There were multiple 2 or 3 hour trips we took just to film one trick on a certain set up. We drove to suttens bay about 5 hours north of Detroit to check out this big kinked rail that Nick wanted to check out that ended up knocking him out, that was the scariest thing ever to witness your friend lifeless at the bottom of a rail without a hospital in site.

What gear did you use?

Alex: We were pretty strict on filming and which cameras were used, we wanted to keep a similar feel and style throughout the entire video. We relied on two DVX100B’s for the entire course of filming. We fell in love with them, they’re built like tanks and have an awesome fisheye option. We used an Opteka fisheye rather than a Century mkII because of the cost and ease of replacement for inevitable lens hits.

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How long did the video take to edit?

Alex: Editing only took about 2 months miraculously. I started editing early November and finished on December 22nd. We had to get the master copy out to our chosen distributor by the 23rd in order to have our copies ready by the 11th of January for the video premiere at TRP. We got the copies the day before the premiere, it was way too stressful.

What’s the deal with Nick Bullen’s last clip? It’s definitely a novel idea.

Alex: It was super windy that day and we all knew it needed to get done then as bad weather and winter were closing in on us. Nick grinded the rail a few times to get loosened up, then tried to get mentally ready for the clip. He went down the rail a few times feeling out the first part, then finally stuck one right off the end of the rail, couldn’t have been more perfect. Everyone tripped out and he ran back up the stairs, got lined up for the banger and a huge gust of wind hit him about 15 feet before the ledge. He was so mad and everyone was bummed. We were going to just take the rail trick and call it, but I pushed the issue a little farther and convinced him that the double banger would be so worth it in the end, and that I’d make it worth his effort. Once he got back up and pulled the clip seamless, I knew who would get the ender section. Nick is the dude and put in so much work and he totally deserved it.

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Are you guys planning on making another video?

Alex: As of right now, we have no plans for another project as big as The Michigan Video. It was a miracle things came together as well as they did this year and I know that won’t be able to happen in the near future. Too many dudes in the crew have plans to move or get jobs or do things outside bmx so it’s hard to commit to a big project. But we’ll be filming, that’s for certain. The world will just have to wait and see what we come up with.

How did the “Project After Hours” video come about?

Alex: The After Hours video was super fun to make. Basically, Cory does some work for Ron Thomas, who owns the shop we filmed in. Ron has been working on some really cool projects based around his Xtreme Builders business and his work with AGA Nation and Rise Above BMX. Hopefully you’ll be able to see more of his work soon, I can assure you it’s pretty cool. So Ron was down to support us with the space and time to film a video. Putting Ron’s support together with Cory’s welding ability, we were able to get the project done in a few short weeks.

The Michigan video is available here for just ten bucks and I highly suggest you buy it. It’s still early in the year but I guarantee this one will make lists for 2014.

Troy Charlesworth Interview

Troy talks with Focalpoint about the creation of his new DVD “That’s What’s Up” which I luckily saw over the weekend and FUCK it is great. Full review to come.

Photo of the Week: Van Charles

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I found this photo after Van had entered a photo of himself in the bunnyhop photo contest, popping a stylish hop in the middle of a pristine, fragile-looking living room. I was intrigued and looked through some of his other work and found this. I thought it was funny and original and asked him about it.

“Damn. It’s been over four years since I shot this. The marks on the wall are long since gone, despite having persisted in randomly appearing briefly every now and then over the years. Riding in unusual places is something I’ve always enjoyed. Or maybe I just go crazy on rainy/freezing days. Self-shooting with a “stock10″ timer is a fun challenge for me, it’s like, “Shit, what can I do, when I gotta do it, now.” I’ve done shots in my room, the living room, the basement, and here, the hallway. I tried setting up a shot for a cave-man into the stairs. Fell trying to get everything set up, so that idea died quickly.There’s a full series I’ve wanted to do, just never got around to finishing it. I probably should.

This was at 1/125, f/8 my gold standard back in the day. Iso was probably 100. The flashes were high left, low right, probably something like a 1/4 power Vivi285 and a 1/8 powerSun555, respectively. I had my 20D with a Tokina 10-17 + 1.4 tele-conv. at about 35mm, all said and done. This was a meager attempt at imitating film, something I love, respect, but can’t bring myself to have an ongoing relationship with; shoot me.”

Check out more of Van’s work here.

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Desktop Wallpaper – James Harvey by Josh McElwee

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I linked up with Josh McElwee during Texas Toast and suggested that we film a behind-the-shot feature for a desktop wallpaper. We agreed that an appropriate location would be the Five Hip ditch and that his friend James Harvey would be a perfect candidate to get the photo.

Josh has a very impressive portfolio that showcases his ample understanding of lighting. He also seems to have the optimal amount of obsessive-compulsive disorder that any photographer should have. It’s worth mentioning that this shoot was a bit rushed, with the NORA Cup party happening less than two hours after we got on location.

Download the wallpaper here:
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2048×1536
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How the photo was made:

See a full list of the gear and accessories that Josh uses in his bag check.

Josh McElwee Bag Check

JoshMcElwee.com

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Main bag contains the following:

Canon 5D MK II
Canon 15 f/2.8
Canon 50 f1.8
Canon 70-200 f/4
Sekonic L-358 Incident Meter
Four (4) Pocket Wizard transceivers w/ corresponding sync cords for each flash
Einstein 640 watt second strobe w/ 8.5 in. reflector (45 degrees)
Two Vivitar 285 hot shoe flashes

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In the smaller compartments, the odds and ends are as follows:

Ball bungees
Clothespins
Gaffers tape
Super glue
Velcro
Small gels for hot shoe flashes
Black cinefoil snoot
Extra sync cords
AA batteries
Extra CF card
Lens cloth
Rocket air blower
Battery chargers

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The second bag (black Animal backpack) contains the following:

Two (2) Vagabond Mini Lithium Battery Packs

Alien bee 800 (320 watt second) strobe w/8.5 inch reflector

Large sheets of cinefoil put together with gaffers tape. Used to flag excess light when using the reflectors on the strobes.

15 degree honeycomb grid

Lee Gel Pack – I mostly use the color correction gels (CTO, CTB, and fluorescent) in various strengths. There are also sheets of diffusion material and theatrical color gels that I use occasionally.

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