Behind-the-scenes creative kingpin Adam Roye discusses his life and work, current and former business ventures and the TV shows that play in the background as he draws, doodles, paints and prints.
Category Archives: Interview
“With videos being such a huge part of BMX, the whole rider turn filmer is a seamless evolution. It’s not uncommon for someone who starts to take filming more seriously to see their riding suffer a bit—it’s just a simple give and take. However, there are some riders who manage to excel both in front and behind the camera. There are even a few professional riders—some with signature parts and all—who are helping film and/or making some of our favorite BMX videos. Here are a handful of riders who are known and recognized for their efforts on both ends of the video camera and how they find a balance between two things they love to do.”
“The landscape of videos has changed. ‘Grounded’ was a DV project. The level of video production has been raised since ‘Grounded’. We’ve been flooded with amazing toys that are now affordable, so you can get higher level production quality without spending a fortune… I feel a lot more pressure on me to do good. It’s not just capturing the tricks, but telling a whole story. It’s a lot more fun.”
“…the last few years I’ve been trying to shake the fisheye. Every video, skate or bike, has a lot of fisheye shots. It has it’s place, but it’s nice to leave that lens until you really need it and see what else you can do.”
I began corresponding with Travis through the Push It A Stop Flickr page after noticing his extensive use of film- most notably shooting some riding shots on large format. He let me know that he’d be at Texas Toast with his 4×5. Sure enough I saw him there lugging around the behemoth of a camera, complete with tripod and dark cloth, and a Hasselblad slung around his neck. We spoke and it soon became clear to me that Travis is both a camera fanatic and dedicated film user. He is informed, experienced and well-traveled. Sitting down and discussing all aspects of photography with Travis opened my eyes to some things I hadn’t considered regarding technology and the lack thereof required in the art. He is someone who understands the power of the camera and loves every part of it- from the equipment to the process to the ethereal qualities of a Polaroid of his daughter. I introduce to you the Ansel Adams of BMX, Travis Mortz.
0:30 – How was shooting at Texas Toast with a 4×5 camera?
2:25 – Travis’ shortened life story and first rolls of film
5:18 – When has film failed you?
6:32 – When has digital failed you? (pretty crazy story involving Tony Hawk)
9:50 – Travis’ formal education in photography and the arts
11:58 – Favorite photographs?
12:42 – Crazy story about Dorthea Lange and a Linhof
16:06 – Online portfolio?
17:05 – Your favorite film?
17:45 – Your lighting setup?
19:19 – Travis asks me about my film-use frequency
22:03 – Travis describes his darkroom setup in the mountains
25:04 – What are your film buying habits?
27:02 – “People are scared of film for some reason”
27:28 – You ever been fucked by a lab?
28:56 – Recent camera purchases?
31:59 – “My results will always be different”
32:39 – Favorite developer?
34:02 – Travis’ theory on preservation
35:20 – REMEMBER TO START UP YOUR EXTERNAL HARD DRIVES AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR
(A great discussion erupts here and some really good points are made.)
40:02 – We go through the gear that Travis brought with him
48:54 – Shooting at Woodward Camp
51:30 – Travis talks about his recent trip to Sweden and how Hasselblad wrote a story about him
54:06 – “My biggest project is documenting my daughter’s life”
We gathered three of today’s most prolific filmers (Tony Ennis (Deadline), John Hicks (Onsomeshit) and Christian Rigal (Markit)) to spark productivity and inspire creativity in anyone looking to advance their camera-using skills. We talk experience, travel, music, gear and more… Tune in!
If you’ve got any questions, just leave them in the comments. Listen to this on SoundCloud below and on iTunes here.
0:34 – “Still Searchin'” (End Search sequel that never happened)
1:40 – Christian talks about a sequel to Markit Zero and his new RED camera
5:47 – Hicks speaks
7:13 – Christian talks about dividing time between camera and bike and his newfound passion and respect for still photography
11:46 – Tony talks about his current projects and the Garrett Reynolds Red Bull video
14:34 – “Did you ever think you’d be in the position you’re in now as filmers?”
18:38 – Tony talks about his riding career and what gets him psyched and filming Deadline with dying cameras
22:31 – The importance of music in editing
28:47 – We talk about the diminishing amount of physical DVD’s being made
30:14 – Christian talks about filming with Tate Roskelley in 2009 and a video of a 14 year old Chad Kerley
34:14 – We talk about how Connor Lodes shot a cover of RideBMX and how Christian trusts him and Chad to film when he’s riding
37:19 – Everyone talks about their first cameras
41:18 – Reader questions (fish or long? any formal education in video? craziest thing that’s ever happened while out filming? (funny story about Mike Jonas) how does it feel when you eat shit filming? How long do you spend editing any given video? favorite editing software?
50:29 – Do you do video work outside of BMX?
52:40 – Tony alludes to a second Deadline video
53:57 – Export settings
57:12 – Rollerblades / filming boards
58:37 – Post production habits
1:01:46 – Preferred shutter speed?
1:04:32 – Rokinon / Pro Optic / off-brand fisheyes are sharpest at f/8
1:05:24 – Getting shit stolen
1:07:57 – Getting insurance for your gear
1:09:18 – Tripods
1:13:09 – Left eye or right eye?
1:14:38 – Christian’s bag(s)
1:18:30 – Tony’s bag
1:21:38 – Hicks’ gear
1:22:44 – Advice to beginners
A while back, I had the chance to get a few established photographers in the industry together to talk shop. I had a loose list of topics we could hit and Jeremy had a list of his own. We didn’t get to hit nearly as many subjects as we would have liked to, but that’s usually how these things go. I think we did pretty well with the time allotted and we’re hoping that any aspiring lensmen will be enlightened by our discussion.
If there are any specific topics that you’d want us to hit for the next discussion, please leave them in a comment below.
1:09 – Jeremy Pavia introduction
2:47 – Chris Mortenson introduction
4:28 – Josh McElwee introduction
6:25 – Jeremy’s “Through The Lens” column from The Union
9:21 – “Film vs. Digital” (actually we discuss Dean Collins and teaching for a while)
11:22 – We actually start discussing the film versus digital thing
13:26 – Shoutout to the darkroom
18:53 – What’s your favorite f/stop?
21:31 – “I just wanna capture the moment and sometimes the moment is shitty”
23:00 – No more hanging posters
24:11 – “Print vs. Online”
25:08 – Gregory Crewdson
28:48 – Readership
30:16 – Vinyl vs. MP3
30:55 – The Albion
31:55 – Props on VHS
36:04 – Josh’s story
37:45 – DIG/Focal Point
40:57 – A watered-down industry
43:35 – The process of shooting/choosing what gear to carry
46:13 – Getting the shot
49:22 – Fuck barspins.
50:35 – A collaboration between photographer and subject
55:19 – Riders getting hurt while shooting
57:01 – Shoutout to Kiraly
58:34 – RideBMX‘s 1 o’clock photo project
1:04:19 – Let’s talk about gear
1:08:57 – Advances in photo technology
1:12:25 – How to get your photos noticed
1:13:44 – Looking outside of BMX
1:15:43 – Experience
1:17:14 – Final thoughts and comments
Adam first caught my attention with his natural light color 35mm photos in the Flickr group. Everything of his I remembered seeing had impeccable composition and great geometry. Being able to create dynamic photographs without the use of artificial lighting is a challenge for sure, but Adam finds ways to showcase the subject and keep the image interesting.
Where do you live/where are you from, what’s your age and how long have you been shooting?
I was born and raised in Erie, PA. I’m 19 years old now and I got my first camera in 10th grade. I quit wrestling after 9 seasons that year so I could focus more of filming and photography. My coach told me it was the worst idea I had ever had but I think its going pretty well.
How long have you been riding?
I got my first bike in the summer of 7th grade so about 5 years? Give or take, I didn’t really actually ride ride until 9-10th grade.
What was your first camera?
The first camera I ever had in my hands was some point and shoot I stole from my sister back in fifth grade, me and my friends took pictures of each other jumping off of the swings in my grandmas backyard. I don’t know why but we did, a lot. My first actual camera was the 550D my mom got me in high school because I wanted to go to film school.
What inspired you to start shooting in the first place?
I really just like to make cool stuff. As a child my dad did a lot of painting and crafts and my teachers used to call me “creative” and “artistic”. I guess shooting photos and videos just became my outlet.
Who are some photographers you are into?
There’s a lot of guys that I really look up to, some are friends and some are just people I’ve heard of but, Ryan Souva, Travis Mortz, Chris Mortenson, and Nick Jones are a few.
Have you ever shot with flashes?
Yeah, I take a set of flashes almost every time I have a digital camera, but usually when I shoot film I just have the camera, a lens, and a few rolls.
What is your favorite film?
I dont usually shoot with expensive film. I almost always buy Fuji superia 400 because its cheap and available anywhere. Plus the colors are nice.
What is your preferred f/stop?
Usually shooting BMX/Skate stuff I try and be around 7.1 or higher. Very shallow depth of field has its time but when it’s some dude throwing bars down a stair set, I want as much in focus as I can get.
Do you have a favorite trick to shoot?
I like the simple stuff, it’s nice to shoot banger tricks but you shouldn’t always stress your self when your shooting photos. If everything I shot had to be perfectly timed,well composed and well exposed first try then photography wouldn’t be all that fun to me.
Do you think you’ll stick to natural light or can you see yourself gearing up soon?
I always like to experiment with new things and other ways to shoot, but for right now, I’m really into the simplicity of just going out and shooting.
What is the most important factor for you when you’re making a photograph?
I like things to be straight. Poles, the horizon, ramps, rails, everything. My biggest pet peeve is when something is noticeably crooked.
Do you carry both color and b&w film with you?
Almost always color. I just haven’t got around to trying that much black and white stuff yet.
Do you shoot any video?
Yeah, I consider myself more of a video person than photos I just shoot more bmx than anything because it’s what I’m around all the time. I started doing music videos and weddings about 3ish years ago. All my stuff is on my website, www.adamcookmedia.com
Here we have Mike Mastroni speaking on the forthcoming Volume DVD which just got renamed “The Finer Things” after previously being promoted as “Shoot Your Future”. I’m excited to see this thing…
I’ve been a fan of Vince’s work for quite sometime now. His photographs are more than just pictures of people doing tricks. He is capturing the culture that surrounds BMX in one of the purest ways I’ve seen in. Be it using natural light or throwing a small strobe in the mix, his photographs capture what it feels like to be out riding with your friends and enjoying all the adventures that riding bikes can bring. When I found out that he was coming through Los Angeles for the Couch Riding trip I set up a time to link up on a roof in Hollywood and watch him make some pictures with flatlander Matthias Dandois. After hanging out with Vince I can say he is one of the most humblest of people I’ve met and I can’t wait to see what he creates in the future.
For the people who might not know you, can you please just give a little introduction?
Yo What’s up! I’m Vince Perraud I come from France and I take picture for something like 9 years now, a bunch of BMX… and I never meet up Jean De Crepe aha.
You have a pretty big collection of cameras in your bag, could you talk a little bit about this and how you came to have such diversity?
Ah yes I have a bunch of cameras because all of them have a specificity and it’s fun to use!! OK I have to admit all of them are half fucked so I need all of this to shoot! It depends on what subject I’m shooting. It’s just cool to vary from fucking digital.
Depends on the mood but I would say the good old Bronica SQ! It’s medium format so the 120 film gives a good result, nice depth of field and you can synch at 1/500…and it’s cheap too!!
I would say improvisation but now I try to work on it, like check the location, best time to shoot with the good light etc…
Do you find inspiration in photography outside of BMX, and if so, do you find it easy to adapt that inspiration into BMX photography?
Yeah I try to check all sort of photography, like music, architecture, fashion… and mix it because to make nice pics for any subject you have to work on the composition, light etc… But bmx is really free and there are so many aspects to the culture, I don’t necessarily think about it, but bmx (same as skate) photography is really creative!!
I’ve noticed in your newer work, you are shooting with a lot of natural light vs. strobes. Can you just talk a little bit about the shift and how it has affected your shooting style.
Ah yeah I shoot more natural cause my flashes are fucked!! You have to make choices also when you travel by plane, it’s really annoying to be limited on stuff you can bring with you overseas, so recently I was less into flashes and I tried to work more with ambient… and it takes less time to set up so you don’t piss of the riders. You ready already! It’s better for lifestyle too!
I have a bunch of various inspiration but the ones that are always sick are: Foster Huntington, Scott Pommier, Chris Burkard, Kenneth Cappello, Brian Gabermann, Eric Antoine, Michel Sedan, Jérôme Tanon, Kristina Fender, Fred Mortagne, Mike Piscitelli… in no particular order.. My favorite at the moment is Purienne.
Do you have any personal projects you are working on?
Good question! I would say going to vacation with my girl…
Do you think it is necessary to study photography to understand how to create good images?
How do you think the ease of image sharing has effected photography within BMX?
I don’t know, everything is going faster and faster. It can bring more ideas or creativity but I feel like it’s too much nowadays…too much shit and the good stuff are flooded in middle of crap… it’s also harder to stand out…
When was it that you felt like you really hit your stride and found your vision as a photographer?
I’m still searching ahah.
Go out with you friends and snap instead of chilling in front of the laptop! 😉
Photography below by Vince Perraud.
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.