I tell stories.
My job for TriSports.com is collecting and telling our stories. Here is a typical day:
TriSports.com is the world’s largest online triathlon retailer. We ship swim, bike and run products to every continent- including Antarctica. Because we are the largest in our industry we face the challenge of running a business for which there is no existing business model. Debbie and Seton Claggett, founders of TriSports.com, nearly invented the category of online triathlon sales. At the “pointy end of the bayonet” we create the way this business does business. It’s a challenge since much of what we do, especially in marketing, hasn’t been done in our industry. Some of what we do is create media for ourselves and our vendors. It is a huge “value added” for companies doing business with us.
Gail Leveque, a talented Ironman, triathlete and Director of Special Events for TriSports.com asked me to do a photo shoot with BH Bikes’ top pros Eneko Llanos and Angela Naeth. Llanos won the Memorial Hermann Ironman, Texas in May with a strong 8:08:20. Naeth is an heir apparent to the highest levels of triathlon with a recent win at the 70.3 Ironman event in Boulder, Colorado where she had the fastest women’s bike split. The ride would take in McCain Loop here in Tucson, Arizona, crossing over Gates Pass. Members of our cycling and triathlon clubs were invited to join the ride and photo op.
I photograph rides from the back of a motorcycle. My “moto pilot”, the Euro-term for the guy who drives the motorcycle, is Adam McCreight. McCreight has travelled the world, lived in Oman, Abu Dhabi, Pakistan, Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain. He’s been riding motorcycles since he was 14. This year he took 2nd in the “B” Class Arizona Motorcycle Racing Association Season. In addition to being an excellent moto pilot Adam is an easy guy to work with. He is calm, level headed and soft spoken. Perhaps most importantly, at well over 6’ tall Adam outweighs me, a key factor for a moto-pilot/photographer pair on a camera bike.
Adam uses a 2007 BMW R1200 GS built in Berlin, Germany by BMW Motorrad. The bike has a 2 cylinder, horizontally opposed boxer engine, not unlike the engine favored by Subaru in their high-performance Impreza AWD models. The bike has smooth acceleration from low gears and a comfortable, stable, upright riding position. It’s also quiet so it doesn’t disturb cyclists and allows Adam and I to communicate easily.
The demands on a camera moto driver are unique since we spend a lot of time riding slow next to bicycles and I do a lot of moving around on the back to get different camera angles. The bike must be geared well for low speed stability and the pilot has to be alert to road hazards and keep the bike steady at low speeds. It’s particularly dangerous since the best photos are usually shot from the wrong side of the road 8-10 feet from cyclists. On a rolling, curvy road open to traffic the risk of a head-on collision is high.
Before each sortie McCreight and I have a conversation about what my objectives are for the shoot and about the roads conditions. His primary job is to keep us and the cyclists safe, his secondary job is putting us in position for the best photos. The challenges Adam faces on most of our shoots are different than riding with professional cyclists in the Tour de France who are accustomed to being around camera motos. The recreational cyclists we ride with aren’t used to having a motorcycle ten inches from them at 30 M.P.H. or at 7 M.P.H. on a steep climb. They want to wave at the cameras and get nervous if the moto gets too close. Because of that, and the open roads, we have to allow an additional margin of safety, picking and choosing photo ops during the ride and often giving away the best shots in the interest of safety.
This weekend’s photo shoot also served as practice for shooting the Ford Ironman Triathlon in Tempe, Arizona next weekend on Sunday, November 20. Adam and I scored a rare photo pass for the bike course courtesy of Debbie Claggett. We’ll be shooting athletes from the top pros like Eneko Llanos to our own athletes for our TriSports University magazine section on TriSports.com.