He’s Right About One Thing.

My dad says I work too much and don’t have fun. He’s right about one thing. This very thought spins around my mind as I bounce and bang along the dusty, rough-strewn cobbled roads of Belgium on the back of a photo-moto preciously protecting my camera gear. He’s right about the one thing. He doesn’t know how much fun I have.

This spring Jim and I both worked the Belgian Classic races from the backs of piloted motorcycles, otherwise professionally referred to as photo-motos. It’s a term I use with great affinity, even before I found myself almost flying off the back of one in France. Harkening to my younger days of riding street motorcycles in San Francisco when I worked as line chef and pastry cook. Harkening to my wilder days living abroad in Rome during college and slipping away to Napoli for rides on the back of Domenico’s motorbike through impossibly narrow alleys at heart-rending speeds. Harkening further to the first motorbike ride I ever had – on the back of a local guide’s bike to the “monkey jungle” in Java while on a family trip with my dad and sister. I was eight. And yes, I had fun.

The chase within the race as we rush around the peloton on smooth roads to catch them on the cobbled climbs

The chase within the race as we rush around the peloton on smooth roads to catch them on the cobbled climbs

The race is on not just for the riders but for the photo pool as well as they rush to find the best vantage point in the Arenberg forest minutes before the break arrives

The race is on not just for the riders but for the photo pool as well as they rush to find the best vantage point in the Arenberg forest minutes before the break arrives

A Lampre-Merida rider falls off the back and gets tangled up in a photo-moto traffic jam with team cars

A Lampre-Merida rider falls off the back and gets tangled up in a photo-moto traffic jam with team cars

So back to April 2013, cradling my Canon camera bodies in my lap and leaning in to the steady confidence of my driver while he navigates the mud-roads and farm-tracks and bumpy pavé with a Flandrien tour-de-force I can only imagine. It would be far too presumptuous to state that the bond between any photog and moto pilot is fierce. There are indeed special relationships out there; ones of shared experiences, long hours in the saddle, moments of panic and elation. Friendship. Loyalty. And just as often, there are transactional pairings. A single day shoot. A freelancer. A disconnect. But when I speak of spending some of my finest moments as a photographer at any race, I speak of those days in the blistering cold spring air, covered in dust, working in tandem with Kevin and knowing Jim was nearby blasting through his own day.

A line of photo-motos barrel up the Paterberg for the last climb of the race.

A line of photo-motos barrel up the Paterberg for the last climb of the race.

There are so many stories from any sport photographer in the midst of assignment – on location, in wild weather, chasing gladiators around cliffsides, risking our own safety… and sanity. And mainly, they are ALL good. We create amazing moments gelled in time. We tell visual stories. We provide a peek into what we live every day – and believe me, the image is just one small part of the whole experience we just went through to capture it. Exhaustion, injury, loneliness, broken gear, broken spirits, endless pursuit of creativity, social navigation, professional politics, complicated logistics, endurance, burn-out. But the reward? We love what we do and, goddamn it, we have fun!

Yes, pop, I have fun.

{happy father’s day}

Kevin and I pass under the 1 KM banner, marking the final two turns into the Roubaix velodrome

Kevin and I pass under the 1 KM banner, marking the final two turns into the Roubaix velodrome