Sterling Lorence Podcast Transcript
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- Sterling's beginnings as a photographer and mountain biker.
- Transitioning from shooting with friends, to editorial work, to commercial work.
- Working around the world with pro mountain bikers like Thomas Vanderham.
Links mentioned in this episode:
The NSMB Podcast: Obsessed with Mountain Biking is available on all of your favourite podcast apps or you can listen below:
Cam McRae - If you're a dedicated mountain biker and you hear the name Sterling Lorence, my guess is an image appears. Maybe it's an iconic black and white from the early days of the North Shore. Thomas Vanderham laying out a huge and stylish hip or Matt Hunter's 45 foot air to wall ride and follow me the sort of images that stop you in your tracks, whatever the photo, it may transport you back in time or give you a distinct feeling like nostalgia or off. More than that, Sterling's photos. Tell a story or suggest one you'd like to hear. That evocative nature is one element that sets Sterl apart. Another is his commitment to mountain biking from the early days. He's been unrelenting in his effort to portray the attitude and spirit of MTB as he sees it. Authentic core, and often breathtaking. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sterling and talk about his beginnings as a mountain biker and photographer on the North Shore, but where our sport is going and about his transition from taking photos of his buddies to being one of the most respected documentarians in mountain biking. I'm cam McCrae and this is the very first nsmb.com podcast. We've got more already recorded and we'll be uploading the next one shortly. Until then, please crack open a beer and enjoy my conversation with the one and only Sterling. Lorence,
Cam McRae - Can you, can you tell me how you discovered mountain biking and how old you were? How that all happened?
Sterling Lorence: When I was a young kid, I was lucky enough to grow up on the North Shore in West van down there by lighthouse park below Cypress and the Hills are steep. And I remember as kids, we must've been early teens, you know, maybe 10, 11, 12 years old. And we were, we were totally in a BMX. Ubut the Hills are steep. So BMX is, we're a little limiting going up and down between friends homes and stuff. I remember that part was challenging. You know, we'd get to the skateboard parks and stuff, no problem going across, but I remember,useeing a young kid on a mountain or what was called a mountain bike. And that must have been in the early eighties, 1982, three, four, somewhere in there.
Sterling Lorence: And we were fascinated by the sight of the derailer and the cluster. I remember looking down going, wow, look at all that stuff, like what is, look at all the gears and it meant you could go up the Hills easier. So that was my introduction to a mountain bike was literally seeing a kid on what looked like a bigger BMX, but it was full of gears and that must have been like a Norco big foot or one of those early day bikes. And that, that was the beginning of wanting one and then eventually, you know, giving up the BMX and switching over to mountain biking. And, you know, exploring. So what was your first bike? How did that come about? You got one? I remember shopping around for them a little bit and in those days, yeah, I mean, caps bikes was a big name.
We used to get our BMX stuff from there and we shopped around and I ended up based on price point. I ended up with a Mealley which was sold by like secretly fours on Denman Avenue in, in Vancouver. Somehow you got a little more for, for the price point I think is cause it, it wasn't a great name and it wasn't, but it had better parts or better breaks or it fit me. I was a pretty small kid back then, so it might've been this size, but that was my first bike and we went to town on those things.
Cam McRae: And how old were you then?
Sterling Lorence: I would have been somewhere, probably 13, 14 years old. And that was like the gateway to exploring what a perfect age for mountain biking to come along. I was into sports, you know, I was baseball player and soccer and all that. But for my friends, as you get into becoming a teenager, you become a bit rebellious and all that. We just turned that rebellion into like where we would go on our bikes was what we thought was like, you know, going against the grain a little bit and we would, my friends and I, it was, I think it was grade seven or eight and it would be, Hey, are we riding this weekend and be like, yep. And it was like, where are we going to go? And we would, we would show up back then you wore jeans. I would put on a sweater cause it would might be cold that day in the rain and we'd bring up backpack and we'd ride the lower flags of Cypress. But, but also we discovered the trails in Stanley park. So it's always a cool thing as kids, we'd ride over the Lions gate gate bridge with our parents not knowing and we'd go session all those trails in Stanley park. And that we'd get soaked mudded up wearing jeans and just shredding in the mud there. That was it. That was our fun.
Cam McRae: And your group of riding buddies, they were just your regular buddies who also got bikes.
Sterling Lorence: Yeah. That was luckily enough, that little trend with my close little clique, buddies mountain biking, we all that skateboarded and BMX and sort of adventure to little bit were into it enough. And I think it's a product of where you live. You know, it's obviously a, a town that's known for like its wealth and stuff, but if you just take kids and put them in these landscapes and let them play, cycling is going to be something that they fall into or sports or the ocean or fishing or whatever. Hiking. And I just, you know, I feel lucky that I was involved with kids that liked the same things and that was it was good buddies of mine and that same group of friends, we S I still ride with a lot of those guys today. And those, those same friends, you know, there's names like from Mitchell Scott who's a writer in, in the sports world. He's a producer now and all that. Right to like Andrew Shandro, those same friends networked. We were ski buddies in the winter and mountain bikers in the summer.
Cam McRae: Can you tell me what the trails you were riding them were like?
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, I just remember as a kid I mean you rode, always rode closest to where you live. So we, we all rode Cypress. And you, you know, you heard from the guys at the shops, it was always fun going into the shops and asking those guys about the crazy trails that are up there. And, and we BLT, you know, they'd say, Oh, you gotta go try the BLT, boulders, logs and trees. And that was just like a gravel road. And we were like, well, that's okay, we can ride that. And then you'd follow some of these guys in on a, on a Wednesday night ride or whatever. And in some of the original, like the Stoltman brothers and you know, must've been Pippin Osborne of synchronous and some of these crazies from the olden days, we would follow in on them down what they would call, like the Paul Hogan trailer. We, we, there's a line in there. It was just straight down off, maybe the second or third switch back on Cypress. And it literally just went straight down the fall line, which is brutal. It's probably a Creek today. But those were the original trails we rode to the Paul Hogan and the ed Sullivan. And, and they used to call like mystery DH think was called tree V. It's amazing how many of the original names don't exist. I kind of wish they did. But those, you know, some of the riders at breakaway bikes, there's a nice bike shop in West van. Those guys would take us up there and we'd follow up following those. So the earliest trails would have been those ones on Cypress.
Cam McRae: Did you eventually get into doing any trail building?
Sterling Lorence: I mean back then as kids there was so much to explore already. And then the, the vision, like the desire to explore further, we didn't really have a trail building bug than there was. I think it was more about actually learning how to ride and, and trying to keep up with, let's say the dangerous Dans and Digger. We, I think we just fell under the spell of them of like trying to ride their trails. And being completely jaw dropped on is this flood, is this what we have to try and become, you know, the energy went to that of like actually getting, no, I wouldn't say we were trying to get good at riding.
We just trying to like become mountain bikers and we, I guess those, those, those trail builders ahead of us, we just respected them enough to know like, okay, well I guess this is what a mountain bike trail is to us. It's steep, it's gnarly. It's skinnies, it's all that. And we weren't trying to make our own it only came later in life when the other lot of established chairs were already there and you had that bug to see other of the mountains and you know, friends through friends that are hiking. We started to, we started to just almost ride like loam trails, the beginning of what would be called like loam lines and, and finding hiker networks. Like there's all kinds of little hiking trails out there that we started to piece together. And you know, this many years later, you know, people somehow called some trails after my own name.
But I'll, you know, I'll tell you right now, we've never named a trail after my name and, and it's my good group of buddies that we essentially just linked together old little hiking trails and that there was a trail bug there where that's that quest to search for fall line and, and, and link together lines and, and make something like bigger lines started to happen. But I didn't, you know, I, I obviously pursued a university degree and then almost went straight into a career. So I, I, and I've, you know, a family and kids now, so I have that bug, but I haven't necessarily been able to get back to it as much as I'd like to and, and give back, give back time and do trail days and stuff like that.
Cam McRae: But there was also a time, I remember seeing some of your photos and wondering, where's that, And then people saying, well, that's just, you know, Sterl built that.
Sterling Lorence: Right. Well that, that whole part of it, I was gonna get into with movies and the pursuit of a new content. There's a side of me or side of us set is new content providers let's say. And in, in, in doing movies and getting involved with film crews that were making films, there was that pursuit of trying to create new areas. And so the, let's say that the trail building bug went into provide a new content and we, you know, I love digging. There's nothing, there's nothing better than creating new lines or expressing Mount Viking in a new way. So for sure there's pockets of terrain where I've lost to have trails and we build like little lines to session and photograph and, and it was part of like open expression, but it was also in pursuit of trying to create new content for like films and photos where some of our original trails that either been taken down or had just been exposed too much.
Cam McRae: So back to back to riding in the early days. When I ride with different groups now it seems like for the most part everyone just goes. But it wasn't like that when I was riding earlier on. It was was your riding experience then different than it is now in terms of the way the road the ride flowed?
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, I remember like back in the olden days with slower bikes and different geometry in a different, the trail, the trails were built in a different way back then in our technology of our bikes limited us in certain ways that I remember going up and spending like a Saturday with my friends on pre Reaper and Reaper on Cypress and it's literally as the Crow flies, like no more than half a kilometer total or one kilometer told her trail and that it took us more than half a day to ride those two little lot trails cause we were so into trying stunts and watching each other ride a section and try it again and go back. And I remember popping out on the, on this on the road on Cypress and you're, you're well up the mountain, you're three quarters of the way up the mountain when you pop out your finished Reaper.
And I remember thinking we were so mentally taxed, physically challenged, we were wiped out. And so stoked that we just glided down the whole mountain after. And that, that the way we used to ride like that slow and try sections and let's say there wasn't as much flow as today. Yeah, it's a totally different game today. It was more, more about sessioning then and trying to turn to make something. Yeah. And I didn't, there's a part of my, there's a part of my style th the way I ride. I still appreciate that. I, I don't want to feel like I'm in a rush or ripping through. It's like you want to stop and smell the flowers, like, right. Look around and look at the forest that you're in. And I do appreciate those days where you, you just settled into a section of trail and it didn't take very, you didn't have to go far to have fun and you felt like you were just more connected to that place.
And maybe that's just my, you know, I like looking at stuff and maybe I had a camera with me that day. But today's summit, today's riding like, you know, you get on the most technologically advanced, let's say 29 or trail bike. That's Slack and long and you, you're like a world cup downhiller moving through the forest compared to compared to then, Oh yeah. Lightning.
Cam McRae: Yeah. You'd be winning races just because you've got the best bike.
Sterling Lorence: We were saying that the day did you see that footage of somebody that hit the toonie, drop those on on it and landed it on a Santa Cruz? I don't know who though, who that was, but...
Cam McRae: So I saw someone who cased it right? I saw that footage that was crazy. Met that dude. Oh yeah. He's still alive because rear wheel exploded.
Sterling Lorence: Yes. Lucky and just miss that tree at one shot where it comes towards the camera. I'm like, dude, that's, but there's a shot of somebody on a Santa Cruz like mega tower, some that guy just drifts right off. Boom. Lands it open face. I think open face helmet. I was thinking to myself like maybe, maybe the trend in bikes, like the bikes are so good now that you're going to see a wave of talented riders actually go back in time and start looking at some of the lines of the old days for a challenge. Like why are we not making trails like we used to, we used to Hawk and do gaps and Creek gaps and wall rides and now because I now want to start riding like that again and maybe there's going to be this weird little, you know, we'll see.
Cam McRae: That's, I think maybe it's sort of happening.
Sterling Lorence: Yeah.
Cam McRae: Reaper and Pre Reap are built by Dangerous. Dan, do you remember when you first encountered one of his trails?
Sterling Lorence: I don't remember like the dates on it. It would have been in the late nineties, mid, mid nineties, somewhere in there. But I do remember just that feeling of looking in and, and like we were used to ride Coiler and maybe some of those other skidders, Cypress trails. But I remember peeking in there once and obviously the log ride greeted you. That was so steep and so long and off the ground and they would have just been this thought like, Whoa factor of like, okay, we've heard of Dangerous Dan and he builds nasty challenging trails. And it would have been where me and my buddies would just poked our heads in the we'd have just basically laughed, would have been the feeling of what when we looked in there and just laughed at it. Total intimidation, but total inspiration at the same time to think like, wow, that that's a waiting for us as our skillset grows.
Cam McRae: Was anyone in your riding crew documenting anything or were you the first one to do that?
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, I would say in my, in my friend group network even as young kids, I, I had I played with a camera. My dad had a tiny little SLR package, so lens and, and body couple lenses. And it always just sat there and I knew how to use it. So any adventures and we were kids. Even as a family, I would, I would play with this camera a little bit. And I started to, and I just wanted it, you know, eventually got like a little Insta camera and just had it in my little backpack. Whenever we'd go mountain biking or all the mountain snowboarding, I would shoot my friends skiing and snowboarding. So I would say if there was one of us that was documenting, it was me and my friends sort of pointed to me to be the one who'd get the get the shots.
Cause it would be cool to remember. So whether it was on a trip, you know, we'd go riding with our parents and Colorado was friends. I would, I would document that we went to Idaho and rode there. Stuff like that I always had was the guy that used the camera. And then later as in right in those same friend group, Mitchell Scott, who I've mentioned already, who I went to university with, who was, was a great writer, he would've been the one that creatively was looking at our group of friends and our life. And if I was the one taking pictures in his mind, he was the one writing the words. And that started to, Mitch is sort of as a to this all becoming a career for me because Mitch started to put that sort of North Shore feeling into words and the magazines wanted it. And that's sort of was the pull for me to see an opportunity there of like, okay, well if he's writing then I'm going to be the photographer and let's, let's, let's tell this story now.
Cam McRae: I've heard Mitch talk about that story and he can be a bit of a blowhard, right? Yeah. But he sort of tells it the other way around. That he was kind of pushing you to, to take the photos.
Sterling Lorence: Well, he for sure it will. I mean I have the proof in my, in my collection of images that I was shooting all always all the way back. He not, I don't think he was writing at that same time, but he for sure I give credit to Mitch where his, his words in stories about the North Shore and some of his writing he would have been the one to tell me, okay dude, like although I was already photographing stuff just for fun, he'd been the one saying this is common and I got editors wanting content and if you know, if you can provide the shots, yours are going to be in the mix.
And I mean of course I wasn't the only photographer documenting, I mean you yourself were getting great shots. Ian Hylands, John Gibson, everyone was recording North Shore stuff. So from a business sense it, yes, Mitch was critical and sort of giving me the shove to get it going. But at the same time I had, I was photographing and they're there. I could S you could feel this wave of like this is an amazing, there's something amazing and new happening here. And, and you just got excited and looking at the terrain, the terrain, the way we decided to start riding on the North Shore amongst the trees on trees using wood, steep rock faces. It all just so neat to look at. You'd sit back and look at your friends or I'd go, wow, look at that. And for sure I'd be like, well I would want to take a picture of it.
I thought it was so cool. So I guess it would be fair to say that maybe Mitch saw it as a career option to be writing about mountain biking before you maybe saw it as an option as a photographer. Yeah, I would say I think, I think I don't know if we were, if we, I don't think either of us really were, we're seeing career, I think it was more, we saw an opportunity to tell a cool story. He, he was a few years removed of the university and I was freshly out of university. And I, you just, you're in that mode of like, you can write an essay, like you'd just get in front of a computer and do an assignment and you're being creative. And I would say, yeah, you're at that part in your maturity in life where your brain is maxing.
Like it's like you can solve problems and, and you're, I was really tinkering with my camera a lot. Like I came out of university and just all that energy trying to get a degree just went straight into like maxing the, solving how a camera works and how does film work and how am I going to shoot on the Shore. So I think, and we were there, there was an essence back then of like, there was something new happening here and and I think it was more of like, there was just this desire to express it. I think Mitch wanted, he had it, he was telling a cool story and everyone has the riders and the trail builders and everyone, even you, you know, NSMB there was like this, there was just this buzz happening and it was more about just being part of it and expressing and then that led to career, you know, so it was more than what you're doing, made a career viable.
Cam McRae: So you considered it or, or was there a moment when you actively thought you wanted to be a photographer?
Sterling Lorence: I never really, well, I, I'm lucky in that I have a cousin who's 10 years older than me, Jeff Vinik, who today shoots for the Vancouver Canucks, who was an important mentor for me as I step find, he'd be shooting like a BC lions game and he'd let me come and I'd go shoot a Canucks game. And so Jeff was critical to me as well, I've got to say. And you know, borrow lenses, borrow stuff, world flashes, all that. But I, he was a photographer and I never, I didn't really ever want to do what he was, I don't, I never, I never set out to be a photographer when I was, when I came out of university, I've, I have a degree in resource management from U Vic and I sort of specialized in salmon habitat restoration, all that stuff.
I have a minor in environmental studies and it was all about that. And I had a couple key interviews with some habitat restoration companies on the Island. Like the ball was rolling and it just then like it literally I was hanging up the phone trying to organize like interviews to some of these firms and the phone was ringing in my other hand, let's say with a few of these brands and these sort of North Shore photos thing was starting to happen and I just got busy literally in those moments where, you know, one thing led to another and I didn't stop it and never really decided, Hey, I'm going to be a photographer or Hey, I'm pursuing a career in media of the cycling industry for the next 20 years. Like, I absolutely did. Never thought that. But when the, when things are busy and you're starting to pay the bills and there all of a sudden think the momentum got going.
So, so much. So I've, I've said it before where I credit, like being caught the right place at the right time. And I would say that was it more than anything. But to get that spark and to see it and know that that you could do it, I think that just comes down to being a product of loving sport. I loved it. I was so into it. And that I think is the most important thing. I didn't love a camera and I wasn't in love with photography. I just simply loved mountain biking and I've tried to express it. So I think the passion for your sport or your career has to be, it's number one and then things just start to happen. But for me that if it happened today, it'd be a chat more challenging because it's a saturated industry. So I just got lucky to be in the right place, right time with somebody like Mitch or having some guidance of a cousin like Jeff to sorta, you know, you can do it.
Cam McRae: And timing wise as well, if you had gotten those interviews and started your career yet you would have been a different place.
Sterling Lorence: It was like the difference in potentially like four to six weeks of a tipping point in your life that just tipped one way instead of the other. If some of those, I, if I, if you do that degree today, you're, you're busy. Like look at what's happening with the shidduch shutdown and everything. Like you're there, it, that world is happening. We were, it was a bit fringy back then. So you'd be doing a lot of volunteering and you'd be getting grants and you've got to ask for Kratz and there's all that kind of stuff. But that, that was a passion of mine too. And if it was going to be what was to happen, it would have. And it was, yeah, like I look back, I didn't say there was, you know, if I was getting one less thing happening for mountain biking, then that would'nt have happened. Yeah. Or it still might, I still have that inner drive. I need it. It frustrates me that so many years have gone by and we're still not in a place of true knowledge of how to treat the fish out there.
Cam McRae: And this seems to be getting worse at an increasing rate. I want to talk a little bit about bikes. Considering you started with rim brakes and steel frames and skinny little aluminum rims. Do you still get as stoked out about bikes now in the age of carbon?
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, I mean our bikes, our bikes are so amazing now. It's so cool to see. I think this whole era where we are today, I, I kind of look at them all and I would just bunch them together and say, light carbon dropper, post disc brakes and the right amount of travel is all the same thing. So we've had that since we went to 27, five all the way to today. We're pushing 20 Niners more the last six years, seven years had been total bliss, you know the, the dropper post right there you know, a single friend chain run and get the right amount of travel and you can hang with anybody and you're loving it for the clients, lock geometry a bit for going up or whatever. I love all that era. So I still get quite stoked, but nostalgically like I was saying earlier about going slower on a hard tail and just picking your way through, like actually concentrating on every rock and every route that you know, and that, Oh, there's a lip or the puddle up between those roots is bigger today. I better watch out, like being at that pace versus today or just flying, you know I miss it for sure.
Cam McRae: What are you riding now?
Sterling Lorence: I still have, I still I'm on the same Trek remedy 17 inch carbon that I've had for about five or six years now. It's got a one 61 40 rock shocks that drops, which I still, I still like to drop the front on climbs. I know a lot of brands don't offer that much anymore, but that's important to me. I think I feel better, but it's got a, you know, it's light and it does the job. It's not so different from what you can buy today. So I, I fit ain't broke. I'm not, I'm not getting a new one. I just appreciate it that much and, and I don't need the latest and greatest and I haven't made my way up to 29 yet, but I'm still debating if I want to go faster and easier or, or stay where I'm at.
Cam McRae: And since we're talking about bike technology, what are your feelings about e-bikes?
Sterling Lorence: Well, yeah, this, well this could be a whole other podcast. I, I mean I will just say like, I, I work for some of these bigger brands. And so learning and talking to them, I was aware of this wave of surge coming of pedal assist bikes cause of what happens in Europe. And Europe has such a big cycling culture and Europeans are so open about just letting people do whatever they wanted seams. So I was seeing pedal assist mountain bikes in Europe, you know, four or five years ago, six years ago. And just, and the brand people telling us, you know, this is coming on, this is coming fast, this is going to be your job in a few years. And I, I remember being so against the thought, I was like, there's absolutely no way.
Like I that doesn't equate you know? And I, I think anytime we open up our sport to new people or, or we can help, you know, I think there's nothing wrong with that sense. Like another faculty of, of mountain biking is always a healthy thing. It's just like when downhill bikes were made in the Whistler bike park happened. I remember seeing a new demographic of user type where we add friends and minor, just people that weren't mountain bikers, but we're an Emoto say, but they went hook, line and sinker buying a pickup truck with like a nine inch travel downhill bike and spending their weekends at Whistler in the bike park and absolutely falling in love with cycling. So I think that's amazing. They're totally not trail bill tick trail riders. They're not necessarily fit. They don't go ride the Chilcotins but they're weekend warriors and Whistler fill in the restaurants buying parts.
I mean, I think that's great. So the bike's pedal assist, let's say that if that same wave happens, it's only going to make our industry stronger. But I'm in and I will say I'm guilty as using one at times. I don't own one, but I've used one where as a photographer with a heavy backpack, that thing that we mountain bike pedal assist to help me get along is amazing. I've always tried to stay fit with my work so that I can ride and keep up to the group and shoot. But it is taxing and, and I am guilty of trying to do it with the pedal assist bike. And it makes it amazingly easier where I can be cognitive and I can think more. I can take more equipment, I'll strap a Bob trailer on the back and take strobe kit and all that stuff.
So as a tool but I do you know, of course I, I'm super aware of the, the negatives where you have the industry pushing it. The industry wants to make money off it, but it's going to come at us at a rate that doesn't equate to the trail associations and the towns that have finally supported mountain biking. They're finally letting us have trail names and assign in a map and now you have this, this other item that they're going to have to contend with. You know, and I, and so in a nutshell I don't like it yet. And I would say I don't want it to affect our trail maintenance crews having to, you know, is it adding to the, to the take down where somebody could do more laps or you could have a 25% bump up in user group because a new group is making it onto the mountain and riding those same trails. And now the trail associations can't keep up a trail maintenance. So that's coming. And and so my whole thought on that is I kind of feel like if the brands are the ones that have opened up a new world economics to themselves, then I kind of feel the brands would be the ones that would be being the stewards coming back into these towns like the North Shore and saying, Hey, we've got this new product that we want to sell in your, in your neighborhood. It's going to affect trail use. We want to be the ones. And we respect how much work you've done in getting your local municipality on board with mountain biking itself. You've made all this money with volunteers and fundraising to make signs and people have donated. Now you're going to, we're going to throw the bike pedal assist equation into your network. Maybe the brands would be the ones that say we want to buy, we want to redo the sign, we want to redo your signage, not at your expense and not at your town's expense to help smooth the waters of allowing eBikes in your neighborhoods. So let's say as an example on Fromme like of course people should be able to ride an e-mountain bike up the gravel access road, go out at, it's a gravel road. You have cars on there, but should they be able to ride every single trail down? You know, that's the debate right there. And if the trails aren't able to keep up to it, maybe, maybe at the heavier pedal assist bikes where there's more traffic of them are mapped out on five of the 20 drills or the trails that can handle it.
Sterling Lorence: So I don't know, that's my sort of 2 cents for today and it's 2019. Maybe I, I'm way off the Mark and a total hypocrite within five years. I mean if I throw one more thing in there, I I was envisioned, I love going to the Chilcotins to ride in the summer for one or two rides, just to feel like what a big, big unassisted cross country ride feels like and just to be completely humbled by the terrain. And that's where I envisioned a problem where I don't want to see it where you have that sensitive Alpine environment, it's only open for two and a half months, a year. And I feel it's just this special place like any in any mountain town where they're at Alpine environment is, is less trodden and, and it, and it takes a lot of energy to get out there to enjoy it. That's the one spot where I kind of go, you know, if there we are, as with me and my buddies three hours into a ride, we've made it over Windy Pass and trying to grind up the pass and try to clean it in one take. And, and all of my buddies and I try to stay fit. We're going to go do that big ride and you've gotten yourself into condition where you're, you're going to enjoy your day, you're not going to hate your day. I always thought like, what would that feel like if I was coming up over windy pass and five or six people came up behind us and we said, Hey, we're coming through and they buzzed by us on pedal assist bikes. Yeah. They just like get out of the way we're coming through and how, how that would feel. So that's one area where I feel like we've got to regulate a little bit and I feel there is a place for them and there's also a place where I think we should limit that because I have experienced what those things can be like if they were to shut down and not work. Then that person, let's say if they're inexperienced at riding, got out way too far, bit off too much and then, you know, are stuck. But we'll see.
Cam McRae: It's an evolving situation.
Sterling Lorence: And then we got Wade fricking chirping it, riding all the trails.
Cam McRae: I want to move towards photography now. And I guess start back in the beginning there as well. Obviously you, you started working with film and I'm not sure if you still shoot film, but I want to talk about how the experience was different shooting with film and, and what you maybe miss about that experience?
Sterling Lorence: I mean, film, I, I'm certainly a photographer of the film era. My career started with film and it was, and still to this day, like the first 10 or 12 years of my career was filmed, so I was everything film, shooting commercially on film. I used to shoot press launches on film. And I learned, you know, so gobbled up a lot of film back in the day, you know, go buy like a, like a 50 pack, going into a photo shoot kind of thing. So there, I would say maybe the process was a little bit slower. You were, so another skillset was exposure. Just simply the word exposure that, that, that haunted use. Like do, did I get the exposure right? And let's say there's a difference between like slide film, which is called transparency film and negative film, which is what you make prints out of. Those are two types of film and, and a slide transparency film has a much more refined exposure latitude on it. Even to the point where it'd be like within a half a stop or a third of a stop if you didn't get your exposure right within the right amount there you had very little attitude for your shot would look really dark or really overexposed. So a whole skill set back then was developing, you know, with the light meter and knowing your terrain was just developing what the exposure was you were going to choose for that shot. So you came across a location, you want to get an image, and then you went into this mode of here's where I'm going to shoot from. This is how, what I want to shoot and now what is going to be the exposure. Whereas today's cameras the digital back and you, you know, you're, you're going to get it close. If you just slept it on like a shutter priority or like an automatic aperture setting, you're going to be close enough in the raw file. And the digital sensor has such a lot of toot of exposure that you can repair the image in Photoshop after. So you just, you're just shooting, you know, today. And maybe it makes you a little sloppier. I feel good that I got to refine my skills back in those days where all those things had to come into play and that learning exposure was different on the Shore inside the forest canopy versus using the sun in the open.
So the sun is a whole other ball of wax where, yeah, it's brighter. But what happens when your whole entire shot is full of shadow? So you had to learn how to expose properly in backlit, mid day sunrise, all those different landscapes were different exposure and you developed a sense of that through light meter, through your camera. You, you started to have a sense that you were close and you would double check with your light meters. And then you also just simply hoped and you got your shot and you know, you'd take your film to the lab and get your results and you're like, you either breathing a sigh of relief or you're totally disappointed that you know, you made a mistake and it's dark and it's not really repairable. And so you, you know 10 days later you're getting a result back and realizing you blew it, you know?
So there was so much more of a, a process back then. But on the, on the Shore, it was a fun era where we had to actually be a North Shore photographer. You also had to learn about the different film types. You couldn't just throw film in there and go shoot in the Shores to dark and like way too dark. Film stocks. Back then, most people bought, you know, a hundred speed film, 200 speed film. And that's, that's, you're not even close in the North Shore with that unless you, unless you have a really obnoxious flash, you're using most of the, so you had to explore film stocks and you would try some of those ones that were, you know, ISO 800, 1600 3,200 film stocks and then what did they look like and how do they work? That was a whole other part of the process and learning that they were ugly or too grainy or not colorful enough or all those different processes you had to get involved with.
And in the beginning you shot a lot in black and white. It seems that was, that was your answer to it back then was a lot of the magazines wanted you to shoot as much as you could, unlike transparency slide film because it reproduced really well in paper and print. And, but a lot of those transparency films didn't do good in low light. It just got really grainy and the colors were really off. [inaudible] And people, some people like that look, but in general for how vibrant beautiful the North Shore was. I thought it just didn't quite have it. And, and, and the other thing that was happening was our riders as you know, the whole free ride evolution. What, what inspired me to get into it. These riders aren't just picking their way down a slow little cross country jail and they themselves moving slow. They are moving fast. It guys were doing errors and moving down rock faces really quickly. So there was an added challenge in that it was dark and our guys were moving quickly and it was, you know, of course you could pan and be artsy and get a big blur of the person, but, but there was a responsibility I felt back then towards this is a stunt and this is what it looks like. And that's like Wade Simmons and he doesn't want a blurry shot himself. He, it's him and that he's doing a cool air and he's looking cool. I need to stop him. So black and white film, it looked better. It, you didn't have to worry about the color not being there. Maybe the grain structure turned out a little better at those high ISOs. And so, and it actually felt like the mood of what the North Shore feels like on one of those dark days.
So as a shooter you started to say, well, when I'm standing there in the woods staring up at this big air off this Stomper out that log rides structure and the mist is out there and it's, it's, it's I, it's kind of white in the midst and the ground is so dark in the shadows that it's black. It was kind of a black and white landscape and I think the mood of it also worked for shooting black and white film. And it deals better with shows as well cause it not black and white with the shadows. Yeah. Some of the film stocks can retain. That was the difference between like the Triax and the T max was the T max Kodak stocks were higher contrast I think. And that Triax if I remember right, gave you more detail in the shadows. So if you had a shot where the shadow structure was that those details and the log ride or the slats running across a ladder bridge in the shadows, that's, you want people to see that obviously.
So yeah, definitely had to learn film stocks in a hurry and it's expensive was the other big thing. You'd go to the lab and get it processed and then get prints made of your negs if some of the shots that you've wanted to see and you're, you're facing like $150 bill and printing charges and, and nag processing first stuff that might go to print or to sell to some of the brands you needed to make them, you know, sizeable prints and and some of it just didn't turn out and basically throw in the garbage, do still, she would feel sometimes I have film still sitting in the fridge and there was the odd scenario where all try and I have I definitely have some projects that I have personal projects that I want to do, but I don't, it's not something that I would regularly get as a request from a client.
In this digital age. Everything moves so quickly where I literally come home from a shoot and quickly process the images and those images can be online to the client that afternoon and on a website by that night, which is ridiculous. The turnaround time is so is so fast now in the need in this day and age. But I, I do, I do appreciate where, where I have been. If I was to shoot it, it would be it would be, I would love to do like a compare and contrast still. Like there's definitely some saturations that we've done with in the sun in Utah and stuff like that where I still feel like I can't make it look the same on a digital camera. Like even the way the sensor reacts and sure. You could probably get somebody that's a really good retoucher that could approximate film.
Cam McRae: Can you tell me how moving from editorial work to commercial work changed your career?
Sterling Lorence: Right. So in those early days where we were out, you know, expressing ourselves like Mitch was right in the words we're getting published in magazines, that's editorial content. You're getting paid a page rate by those magazines to print your images. So Mitch, his words were going, his famous story was in bike magazine and that was a big part of my career. But at the same time, Mitch would resell those pieces to other magazines in the world, which gave opportunity for your photos to double up in other magazines. So that is a huge part of your early career is developing editorial relationships with all the magazines and getting published as much as you can in your, you're mailing them slides and you're asking for slides back and they're losing them and you can't find stuff and you're duplicating shots and stuff like that. But when you get published editorially like that, your, your, the brands are seeing your name, they're seeing what you're doing and they're liking it.
And these marketing guys have their eye on you even though you don't know it. And I'm an important jump to make in my career was, was if you're really going to call it a career, you're doing less editorial work when you're doing more commercial work because it's the true pay rates of what a professional photographer should make. So in my early days, I had had a bunch of North Shore shots, obviously published in magazines around the world and some of the early brands to get on that were ones that wanted to position themselves towards North Shore style of riding. So if it was Marzocchi making the big bomber fork, you know Bryson there, you're Joel Smith over at Manitou making forks specifically for burlier riding and for the downhillers. But also, you know, you could see that marketing was going to go towards the Shore more than st downhilling.
So some of those early phone calls that I got from Joel Smith calling me from Manitou saying, Hey, I need you to shoot one of your crazy riders hucking off something with a fork. And I got like, I got a few thousand dollars for you to, if you can do that for a minute. I remember it being like jaw dropped going like, Whoa. Like, that's all I have to do is go out and shoot one of my buddies, which was Eric Van Dremmelen and obviously, and he just, he's lobbing it off a ladder drop and he's going to get a two page read the mag. And that was the pay rate at the time. And Eric stope, cause now he's riding Manitou. Joel was sending Amanda Manitou forks and that was an early taste of commercial success. And then you next thing you know, tracks calling me puts saying they want to put one of their bikes into that look. And that's just how it goes. You know,
Cam McRae: It kept going. And so instead of hoping the magazines were gonna put your work in there and you make a few hundred dollars, you've got some steady opportunities.
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, that was, that was where it was real, where you could have it, where there, there is a few additions of bike back in the, in the two thousands that I'm almost embarrassed by where you might have the cover shot. And then like the three spread opening adds our mind from Dakine Trek and like somebody else. And then it's the Buzz where you got two shots and then you might even have a feature. It would be completely ridiculous. But when you're that invested in it, and like I said before where it's I was in the right place at the right time I was as much a product of just what the free ride movement and, and BC was doing and those riders more than anything,
Cam McRae: Talking about shooting with riders, obviously you've worked with hundreds over the years, assuming you have two riders with similar style and ability, what makes working with some riders better than others?
Sterling Lorence: If we were, if we were just out doing like a stock shot like trying to get a progressive new image that wows people in the past, that's what free-riding kind of was. We were always what's next. So the riders were pushing their boundary and then myself as a photographer, I'm kind of trying to push the boundary of, of making a, an image striking so it doesn't look like something somebody has already seen before. And it's just like today, like crazy on Instagram. Like, how are you going to get, you got to get people to look at your shot, you know, which is ridiculous. But with riders like that, they, I think the ones that were the most outstanding had a desire to do a similar thing.
We were out there, they were trying to nail a line or do as well as they could and align with as much style and flair as they could. At the same time I was trying to document it as well as I could. So those, that had a bit of an understanding of the photographic process, railways better. Maybe they had a bit of patience. Maybe they were creative themselves and were curious of what they look like or how they could improve on making the photo look better. It's funny how you could be standing there and look at something in three dimensions and think something looks so amazing, but then you look on the photo go kit's not quite there. What would we got to do a little differently here? Maybe it's that sort of two dimensional process versus 3d where you need, you need somebody engaged, you know, to just show up and have it work out is seldom. So working with those top riders as if they were into it, they were always, they were always getting better shots, let's say the ones less patient, less time for it. You were stuck with what you got and maybe they'd be, that's a story in itself. Right? And I, and as a shooter, that was one thing deep inside me that I never wanted to, is to have happened was if I'm going to commit this as my career and I'm going to be regarded as one of the documentarians of this Freeride movement, I don't want to be the one that blows it. And that was something that would keep me up at night. Like if I got Thomas or Wade or dangerous Dan or anyone about to do something significant, that's a timestamp.
I can't, I can't have it where I have to call them and say it's way out of focus or I blew the exposure. So yes, I spent countless hours practicing, you know, you got a master at first and then, and and so that you would get the call back, right. You could, you could tell we were about to launch into something special with the, with an evolution, let's say like a 10 year period. You could kind of tell something like that was going to happen and I certainly wanted to get dragged along on that ride. And so those early days it was, there was, there was time there where you had to make sure you got the call back. Speaking of the early,
Cam McRae: I think the rider, at least for me, you're most associated with is Thomas Vanderham. Can you tell me, about working with Thomas and what makes your relationship so significant?
Sterling Lorence: Yes. I'm lucky that he chose to move to BC from Edmonton to the North Shore. He was a product too of like my early relationships with Wade and Andrew Shandro. I think Thomas like those two guys a lot. And those two guys had a lot of time for Thomas cause that, that when Thomas first moved into town, he was, I think it was like 13 or 12 or 14, I remember one of the first shoots we ever were on and I realized how important or how good he was, but also how much he had his sorta head screwed on. Right. Was it was that, it was the day that, that the fifth horseman trail was scheduled to get chainsawed down. And I believe it was Digger was gonna film. And I wanna say it might've been your Lee with no, it might've been yearly or might've been one of the first collective films. We knew they were going to take it down on like a Saturday or a Friday. So we had scheduled with all the riders, Hey guys, this is our final chance to document some of this trail. We better get in there. And we went at that, we went at Dawn and, and it was a sunny day, which isn't great for shooting on the Shore, but I remember being posted up on one of the big ladder bridge step downs, like a wheelie droplets call it. And Andrew was there filming and Thomas showed ups. It was the first time I'd ever met Thomas. And I think Eric Sewell, who was a West van kid who was an amazing rider. He knew how to ride all the stunts already. He came in to film as well. We were shooting all those guys. And I remember Thomas came up to the edge of about a 10 foot step down. It was technical. We leave, drop any backed off of it. And I remember Andrew saying, good call Thomas, you don't, don't do it if you don't like it. And he's like, yeah, I don't like it. And it wasn't great. And I remember thinking myself, that's Epic. Who is this kid who doesn't have Kodak courage right now? Who knows his talent well enough?
Or maybe that he's not quite there yet. It's like a 13 year old and he backed away from it with, you know, my camera's out was probably two or three other filmers that their cameras staring at him. And it was a moment, he basically just sat back on an, on a gnarly tray. So that was, that was an early days connection with Thomas. And I would say if, if with back to your question with having shot him so much for the years, just amazing talent amazing style on a bike. I, I consider him like a pure athlete where he can pick up like golf clubs or a basketball or a soccer ball and dominate that sport. He truly is an amazing athlete and it shows the way he rides and it's also the timing of his arrival into our sport. The way we kind of wanted, maybe it's my taste a little bit where I was never like, I guess I appreciate like a performance athlete where somebody can sniff out a stunt and execute it well and respect how it should be written and, and shows it.
I really appreciate that. And that's kinda what I want to photograph is that somebody that shows up and just absolutely sends it and augers in and like worst style, worst landing maybe gets hurt a little bit that I know that's good and all. But if you have an athlete like Thomas that does it gracefully with style, that's the moment of trying to document and sort of, we went through the Freeride evolution of him taking on like bigger gaps. He was pioneering stuff like, okay, let's step ups and all these crazy gaps and, and moves wall rides and all these things. You could challenge his physicality and his coordination and his style and put him through those paces. And, and he would, he would rise his game. And that was an exciting thing. And, and those years I just happened to overlap a lot with him, with some of his sponsors. I would've loved to have had all that same amount of time with Wade and, or if Andrew, some of these other amazing riders bearclaw, you name it. I think just some of the brands who start to associate with starts to drive you towards certain riders more than others. And it wasn't necessarily personal choice. Like I had heard pro downhillers say that.
Cam McRae: Can you tell me about traveling overseas in the early days as a photographer?
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, I was lucky. I was super lucky in the early days or at any time in my career to have, you know, the, the work take me places. In the early days it would have been on some of the early film shoots with the collective and you know, the Rome days making films like that where the budgets were big enough that brands were supporting our films enough that we could, we could travel to get to new exotic locations. So in those early days, I think on first memory, I think maybe Morocco was a big one for Rome was one of the more exotic overseas trips where we went, where mountain biking took us to see new places.
And, and that would've been for a film. And on a commercial sense it would have been press camps. That was the initial driver of getting me abroad. Whether it was tracker specialized. I know I did a camp for Manitou in my early years, my career like easily 15 years ago where Joel took a lot of the European journalists to the Canary islands for, for a week of trying notes and new forks. And I got to shoot that. So definitely I'm really lucky to be in this position, to be calling that work, going to be flown around the world to see me places and, and, and a Testament to what we're mountain bikes can take you. It's amazing what our sport allows and, and how cool a lot of the marketing people are to have like adventure and be a big part of the how they want to express the bikes.
Cam McRae: Speaking of adventure, you would go to places like Morocco with a bunch of bikes you've probably had some, some interesting experiences. Is there anything that stands out is something you'll, you'll never forget in a foreign land?
Sterling Lorence: Yeah you never know what you're gonna get into. And we always tried to be like, well organized and I, and I always appreciated the, the way the collective guys operated. But you never know what's going to happen on, on trips like that where you're, you're like, that's why the name of the movie was called Ron's like you're roaming the landscape looking for stuff. And I know, I know we got off the plane there and I remember the next day after traveling so far to get to Morocco and eating foreign foods and you know, try not to get sick and all that and you're jet lagged. And then we, the drivers told us, okay, we got to drive to we're going to drive you into the Atlas mountains. We had these two hired hands and these tiny little land rovers showed up full of all our equipment with so much in biking gear and we were so squished, but it seemed fine. And you're like, okay, well this is cool. We were actually being driven. We got drivers. That's special. But I know, I remember, I remember it would, we would have probably been like our nine or 10 or 11 or 12 in that the back of that land Rover trying to get into the Atlas mountains and thinking we had like a two hour drive and they can Whoa, this is, this is gnarly. No big deal to these drivers and stuff like that. I'm trying not to get sick. That was always a big one.
Cause you're, you gotta work hard and you've put so much into being there that staying healthy and not getting some stroke or not trying to get sick from the food was always a big challenge. And at the same time you have that threat and nearly days of one of the riders getting hurt. And that was, that was always a big thing on our minds too. Even on that trip, Andrew Shandro tore his ACL sorta halfway, three quarters through the trip. So you have one, one rider down and, and you got things happening. So in that and that stuff, some of those antics that was the, you know, the elation rinses out the bad memories, like actually discovering an amazing zone and finding new stents or new terrain that could actually ride and building it and, and waiting for the light and shooting it and knowing we're, we're scoring some of those moments.
It's that moment. I remember more, I remember the photo. I mean, I guess that's why I'm a photographer, but I see them as photos back there. You go through a trip like that and you're, you're hoping to come out with some content that the viewers are going to be stoked with. So all the bad stuff of like missing flights and getting sick and long drives like that. That stuff gets forgotten. Just for those special moments of this stuff that you did get.
Cam McRae: Looking forward, do you see your, your, your field changing much maybe changing because of technology? One of the things that I sometimes find frustrating shooting photos is how much are I can capture and, and how difficult it is for the camera to deal with high contrast situations. Even now, things like that. Is there something in technology or even just trends, the way things are changing that, that you, you see changing already or in the future about photography in action sports?
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, like I photographically for sure we're in a huge transition now with it, with the digital world. The way we're being delivered content is what's changed the most obviously like that our, our phones becoming our, our, our television basically and our entertainment location. I think that's the biggest change. Photographs, you know, a good photograph is still a good photograph. Our brands using them as much? Well, I'd say no. Like if I was to say to recommend a young, a young aspiring photographer to come into this industry, I would probably steer him to be or her extremely aware of. Like that video content seems to be more in demand than photo content. So I would tell that young person to do both and to study both really well and be able to do both really well. So photographically like technology changing, I mean, yeah, the sensor technology is the, the, the way the sensor records now is able to record, you know, let's say the darkest of shadows to the brightest highlights and you can end it, you can go from one end to the other inside your photo.
So it's kinda like a super HDR era, let's say. It's almost foolproof what the cameras can do today. But the biggest change for me is simply how our media is used. Magazines are just still slightly remaining, but it's not necessarily the, the GoTo for the average user. I think a traditionalist, we all love holding onto a magazine still and it's still amazing having your photo printed on paper. It's such a nice tactile thing, but knowing that you, most of the content is going to be like a photo Epic on a, on a website. It's going to be on Instagram like crazy. Your photos that you're scoped with that would be absolute lockdown as a two page spread. The magazine just five years ago is only maybe going to be on Instagram and maybe on a websites photo of the day. Like that's it.
And it's like Holy or it might make it on the the sponsoring brand's website. Like I'm literally out there doing that for those, for those brands now. So it's, it's not the same, but I was also thinking about it today thinking, well social media wise, if I give this banger, let's say it's a nug, I'm going to give it to the rider and I'm going to give it to the sponsoring brand and I'm going to give it to the film company and I'm going to use it and a few other people are going to use it as well. We collectively are probably putting that photo in front of more eyes than we ever have before. So as much as I would shun how today's generation are looking at content, let's say Instagram it's also putting that image in front of more people cause in the past you, you know, I'd lock it in on a two pitch bread bike and then it might up in European magazines. And sure those are getting eyeballs where they actually getting as many. So photographically maybe, maybe we're going to be okay. But it's definitely a new era.
Cam McRae: You used a word that I've heard you use over the years, but maybe people aren't familiar with your particular use of it. Can you tell me about the word nug.
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, I don't know nug, I don't know where we started using that or if we were the first or who said it. Somebody said it, you know, I don't think we're the first ones, but we always gravitated to the word nug. It's just an easy word to say and it's just got to do with when you get an image that you've been working hard at. We always said, we're kind of like miners where we go into the land and we're digging around all day and we're getting sunburnt and you kind of feel like a miner, you're dirty at the end of the day. And those miners are digging for their Nugs of gold. And our nugget of gold is just that photo. So that's where the word nugs came from. And, and I think it fits. And a lot of people use it.
Cam McRae: Now, speaking of nugs you brought some, some photos along with you for some of the old days it looks like I'd like to have a look at some of those. You're showing me a contact sheet here and I can see it's a Cypress looks like one of Dangerous Dan's trails, pre Reaper and lots of roots and it's all shot in black and white. Can you tell me what you were aiming for with this roll?
Sterling Lorence: Right. So I wanted to show you this one cause it's one of the, one of the first roles that I shot specifically on that day. It would've been a point in my career was I had played with film a bunch and I would just shoot my friends lots for sort of fun. And then I started to realize as I start to study like what professionals were doing, where let's say there is the lens I'm using sharp enough on my concentrating enough on being in focus and my getting my exposures right. Why, what separates me is sort of a, a hobbyist photographer from getting published versus what the pros were doing, let's say. So then I obviously took it to another level where I might've bought a better lens that was sharper. I was studying film stocks of, of the black and whites in the color negative film and, and learning how to shoot better and getting confident. And so this roll would have been one of those days where I had a new level of confidence and I wanted to then go back into the trails that we wrote a lot as friends and say, Hey guys, I want to shoot you guys this weekend, but I want to go on a photo shoot. I don't want to go riding with my camera. Can I have your time? And we might redo a few things and I want it to be, let's say cloudier it was wet or whatever. Instead of sunny. So this rule was that rub it almost credited back to this was the first attempts at like being kind of pro and having these shots potentially get published. So yeah, I mean right away, I mean again, back to back to your being a product of the environment. It's, it's dangerous dance trail building creativity that's almost selling my shots cause it's, it's so stunning looking and it's so different from what normal people are used to seeing. So his creation is offering an opportunity to, you know, sell shots, let's say. And so this, it was just experimenting with angles and, and, and through this shot, yeah, you got like Teeter totters on a log and you got amazing masses of roots and that just, it was showing us what, what was inspiring us, what, what was, what did we think looked cool when we were on the mountain?
Cam McRae: And I know I've seen one of these images before for sure too. Did you have a few of these published?
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, I would say back to like Mitch being the writer and getting photos published when when an editor called for your work, you would sometimes send like a hundred images and they would pick two or pick four. But through that process, different editors like different content. So some of these images would get published in different magazines and others with others and stuff like that. So it was always quite a thrill for my friends to cause. And these early days they I didn't have the relationship with guys like Wade Simmons or even dangerous Dan or any of the other top riders like Andrew Shandro or whoever to call them into this scenario. I wasn't confident enough, but I also knew that my rider, my friends rode some of these lines just as well. And it was as much a thrill for me to put them in the magazines. It was to be calling up Dan or Wade. And so my buddies became kind of media stars at the same time. But they appreciated that. Yeah.
Cam McRae: Iit's interesting to see this massive roots here because when we shot a neighbor I got a shot of you standing at the top.
Sterling Lorence: Oh yeah. Right there. So that was, those still to this day are so stunning looking and it, and it, you, I look back and go like, what was lucky about that day that we scored that I might have not quite been as a student to knowing back then is it had lightly snowed actually. So there's a little bit of snow, but, but the landscape was wet. There was a little bit of mystery, but I think the dampness glistening off of the terrain, you know, you look back and go, yeah, we scored the right day there. I wouldn't choose to do this shoot any differently today as I would have, this is probably 21 years ago now, which is crazy, although I'd probably do it digitally today. But if I was to choose the right day, it would have been that day. It's muddy and wet and gnarly. And that's just how we loved it. In two images. Show the difference that the weather mix right. And as soon as Eric...
Cam McRae: You said Eric Sewell?
Sterling Lorence: Eric Sewell on the 5th Horseman trail in its original state, not in today's state before the district sawed it down
Cam McRae: And it's got a stump drop. It looks like what, 10 or 12 or 15 feet or something. It's a big move.
Sterling Lorence: And one is quite Misty and the rider is obviously the central focus because of that. And the other one it's what a sunny day, the pure sunny day, that was the day where the district was going to cut it down and we showed up to get some final shots, but the sun was out. We had no choice but to shoot on a sunny day on the Shore. And it basically boils down to on a Misty day in flat light, the sun isn't able to make it through into the terrain where you're shooting and it's more of a balanced exposure.
It's like a big soft box out there and missed, gives us that veil of contrast behind what would be a dark rider. So you're essentially silhouetting the rider against a drape of white mist, which gives you instant contrast and you can see, and it also the mist is, is brighter than the terrain of the forest. So I could expose to the mist a little bit, which actually gave me a little bit more shutter speed to stop the rider because back then it was just so dark in there that you had no way of stopping the riders. It was literally black is night. So well, how do you get rid of block? Well, you gotta have something white. So the mist gave us that. That's that backdrop to contrast the riders to razz on a sunny day. The sun is, is poking through, we call it like disco Bali.
Just imagine a disco ball spinning in the woods and you have these bright splotches of ugly hot light shining in your other wise ambient sort of green forest. And the camera has difficulty with that. Our eyes are amazing at being able to tone down those bright spots, but hold to the shadows. It's incredible what our eyes can do. A camera and film and digital technology still can't handle that high level of a contrast where the sun's actual light shining in the woods. Exposure is going to be way different than just the terrain right beside it. So you end up with this like mish-mash light. That's hard to see where the rider is. The camera doesn't like the exposure and it just looks like jump. So yeah, that would be why most of us today choose to be in the woods on a cloudy day versus a sunny day.
Cam McRae: How long did it take you to learn that, that the best days were the worst days? Yeah, just studying, well, studying into your own work is the critical part.
Sterling Lorence: And then obviously seeing other people's photography in that landscape and trying to figure out why you like it more. So if I was looking in the magazines back then at somebody like John Gibson's work, I'd be like, wow, look at the type of day that he's choosing to shoot in there. And it would also be if I looked at someone in some of your shots cam or even watching like the footage that Digger Digger was making, all his early day films. And if you simply put on one of Digger's first films and watched his hour long footage, he couldn't be every day. And on a cloudy day when he was filming. So just watching this sort of sunny disco ball days versus a cloudy day versus a rainy day just watching his movie and go and it, and it wasn't necessarily just that I chose not to use the sun.
It was more of that mood resonated of that's how I wanted to express the Shore. And it just so happened to be that the days that you would want to shoot for how it looked was the best way that film wanted to record it anyways. So you just didn't shoot on the sunny days.
Cam McRae: Are there days now where you can see the conditions are, are prime and you'll call up a rider you know and go shoot. Does that ever happen anymore?
Sterling Lorence: Not as much. Just because we're busy and they've got a family and, and don't, if I had free time like that, I'd probably just go for a ride and call you and your cameras go ride, put your computer away and I'll put my camera away. So, but I certainly 100% still everyday look up there and know I love weather and I love studying the weather and I love knowing what we're getting for weather. So at any given time of the year I'd know what's happening and, and I certainly appreciate those days. I still get like I'd get fidgety and a little bit stressed out if I looked up there and it was like, you know, bright and Misty and the fog is sitting in the woods. I would be jonesing hard. I'd have to basically look away.
Cam McRae: Sterl, Thank you very much for your time. I know, you've got to stop to prepare for your next, next gig. And I really appreciate you sitting down and sharing your expertise with us.
Sterling Lorence: Yeah, Thank to you Cam. Thanks for the opportunity. Thanks to the listeners for being out there and it's nice to share in a career with mountain bikes with you at the same time. It's a lot of years for you too. A lot of stories. We could do 10 of these podcasts really well.
Cam McRae: Well here's number one of 10 right?
Sterling Lorence: I'll come back anytime.
Cam McRae: Thanks bro.
Cam McRae: Sterling, may be a photographer by trade, but the man tells a great story. Hopefully he'll share more his tales with us in the future. Thanks very much for joining us for podcast number one from nsmb.com if you're listening to this around New Years, 2020, we'll be dropping another episode shortly. Until then, please subscribe, too obsessed with mountain biking and keep checking in for fresh stories, videos, and other features on nsmb.com I'm Cam McRae wishing you happy trails and Happy New Year.