What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Talk: Cycling Photographer Joolze Dymond

There are a few people who are responsible for making cycling look good. From behind their lens they use their talent and skills to bring us beautiful pictures, video and write ups of our much loved sport. I caught up with one such talent; photographer, writer and marketeer Joolze Dymond one cold January day at a mountain bike enduro.

Contributed By Phil Gale


Joolze in action.

PEZ: Joolze, thanks for taking the time to chat with Pez. Firstly how did you end up getting into cycling and photography?
Joolze Dymond: Gosh, well the cycling came first, way back in the mists of time when my best friend at the time happened to buy a bike from a proper bike shop. It looked fun and up till then I’d only had a ‘shopping’ bike and living in Wales I wasn’t too inclined to go too far on it. However at the tender age of 15, I got my first ‘racer’ a 23” Raleigh Stratos, from Halfords!!

Luckily as my friend had bought hers from the local bike shop we both slowly began to get sucked into the world of cycling and although my friend gave up long ago I’ve been hooked ever since! I traded the Raleigh in for a better bike, started racing, and just didn’t look back!! I had a brief period when I gave up cycling, just to get my college work out my system, take up drinking, etc, but when I graduated, my first job was in the local bike shop, just for 6 months of course to pay my overdraft off, and I stayed for 7 years, only moving further into the cycling industry, while packing in more racing!


Behind the scenes at the Tour of Britain 2010.

Photography was always a love of mine too. Around the same time as I got into cycling, I started dabbling with photography; I was lucky in that a friend of mine had a darkroom and was willing to let me play. I still have some of my early shots; I think the idea of freezing a moment in time that unlocks a thousand memories whenever you look at it just appealed to me. I’m not sure why I didn’t pursue a photography degree; I’m not sure what I really wanted to do at all at that age other than ride a bike! So I went on to do a degree in colouring in. Actually I trained as a glass blower/ teapot maker! Over the years I dabbled with my film camera but was happier riding and racing than pursuing a career.


Wide angle mountain biking.

The opportunity arose many years later to take the plunge and get back into photography, when an artist friend of mine intimated that she would like to buy one of these new fangled digital cameras. At the time, I thought it would be interesting to be able to grab some shots and work on them on the computer, so I went out and went digital. The first couple of shots happened to be at a local crit, I took some shots and showed them to a cycling mag and they got published and it sort of grew from there! That was 10 years ago now and I haven’t looked back, fully immersing myself in the world of photography. I’m lucky really being able to combine my two greatest loves in life, cycling & photography. I still ride bikes you’ll be pleased to know, all be it at a much slower and more comfortable pace than I did!


Post-race emotion from biking legend Nick Craig.

PEZ: What is your preference, digital or traditional film cameras?
JD: Well at this moment in time it has to be digital for ease of use and for the work flow aspect, I can shoot anything up to 2,000 images at an event on a good day, though I still do dabble with film. Digital is great but can make you lazy – shoot an image, and if it’s crap, delete. With film you have to carefully balance up your options, take your time to set up your shot, and go from there, plus there were also those happy ‘accidents’ which you can never recreate with a digital camera. I think a lot of my approach to how I shoot my images stems from that perspective. I hardly ever use the motor drive, for shotgun effect on the camera, preferring instead to choose the precise moment I want, one that I’ve already planned in my head. Though on the plus side digital gives you more room to be inventive and creative without wasting a shed load of film!!


Getting ready for another day looking through the view finder.

PEZ: What is your typical set up for a race?
JD: Check the weather, then pack everything anyway! Then at the race venue get suited and booted and choose what I need for the day, and I was almost forgetting the coffee, plenty of it to keep me focused! I’ll usually take out two cameras (unless it’s really wet), Nikon of course;0), one with a telephoto, usually the 70-200mm and one with a prime which at the moment is 85mm and I’ll also have my 16mm fisheye tucked away in my pocket. I also have an array of flashes, spare batteries and pocket wizards, a couple of bungee cords, and a VAL (Voice Activated Light stand, which more often than not is my long suffering husband;0)).


Emotion from an Endurance mountain bike event with bad weather to boot.

If it’s wet, then the camera bag comes out too, and I’ll just use one camera, with a waterproof cover (if I remember…) If not I travel light with everything stuffed in my pockets…

Then I set off to check out different parts of the course, I very rarely stay in one place all event. I like to move around and get a different feel for each event.


Dusk till Dawn start.

PEZ: Your photos definitely show your talent and passion, what do you think it is that makes them stand out from other photographers?
JD: I am very passionate about the sport so I guess yes the way I portray the sport through my images will undoubtedly reflect that passion. It’s not easy, capturing the emotion of say a 24 hour event but I love that challenge. I am known as a ditch dweller as more often than not you often just catch a glimpse of a just my lens with me snuggled down into a usually damp ditch to get the angle I want whist not alerting the rider that I’m there. Makes a huge difference to the images.


Another great view from inside the race.

I got into taking images at events, not to make a quick buck, but to try and promote the sport to others by the medium of photography. I take images I like and that make me go ‘wow’ wish I could ride that or take part in that event. I get a thrill, a real buzz when I see the images shaping up as I intended, placing a rider in the context of the landscape they are riding and trying to capture the emotion of the sport. Occasionally people will tell me that they’ve come to ride certain events as they’ve seen my images and they want to experience the event first hand, and that just makes it all worthwhile for me. To get just one more person involved and loving the sport of cycling because of my images would be awesome.


Pain.


Post-race emotion.

PEZ: Road or mountain bike, which do you prefer?
JD: Which do I prefer as rider or shooter? Tricky one, my background as a rider was road & track, with a little dalliance into mountain biking in the early years of the sport. But I’m probably more passionate about mountain biking as that’s where I’ve spent most of the last 10 years, sitting in a ditch capturing images for multiple mountain bike events, watching the sport evolve and grow. It’s the grass roots element I love, the fact that anyone can pitch up and have a go and everyone will be pretty friendly and help as much as they can. Endurance racing is pretty big at the moment in the UK as the majority of riders taking part are usually in teams of mates just having a go and the camaraderie and banter is excellent. I’ve also been championing the sport for many years as it does seem a little like the little forgotten brother of road and track.


A stage of the Tour of Britain looking more like a Belgian Classic.

Having said that, these last couple of years I’ve been creeping out of my ditch and dabbling in the darkside! In 2009 I got involved with the Tour Series the cracking series of town centre races that are run as team events. 10 teams in pursuit of the ultimate accolade as the top team in the UK.

The racing was awesome. It also gave me a chance to step out of my comfort zone. You have to think fast and work fast to capture images in a crit. Those boys move fast and you don’t want to get in their way!! It gave me a chance to stretch myself and bring a bit of my creativity into that aspect of the sport. It was a real baptism of fire, a real adrenalin rush but I loved it and got some excellent shots. Then last year I had the chance to work for both the Tour Series again and also the Tour of Britain. I’d previously done shorter stage races but nothing on the scale of the TOB. Being involved with that was outstanding. Each day a different location, constantly on the move, constantly looking for interesting shots that you’d have a matter of seconds to execute before you’d be off in hot pursuit of the fast moving cavalcade. The highlight for me was hitching a lift in the Rapha Condor Sharp team car on stage 5. I was skeptical at first that I could do anything with images from the rear of the race, but as it turned out I captured, what for me, were some of the most outstanding shots I’d taken at a road race. So although my heart lies with mountain biking, I love the rush of adrenalin of the road and I’m hoping now I’ve got a taste for it I can do a bit more!


Cyclo cross action perfectly captured by Joolze.

Oh and not forgetting I’m quite partial to a bit of ‘cross too!!! (Pez: Joolze having just returned from shooting photos at the recent British Cyclo Cross National Championships)


In car view of a Pro Tour event with the Rapha Condor Sharp Team, Director John Herety hard at work.

PEZ: As a writer what do you think makes a good article?
JD: Something that draws you into the piece, that’s not too in awe of the subject but portrays the passion and the drama and the fun!


Joolze even has an eye for distractions!

PEZ: Magic wand, in an ideal world what, would be you perfect assignment?
JD: Gosh a hard one. A perfect assignment, probably somewhere stunning with fabulous light, somewhere like Paraguay, or maybe covering something like the Cape Epic or La Ruta….

Or I’d love to spend a season with a team, behind the scenes as well as races. I love taking images that provide a complete insight to the sport, all the grit as well as the glamour!


Some things cannot be planned!

PEZ: The artist mentality is very similar to the athlete’s one, never satisfied and always looking to improve. That in mind what are you top 3 favourite photos you have taken and why?
JD: ‘Something Blue’

I’m always thinking of different ways to capture an image, I never go with preconceived ideas I tend to let the ideas flow out as I take in the race. That in mind I do go armed with certain props, ‘just in case’! This shot was taken at the TORQ 12:12 and was inspired by the fact that part of the course was lit by glow sticks. I just happened to have a pocket full of fairy lights with me and got creative and got this fabulous shot of Steve Webb coming through the tunnel in a ‘Tron-esque’ style! Has to be one of my all-time favourites.

‘TOB-Stage 5’ or ‘TOB-Stage 5-B’

I was really skeptical that I could get any decent images that sum up the emotion of road racing from the back of the bunch. But I soon got my creative flow in over drive as I watching the race unfold from the Rapha team car. There was no chance to slow down or hop out the car for any images. I came away with some of the most emotive images for me of the whole tour. They certainly bring a smile to my face as I remember both the race itself but also the time spent in the Rapha team car savoring the race insights by DS John Herety.

‘D2D09’

I love the simplicity of this shot. I was out in the middle of the night in the middle of the forest and as you can see it’s pitch black! I was looking for something different to capture that middle of the night feeling and as I watched the riders pedal towards me I loved the silhouette effect that the lights from other riders created.

It wasn’t easy to capture! Digital cameras don’t like dark places! So focusing was a nightmare, that and the fact the rider was moving towards me, made it even more complicated. This was one of a series, which worked perfectly and summed up the feeling of that event for me.

Or

‘Leaders’

This was taken at the very first Montane Kielder 100. The UK’s first 100-mile race that is run around just one 100-mile loop, so grabbing images is something of a challenge.

In the course of the race the riders cross from England over to Scotland via the ‘Bloody Bush’ toll. Here I managed to get to the crossing point just as the leaders came surging through. I love this shot as it portrays the bleak conditions, there was very little visibility in that mist and also the surreallity of the riders racing watched passing through by the piper. His eyes not quite believing what he’s seeing.

It’s the little details like that, that really make it for me.


Getting artistic.

PEZ: From behind your lens you get a great insight into where cycling has come from and where it is going, are you positive about the future of the sport?
JD: Absolutely. We all have our off days and the grass always looks greener on the other side, but knowing what I do about the sport and the people involved and the friendships that are forged through the medium of the sport, it may have its ups and downs but there will always be at least one bike in every garage in this country and that bike will get ridden at some time which for me shows that cycling will always hold it’s own, despite what the roads, car drivers, and any other negative aspect can throw at us. The cycling community is incredible strong and supportive and it’s this strength of spirit that will see the sport evolve and continue for a long time yet!


Some more great moments from Joolze.

PEZ: Finally what is your number one hot tip to any budding cyclist photographer?
JD: Take photos that excite you, that way if no one else likes them it doesn’t matter cos you like them anyway and they will bring back some great memories for you and that’s all that’s counts!!!


The face behind the camera.

***
Thanks a lot to Joolze for taking the time to chat with us and share some of her great work with us. It is always a pleasure to meet such a passionate person, I was grabbing my camera and ready to run out the door after our conversation!

You can keep up with Joolze and check out more of her great work at the following places. Her website, www.joolzedymond.com, Flickr, her blog, her portfolio site, and of course, Twitter.

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