Cameron Mason – The Racer

The Simpsons, Series 2, Episode 13 – Homer vs Lisa and the 8th Commandment.
Homer and friends sit down to watch a live cable t.v broadcast of Watson v Tatum 2: The bout to knock the other guy out.
Breathy, English-accented voice over – “The challenger learned how to fight in the notorious projects of Capital City, and honed his skills whilst serving time for aggravated assault and manslaughter in Springfield prison”.
Barney Gumble – “Aaaallright! A local boy”

There’s always been a correlation when following professional sport between an athlete’s perceived geographical proximity to one’s self and the level of will to see them succeed. Not a fandom necessarily, or something rooted in parochiality, but an interest in who they are, the results they produce, and what it was that took someone from the same milieu as you to the ranks of professional sport.
We in the BCR are not immune to this ourselves, particularly when the sport in question is cycling; so when we’d heard of someone from our corner of the world, who has trained on the same roads as us and appears on the same Strava segment leaderboards, making a successful foray into professional cycling, we had to find out what his story was.

Cameron Mason is a 19-year-old cyclocross racer from Central Scotland.
After a few years of racing all over the country and making regular cross-channel trips to race in Belgium, he is spending his first full season living and racing on the continent as part of the Trinity Racing team.
Multiple top 10 and 20 finishes, including in World Cup and European Championship races, and a podium finish in the UK Championships means 2019/20 has already been fruitful.
Cameron is also voracious in documenting his cycling life, both racing and otherwise, through various forms of social media.
Without further ado, let us introduce Cameron Mason…

Let’s start right at the beginning. How did you get into cycling?

My cousin Calum was big into cycling when he was a youth and junior, so the cycling side of things came from there. I always rode my bike when I was little, I really enjoyed it and my parents encouraged it. When I was about 8 years old I started some racing in the Under 12s at Scottish XC MTB races. After I started racing properly I spiralled into wanting to race all types of events. I did road, XC, CX, track and running when I was younger. When I was about 12 West Lothian Clarion youth club came about which helped massively with my development.

Your first club was West Lothian Clarion. What did you learn from riding and racing with the club, and was this where you first discovered you had a talent for cycling?

I loved riding in the club, I learned loads while in WLC. It allowed me to push myself as it opened new opportunities, like riding the club 10 mile TT, training session and club races. It was a perfect environment to learn surrounded by my friends and passionate coaches and helpers. I don’t think there was ever a ‘discovery’ of talent. In my head, I knew I was enjoying it and I was always on my bike and mucking around. That seemed to be a good recipe for making a good bike rider.

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Cyclocross is the discipline you specialise in.
What attracted you specifically to CX; what are the attributes, skills and talents you have that mean you excel at cross, and have you ever toyed with the idea of transitioning to road?

Cyclocross is a funny one. It’s hard to describe the discipline to someone who doesn’t know about it. It requires a range of skills as the courses can be so different week to week. Some races we ride are very fast with average speeds close to 30km/hr and some are the opposite with very slow speeds and sometimes 50% running. You need to be adaptable and have the ability to handle different situations quickly and decisively. For example if it starts to rain 10 minutes before the race you need to change you tire set up them re-adjust your race approach to ride better in the mud. In cyclocross things are always changing, track conditions, how muddy your bike is, the riders who are around you and also the way you have to ride sections.

The last few years I have been asked about the road a lot. As I have progressed in CX and with the success of guys like MVDP and Wout van Aert who combine both disciplines, people are curious to see how I would do on the road. Right now I am very happy to focus on my CX progression. At the moment I have lots of opportunities to push my CX forward, but if those were to come about in the road I would be happy to pursue them.

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How much of your practice time is spent on the skills required to be a good Cyclocross rider – dismounting, clipping in and out, shouldering the bike, picking a line through an obstacle etc. – and how much is spent on just developing the power and endurance in the legs and the cardiovascular system to push you through a race?

In a normal week, 80% of our riding time is on the road, we don’t actually do much specific CX training midseason. That is mainly because we are racing two times a week, the race time keeps our skills sharp and the road sessions are the best way to get a quality training ride.

I want to be the best I can be in the world of cyclocross…

In October 2019 you were announced as having signed for Cycling super-agent, Andrew McQuaid’s Trinity Racing.
How did that come about and what attracted you to join the team?

Tom basically DMed me on Instagram in August 2019 and asked if I would like to ride for the team. I said ‘FOR SURE!’ and that was that. It was a very logical fit though. I want to be the best I can be in the world of cyclocross and being in Trinity meant I would get to ride the best gear, the best races and be teammates with one of the best riders, Tom Pidcock.

You now share a team with Men’s Junior and U23 Cyclocross World Champion, and Junior and U23 Paris-Roubaix winner, Tom Pidcock, and participant in numerous Giro Rosa, Women’s Tour, and World, Euro and British Championship Road Races, Abby-Mae Parkinson.
What have you learned from spending time with these guys and seeing how they go about racing their bikes?

First of all, they are VERY quick bike riders (obviously) so that has been fun trying to keep up with them! We have a really good team dynamic and bring our own unique qualities to the table which is really cool. I have learned so much from them already, Tom’s wealth of race experience in all disciplines have taught me lots about this sport. I ask him lots of questions which might annoy him sometimes I think, but he is always happy to help and to see me learn. Abby does not live in Belgium full time with Tom and me but when she is over I really enjoy training with her. She has very cool stories of the road side of the sport that I don’t know a huge amount about.

You predominantly race on the continent these days, with Cyclocross being particularly big in Belgium and the Netherlands.
How do you cope with all the travelling, the time away from home, and the pressures of racing?

I will be away from Scotland for about 5 months in total this season which is the longest I have been abroad at a time. To be honest I haven’t really noticed it or missed home that much. That must mean I have been enjoying myself so that’s good. The training and racing is quite intense so there isn’t time to really miss home and I am doing exactly what I want to do and I love it! I live with Tom in Belgium, he is good company. The Trinity Team is also like a wee family so I kind of feel like I belong here.

I really like the feeling of involving people in my racing and it is amazing when things are awesome because you can share your success with thousands of people.

What have been the other high points in your racing career so far?
Any particular events or results that stand out?

Up until now, I would say my career highlights have all been things like racing my first world cup, racing my first world champs, and racing with MVDP. As I start to do more of these big races and my results climb up I am raising my bar to bigger things. My top 10 at the Tabor World Cup felt very big but this season has really been a whirlwind of new best results and high points, it’s all been awesome!

There are many obvious facets to being a professional sportsperson and a very important one nowadays for fan and sponsorship engagement is social media.  You do this really well with your IG/FB stories, YouTube, Vlogs etc. Is media/social production another passion of yours and how has this evolved as your career has grown?

Yes, I do think social media is more important nowadays as an athlete but it is definitely not essential. I really enjoy sharing what I am up to and showing people as much as I can about the sport but it isn’t really for everyone. If you don’t enjoy sharing and you force it then it will come across and unauthentic which is the opposite of how it should be. I really like the feeling of involving people in my racing and it is amazing when things are awesome because you can share your success with thousands of people. But it can be hard when things don’t go great and you feel like you have to share that with people. That is when it is important to set yourself boundaries and remember that you come first, not social media. Sharing the low points as well as the high points is good as it is important for people to know its not all amazing, but sometimes it’s ok to not share when you are not feeling great.

Having dabbled ourselves with videos, there is a huge amount of time in editing and general production.   How do you pull all this together in addition to the obvious time sacrifices for training and racing?

As a bike rider you spend your time either eating, sleeping, riding or recovering. There isn’t much time for anything else but I have found something productive and enjoyable I can do with my downtime, edit YouTube videos! Other riders have XBOX, Netflix and reading, I have Adobe Premiere Pro (my editing software) I have busier training and racing periods where editing is put to the side so I am less productive there. I also find races where I didn’t perform as well as I’d liked to harder to edit as it’s basically 6-8 hours looking at footage from the race and race day. And if that’s of a bad day it’s not the most inspiring thing in the world. But when I have a REALLY good race it is so fun to edit because I can relive how good I felt on the bike that day, pros and cons!

What benefits has your vegan diet brought you?

Going plant-based has been quite a gradual thing for me over the last 5ish years so I can’t really say any definite benefits that I have felt. I get to eat a lot! Firstly because plant foods are generally less calorie-dense and secondly because no matter how much I eat I never seem to gain weight, I guess that’s a good thing! I have my own reasons for choosing the diet I do and that as long as I know that then I am happy, I don’t want to press my views onto anyone.

I can imagine that in this world of hidden ingredients, you must have to take extra measures to ensure you uphold your vegan diet.  How do you manage this dietary lifestyle with the obvious fuelling required when on the road racing and training?

I think that life is too short to get hung up on the little things so I try to think about the big picture in some instances. For example, if someone is kind enough to bake me something then I am not going to turn it down just because it may have a little dairy in it. Diet is very personal and you can choose exactly what you want to eat for your own reason so don’t feel like you have to uphold to anything. I feel good eating plant-based and I get everything I need so I am happy :). On the road, things can get harder as it’s difficult to find good veggie and vegan options in some places. Planning ahead is the best way of dealing with this though so I make more of my travel meals and snacks myself so I don’t have to worry about finding options for me.

What’s the goal and vision for the future, both in the short and long-term on and off the bike?  Concentrating on improving in Cyclocross, or is there anything else in the works?

Short-term, continue to love racing/riding my bike. Long-term, continue to love racing/riding my bike. That is really what I am in it, I really love it and that’s what motivates me to train and race every week. Being more specific though, in the short term (3-5 years-ish) I would like a medal and a major championship, that would be big. Long term I am not really sure, I am not very good at planning ahead for things like that. For now, I’ll just focus on the now.

Who is your favourite cyclist?

Chris Akrigg. Look him up! He is a UK trials rider and I would say he is the most skilled bike rider in the world. His videos are insane and he seems like a very cool guy. Life goals is to be as smooth and as skilled as him!

One drink, one film, one song?

Apple juice, Hot Fuzz, Dog Days Are Over

A massive thanks to Cameron for taking the time to share his cycling life with us during a hectic festive race period. Since interviewing, Cameron has recently finished 2nd in the Nationals U23 and 3rd in The nationals Elite.  Check out the video on his channel. Absolutely amazing performance and continuing his impressive ascension to the top of the podium. Chapeau.

Be sure to check out and follow him via social media using the links below.  His video content is both brilliant and inspiring.

Camerons next racing on Sunday, at World Cup Nommay, the following week at Hoogerhiede World Cup then the World Champs the week after that.  We wish him ‘aw ra best’ fae The BCR.   Follow his progress at cyclocross24

Cameron’s YouTube Channel
Cameron’s Instagram
Cameron’s Twitter

Trinity Racing YouTube Channel
Trinity Racing Instagram
Trinity Racing Twitter

Happy Rolling in 2020

Darren & Craig

BCR Cafe shoot-14

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Paris-Roubaix! What Would Tom Boonen do?

This time last year I was “bricking it!”  The previous November, in a fit of madness I had signed up for the Paris Roubaix, Hell of the North Sportive.  I had convinced myself id have plenty of time to train and get fit for it and then Christmas had hit with all the usual cheese, port and chocolate.

By March, due to a combination of snow, hail, more port and more cheese I hadn’t managed anything over a few 60km rides and some commuting to and from work and was genuinely considering not going.  Two week’s before we were due to leave things got worse, I injured my lower back lifting a table into our new house and could barley walk, never mind cycle, so it really was touch and go wither I would be heading off for Hell.   I was due to be taking part with my good friends, and friends of The BCR Graeme and Iona.  A message from Iona asking me what Tom Boonen would do and the fact that The Hell of the North is the most iconic race on the entire calendar (not an opinion, a FACT) was enough to make me toughen up, stop whining and get on with it.

So two days before we were due on the start line I jumped in the van for the drive through to Graeme and Iona’s new flat in Glasgow.  When we all met we were all excited but also nervous, you hear so much about how brutal the cobbles are and how many crashes, injury’s occur during this race you’ve got to think it’s a bit mental wanting to take part, but if your into cycling and your in the know, Paris Roubaix and Flanders trump everything else, every time, they really are the pinnacle of the cycling year so the excitement was more prevalent than the nerves.  Also, what would Tom Boonen do?


From here it was a 4 hour drive down to Leeds, my back was getting worse, but what would Tom Boonen do?  A short stopover in a hotel including carrying bikes up 7 flights of stairs, my back was getting worse but what would Tom Boonen do?  Up at 5am and onto the bus.  Then stops every hour or so right down the entire country making something like 10 hours on the bus before reaching the ferry, my back was getting worse, you get the idea.   By the time we reached the ferry my pain killer stocks were getting worryingly low but, what would Tom Boonen do?  Stock up on the ferry, that’s what!

For me it was simply slightly wider tyres, 28c Gatorskins to avoid punctures if possible, double bar tape and my secret weapon, extra padded weight lifting gloves!

The ferry journey was 2 hours and then we had another 4 on the bus in France making a total of 16 hours bus journey.  Although an epic journey in pain, it was made a bit quicker by all the other cyclists heading for hell.  We met guys from Leeds, Manchester, London and various other places, all feeling the same mixture of nerves and excitement before heading over the precipice. All asking themselves, what would Tom Boonen do?  As you can probably imagine, much of the chat was around bikes and specifically wither there had been any adaptations to people’s bikes for this particular event.  Over the years the pro’s have had sponge seats, suspension forks, wider tyres and various other attempts at making the cobbles more barrable so part of the fun of taking part is working out how your going to approach the pain.  For me it was simply slightly wider tyres, 28c Gatorskins to avoid punctures if possible, double bar tape and my secret weapon, extra padded weight lifting gloves!  Other people had gone for specific bikes, wider still tyres, less pressure in tyres etc but everyone on the bus was completely amazed by Graeme’s decision to use his single speed bike.  Bonkers seemed to be the consensus which was a judgement I believe Graeme ending up making himself!

 Bang, my bikes rattling, my jaws ratting, I’m banging about bouncing up and down and clattering on full speed

To the event.  Thankfully it was a crisp but sunny morning as we again got onto the coach, this time it was only a couple of hours to the start line and as with travelling to other rides, this journey was over in a flash.  I was doped up and although my back was still sore, I could feel it through a fog of painkiller and the adrenalin was starting to kick in.  Our coach dropped us off about half a mile from the start and as we cycled towards the line, gradually the streets got busier and busier with cyclists.  There is always something exciting about cycling abroad, all the big races you watch on TV are in Europe, generally Italy, France or Spain and I always think there is something special about cycling with thousands of other cyclists speaking one of these languages.  Also means I don’t need to speak to anyone when im knackered.

confidence and speed help you roll over them a lot easier than you do if your tense and struggling

So we rolled off gently for the first few miles but it wasn’t long before Graeme, who is an light spring hare on the bike sped off into the distance, Iona and I rolled along a bit further before we gradually drifted apart in the crowds and then it was onto the first cobbled section.  Now as you approach, you are genuinely worried, the story’s about broken bones and the legend of these cobbled streets are in your mind and you cant help but think this is going to be hellishly grim but thinking, what would Tom Boonen do? I sped up on the slightly downhill approach and rattled into it as fast as I could.  Bang, my bikes rattling, my jaws ratting, I’m banging about bouncing up and down and clattering on full speed.  It’s a busy section and although im in a bit of shock I seem to be passing people and faring a lot better than everyone around me so I push on and after a few minutes its over and you release onto what feels like silky smooth tarmac.   It was a short section and only 2 star, 5 star being the worse but my confidence has been given a boost and I’m now enjoying myself and looking forward to the next section.

I was enjoying it, I was high, I was hyper but the constant banging, bouncing and brutal jarring gradually wears you down and it does get hard

Over the next hour or so, through however many sections I start to get into the swing of it, I think the fact I do a lot of mountain biking helps and I’m used to picking lines over roots, rocks and whatever else.  Lots of the professional looking roadies were clearly really struggling with the constant jolting and having to pick lines, avoid gaps in-between cobbles and keeping their line in the crowds.  I also think that its true what they say about the cobbles, confidence and speed help you roll over them a lot easier than you do if your tense and struggling.  Most of all through I think that weight helps.  Unlike Graeme the Hare, I’m more like a Hippo on a bike and the combination of my weight and, still being fresh, a bit of power really helped me fly though the morning, so much so that not long before the first feed station I looked into the distance and actually saw Graeme bouncing around over the next section, we caught up over a drink at the station and then normal service resumed with him disappearing into the distance again, however me actually catching him at all was a sign he was struggling over the cobbles on his single speed and it does show that the route is more for the bigger, powerful rider as appose to the fly weight climber.  Its also pan flat!


After that initial 3rd of the route things got a bit more like normal and the excitement begins to wear off.  The sections of cobbles blend into one and the wearing down process kicks in.  For the first few sections I was enjoying it, I was high, I was hyper but the constant banging, bouncing and brutal jarring gradually wears you down and it does get hard.  I cant really differentiate between any of the sections from here on in apart from Le Trouee d’Arenberg, The Trench.  Images of the first world war, fighting in the trenches, barbed wire and mustard gas come to mind and watching the pro race every year, fighting to get in position under the famous bridge and then the carnage as they hit the Trench isn’t dissimilar.  Ok, that’s ridiculous but its sometimes pretty bad!   I personally made it through unscathed but it was definitely the worst section in the whole route.  The trench is through the middle of the d’Arenberg forrest and the surface of the cobbles is therefore wet and almost mouldy, its slippery as ice and this combined with the camber and the gaps, bumps and holes in the cobbles makes for absolute carnage.  I witnessed 3 crashes around me as I went through this section, two separate guys sliding off to the right and through the tape landing on the dirt track and 1 guy coming down right in the middle of the cobbles, at the peak of the camber taking out 3 of his mates in the process.  Having cycled through here I’m looking forward to watching the Pro’s through this section even more than previously!
To be honest, from then on in it was hard, due to lack of fitness I’m really struggling by this point and its just a case of plodding on and finishing.  The cobble sections now that I’m exhausted are much harder as I don’t have the energy or power to rattle through them and I seem to feel every bump and jolt.  The things that help in this event as appose to others through are the crowds along the route.  The pro race is the day after and the route is already filled with camper vans and fans out to watch and they cheer and encourage everyone as if it’s the actual race, it makes it a fantastic atmosphere and a special event.  My one regret regarding this is that I actually passed Didi the Devil cheering me one with his Trident and I never stopped to get a picture with him.


One more incident that happened not long after this was someone trying to cut me up around a corner, I just held my line and he crashed into me and hit the deck.  I just kept on cycling, hope he was ok.

I dug and finished the route and I’m so glad I did, the end in the stadium is amazing, again, like on the route there are fans in a day early cheering you on and all the other participants who have finished hang about to cheer people over the line.  You come into the stadium, just like you have seen on Eurosport and do a lap to the cheers of the spectators.  Some riders are waving, riding round no handed (not me after a previous incident in another event) and some go for a sprint finish but it’s a real festival atmosphere in which to finish.  The weather was great and it felt like a real achievement to have completed the route of one of my favourite races.  I really would recommend this event to anyone.


Just for information, if you ever do the event yourself, it doesn’t finish there.  The next day at the pro race, if you have completed the sportive and have your medal they have a special section in the centre of the velodrome for you with beer on tap and a perfect view of the end of the race.  Seeing the world champion ride into the stadium and hearing the roar of the crowd for him and the only rider able to hang onto him till the end just topped off a fantastic trip and I also picked up my souvenir cobble, just like Tom Boonens.


The miracle of all this was that from crossing the start line until the next day my back was cured, like Jesus curing a leper, Tom Boonen had cured my back!   A 17-hour bus journey put paid to this however and it was almost a month incorporating massive amounts of drugs and two trips to casualty before I could even sit on my bike again!   Worth every bit of pain, anyone up for Flanders next year?

 

Happy Rolling

Graham

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Want to get into the spirit of Paris Roubaix.  Come along and join us at the Canalside Pub And Grill and see the race hit the velodrome. What would Tom Boonen do?

 

 

Paris ROubaix

Richard Moore – The Writer

It’s difficult to say when I first started listening to The Cycling Podcast.
I believe it was sometime around the 2014 Tour De France, which kicked off on the crowd-laden roads of Yorkshire, saw Chris Froome abandon on the cobbles of Northern France, and Vincenzo Nibali seal an easy win (he would be in yellow on all but two race days, and the gap to second place would be over 7 minutes) with victories on La Planche des Belles Filles, Chamrousse, and Hautacam.

If memory serves, it was part of a drive to immerse myself in the milieu of the race – to be surrounded by the noise, the stories, the chatter, and the behind-the-scenes info of the race itself – which caused me to look beyond what television could provide in its very action-centric coverage.
Podcasting, as a medium, although having been on the go for a number of years, was still somewhat niche, and far from the Joe Rogan-shaped, true-crime-drama filled behemoth it has now become.
The iTunes store was not exactly packed with options, so after a search for “cycling”, I just picked the first one that caught my eye.
It was a good thing I did because I’ve been hooked ever since.

Continue reading “Richard Moore – The Writer”

Brian Smith. TV pundit and British Road Race Champion

Brian Smith – The Coach

He’s a former Olympic Athlete. He rode a Grand Tour(94 Giro). He’s been crowned British Road Race champion not once, but twice!  He has won races from as far afield as Tucson, Denmark, all the way to(wait for it) Girvan. As Director Sportive and General Manager, he nurtured a fledgeling World Pro tour team from contenders to multiple Grand Tour Stage wins.  You’ll see and hear him on Eurosport as ‘The Coach’. His commentary and analysis dissecting the strategies and moves often before they occur, thrusting us the viewers, straight into the pulsing heart and thrum of the peloton.

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The Coach

Ladies and Gentleman, Brian Smith. Grab a big bottle, pour a wee dram (or weapon of choice) and enjoy Brian’s life in cycling. Continue reading “Brian Smith – The Coach”

Finlay Pretsell – The Filmmaker

He’s a Producer.  He’s a Director. He’s a BAFTA award-winning Filmmaker.  He rode Mountain Bike for Scotland. He stood on the podium in National Cyclocross.  His award-winning short films span a myriad of diverse and fascinating subjects; Track Cyclist’s, Bench Press Champions, Prison hairdressers and Ballet slipper makers to name a few.   Ladies and Gentleman, without further ado, the incredibly talented – Finlay Pretsell.
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Grab your Popcorn, Nachos with plastic cheese, Plant pot Cola cup or alternatively, treat yourself to something a little stronger and enjoy our chat with Finlay.
We discuss his passion for cycling, movies and filmmaking process. Including his latest critically acclaimed feature cinema release  ‘Time Trial’. Featuring former Tour De France stage winner, Maillot Jaune holder and Scottish Cycling Legend David Millar

Continue reading “Finlay Pretsell – The Filmmaker”

Photography and Cycling with Tom Main

Photography and Cycling- A Q&A with Professional Photographer Tom Main

Thomas MainLet us introduce you to our friend Tom Main.  Tom is a former award winning Sport & Editorial photographer who previously worked for major publications such as The Times, Sunday Times, Sunday Mirror and The News of the World.  Now he is primarily focused on his passion of large format film and platinum printing.  Ohh and how could we forget! He is also a dab hand at cycling photography and a little bit of film making to boot.

So without further ado, here is our  Q & A with Tom. Questions posed By Daz.  Enjoy

BCR: Tell us a little about your life in Sports Photography.

TM: I started shooting rugby for The Sunday Times office in Glasgow in 1992 with a bit of football and then cricket in the summer season. I was then asked to go to cover SPL and 1st Division football for the News of the World 1993 as the No3 photographer and at the time there were only three football match reports with photographs so it was always Rangers, Celtic and some other team ! So I managed to cover grounds in Scotland from Stair Park Stranraer in the south to Forres Mechanics at Mosset Park on the Moray coast.

By the time SCORE the football pull-out in the NOTW was launched a few personnel changes had taken place and I was first choice for sport and was covering it all; football, rugby, golf, boxing, swimming, anything with exertion and I was there.

At the turn of the century I was in a position to supply my work to other newspapers through the contacts I’d made so my work was now being published the UK’s broadsheet and tabloid papers. This goes back to being freelance and making contacts in the sporting world allowing me the opportunities to create work that the papers would want especially in sports that generally had to battle to get coverage.

There were lots of great photographic experiences along the way that unfortunately haven’t made it to my thomasmain.com website like; Amir Khan KO in 30 seconds to Bredis Prescott, glove on jaw, back page of the News of the World. Tiger Woods on the front page of the Telegraph Sport or Scotland’s former rugby coach Andy Robinson in the Guardian. Generating my own style of portrait and getting to know what certain papers wanted I could create jobs that would be published and that was the essence of a freelance photographer.

“Winning and award is like peeing down your leg with black trousers on, you feel all warm and nobody notices!”

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BCR:    When did you move away from Freelance/Editorial and how did this change your outlook and approach to your own projects?

TM: I was always a freelancer, which looking back now, wasn’t so bad overall, as I still had control over what & when I wanted to shoot. In saying that I’d shoot any sport at any level at anytime, as I still enjoyed the challenge, but as the old adage goes at a few football  grounds when the floodlights came on….it got darker! I remember being at Firhill, home of Partick Thistle, and my camera had a broken light meter, so  going into the second half the floodlights came on and I whipped out my hand held light meter only to hear “you don’t need that to tell you it’s dark!” from one of the other photographers to a few guffaws all round.

Rupert Murdoch killed my career but he did give me the opportunity to go and create work away from digital cameras,  great tools for professional work but a double edged sword nonetheless with the market flooded with images. I now work almost exclusively with black & white film, silver gelatin prints, platinum palladium prints and….. shhh ! digital prints. I’m not anti-digital but I have used it enough to want to go back to what I enjoy and thankfully I kept my darkroom equipment through this digital period and found it easy to go and shoot manually with a hand held light meter again. After finding work outside journalism any free time I now have could be devoted to the ideas and projects I put on the back burner over the last few years.

People need to experience the satisfaction and enjoyment of producing a photographic print without the use of a computer or digital camera,

BCR:  Tells us about your current cycling project(S)  

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TM: My work at the moment is looking more at the aesthetic of the print that is expressionistic with the movement and texture.

So over the last six or seven months I’ve been shooting cycling action which is a perfect subject as the cyclist brings the effort and drama that I’m looking for. To add to the action photographs I’ve also collected various damaged bike parts to photograph in a still life set up and trying to get a delaminated tyre to look interesting is difficult ! Beyond the still image I’ve also started a video project involving my son Ellis and hopefully some additional riders in the future. This one goes back to my professional sports work where I want to shoot video on longer lenses in order to compress or foreshorten the perspective so that I can concentrate on the rider in detail. This is challenging as I haven’t had a great deal of experience with video and it’s a different way of thinking and planning your shots, though it is nice to see a moving image with the same look as my sports photographs.

Cyclist

BCR:  Any current or past Cycling photographers who’s work you enjoy?

TM:Before I mention any photographers this is a link to a Henri Lartigue photograph that sent me down the road of my current cycling project. I’m not looking to recreate this image with cyclists but it is the source of inspiration. Not bad for a photograph over 100 years old to still be so stimulating. Back to inspirational photographers. I really don’t have specific cycling photographers in mind though I do like Thomas Van Brecht’s work for Pelotonphotos. Though there are too many photographers to mention that have had an effect on my work in one way or another however I will mention Chris Smith from the Sunday Times and Eamonn McCabe from The Observer both of whom were a big influence on my sports work when I was learning. Albert Watson’s

photographs for Rolling Stone magazine were another big influence on my work, though on the portrait side, his attention to detail is incredible and the photographs timeless.

BCR: What equipment do you use and what does it give you over digital.

TM: Did I say I get to push boundaries? Shooting sport with a Fuji GX617 panoramic camera or a 5″x 4″ Field camera is interestingly difficult and can yield results not to everyone’s tastes, but that’s life at the edge of the frame. After years of striving for pin sharp, peak of the action photographs, I am now interested in building up layers of texture and movement with multiple exposures or one second long, panned shots. Even my still life photographs are challenging as I’m not satisfied just to sit a 1kg stud bolt down to be photographed, I need to make it float ! One of the reasons for shooting with film is that everything has to be done in camera when working with silver gelatin prints.  A very small amount of computer work is required for Platinum Palladium printing. I’ve never found any enjoyment in manipulating images to the extent of adding or removing parts of the image. If something exists and you don’t want it in your photograph then you have to work to find a composition that removes the object from the scene, that’s part of the enjoyment of photography. Adding and subtracting in Photoshop is lazy, it’s not enhancement, it’s just something else you let a computer do. People need to experience the satisfaction and enjoyment of producing a photographic print without the use of a computer or digital camera,

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BCR:  What is it you look for in setting up and creating your pieces?

TM: The first thing that draws me to a subject is tone followed quickly by texture and that tells me if the subject will photograph well in black and white. Next consideration is the composition, whether or not the subject sits in the frame correctly, bearing in mind that I use the full frame of the negative for the final print, as I don’t crop my current photographs, just to make things a little more challenging. Also,  to make it really interesting the location for the best picture always seems to be three feet over the edge or where security tell you where you can’t be or when someone tells you it can’t be done. The best spot never seems to be where I’m standing.

I like pushing boundaries. I like to push my photographic self.

BCR:  Talk us through your process of creating how you make your subject matters appear to float…P.S. Can you make a Cyclist float?  I floated once on the bike, but it didn’t have a happy ending for me!

TM: I don’t think you’d want me to make you float, I don’t do instant gratification, I like the pain, suffering and elation involved with creating the initial visualisation from scratch through to the final realisation in print or,  in order to stay in the present, digitally on my website. All of my still life photographs where the subject is floating is done in the studio not in Photoshop and it then requires a level of technical still to light the subject in order to make the photograph believable and subtle. It would be a dawdle in Photoshop, but where’s the ‘fun’ in that? Generally once I’ve shot the photographs I spend an evening developing either the rolls of film or, in the case of large format, the single sheets of 5″x4″ film. Netflix on my phone evens out the tediousness of repeat processing film. Once the film has dried overnight I’ll scan the photographs and make adjustments to the levels and spot out any dust on the negatives. Once they digital images are ready I’ll either produce a digital Pigment Ink print straight from my Epson P600 printer or I’ll prepare a larger negative printed from the same printer but used as part of a contact print to make a Platinum & Palladium photograph. Platinum printing is too involved to explain it here though I have some examples on my twitter feed @thomas_main or use Google as there are plenty of examples out there.

BCR:  What is your favourite memory or experience from your time  in the field as freelance sport and more recently in your non digital world?

TM: To name one I would think winning the Sports Photographer of the Year three times at the Scottish Press Awards, though the quote from the guest of honour doing the presentations burst any bubbles, “Winning and award is like peeing down your leg with black trousers on, you feel all warm and nobody notices!”  Even just being nominated is enough vindication that you’re doing something right. In the non-digital world the best experience is seeing the finished print just as you imagined it would be before you had even pressed the shutter. Nothing beats that!

BCR: What is one of the most important things you have learned in your life of photography.

THE most important thing I learned is that no matter how worked up or upset you are, never burn your bridges. Before you get to that point remember you are not more important than your subject no matter who they are.

I did burn my bridges once before I left the industry though it was building up for a few years and I still haven’t regretted it, so probably recognising any source of irritation and avoiding it’s influence would be a good piece of advice.

BCR: Your on a field trip. One album, one book and one alcoholic beverage to fire up the creative juices?

TM: ALBUM: Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway BOOK: Hunter S Thompson – The Rum Diary. BEVERAGE: Jack Daniels & Coke

Huge thanks for Tom for giving us little glimpse into his life and passions.  If you would like to see more of Tom’s creations head to

WEB:

thomasmain.net

thomasmain.com

Tom’s social media weapon of choice is Twitter follow him at TW: @thomas_main   and tmainphoto for Instagram

Happy Rolling

Daz

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Photo by Tom Main

Rolling with 12

On the road

I recently got my “summer” bike back from a custom paint job. Big cheers to Magnafibre Alloa for a great job and Michael from Alloa Cycle repairs for the rebuild(more to follow on another post). It’s not been on the road since October but It hasn’t taken me long to fall back in love with it’s airy, slammed curves.  Don’t get me wrong I’ve totally grown to enjoy the comfort and rather more relaxed riding position of my recently acquired Titanium winter freedom machine, but the fun factor? Well it’s just no where near as nimble, responsive or quick on the flats and descents as my Specialized Tarmac.   Thus with the belting weather I’ve been getting out as often as I can.  Of which, I’ve been particularly liking the morning summer commutes.   When I can get my arse out of bed early enough, i’ll head east (instead of north) to take an extended commute on as big an anti clockwise curve to work, as time allows. Riding into the rising sun with sweeping views of the Firth of Forth, whilst central Scotland rouses from it’s Golden slumber’s has a certain buzz to it.  Particularly on colder mornings where the fields, gardens and Golf courses sparkle like glistening gold waves as the sun liberates the early morning dew and occasional frost. STUNNING, see the photo slide show below. On days like these I Just want to keep pedalling, Keep  pushing that anti clockwise curve left like a freaky cycling Zoolander.  Needs must though. Bills need paying and wine needs a tasting, so  eventually a turn to the right and dismount is required.

We also recently rode the Aviemore 100 but that story will come in separate blog.

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Listening to

I’ve been making up playlist’s for my page on Spotify,  some new tunes of my own to follow. But hears a sneak listen to my June list

Reading.

War of Art – Steven Pressfield. This is a yearly re-read for me

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Story goes like this. Towards the end of 2016 the missus and I planned a ‘romantic’ weekend break to the south of Spain. Two parts romance, one part decompress after one of the most intense work and family periods we had navigated.

On this journey of romance, partying,  inevitable soul mining and long deep conversations over Pintxo’s and Vino came an epiphanal moment .  The understanding that there is an aspect of being that’s helped keep me sane through the intense preceding months; an escape vehicle seldom seen but one in which I could dive like Bonds Lotus Esprit in Octopussy ( Rarely do i surface to a vessel full of sea sirens though).  That vehicle for me, is creativity & playing.   It keeps  me squared up, when all the outside and inner  forces are trying tae form a hexagon .  Yet until recently (<2years) I had been depriving myself, stopping myself, relying on the contribution of others for these artistic surges to come to life and thus the only thing that i was prolific in creating was frustration. Then the few times I did shake my own thing, I guarded it fiercely from the public eye, for reason’s I didn’t know why.

Anyway, whilst in the South of Spain (sans kids), we visited friends and Property Impresarios Leane & Graeme Carling at their new Villa in Fuengirola. That weekend they were putting the finishing touches to their own creative project.  Their first book ‘Property Superstars’. A book charting their rise from office jobs in Central Scotland to  becoming the largest Independent property dealers in Scotland.   Chapeau. Over one of the many bottles of wines that weekend, the chat was of inspiring books and I asked Graeme.  ” Read any good ones lately?”  His answer was almost a reflex, like an Andy Murray cross court return of serve it was so lightning quick.

”  Yes….it’s called War of Art.. Steven Pressfield, ammmmazing book, must read”   He asserted.

The book he referred to is written by Steven Pressfield  who’s fiction includes The Legend of Bagger Vance, Gates of Fire, The Afghan Campaign and The Lions Gate, but it is his non fiction work.   The war of Art, Turning Pro and Do the Work that have transcended into cult classics. .

War of Art It’s about turning the tables on yourself. It is succinct. Yes a self helpy book, although minus the woo woo bullshit philosophy of cast it to the universe and the universe will deliver.  This is more on the Stoic path.  No waiting for Muses and inspiration. Just start, do the work and you’ll find your flow, inspiration and at times Muse on the way.  As Graeme intimated a must read for anyone with creative urges, especially those that need a good boot up the arse to just get their shit done and out there, like I was.

>click Here to find out more

We spoke more of the central theme which can be captured in two lines from the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”  in other words the side projects, songs, books, pieces of art or even start up’s we want to do, but never get the finger out to do.

Instantly I was curious about this “resistance”.  Could resistance be the guarding, the denying, the delay in starting, the reliance on others, the annoyance at others reliance on me, that I was  all to frequently deferring to as an excuse against, getting shit done?……it was like a bomb going off in my head.  A collision course was now set with my earlier creative epiphany. Out came the phone and ordered it was and through the letter box  it lay when we arrived home. I devoured it in a couple of sitting’s.  With each page the self inflicted creative weight was lifting from my shoulders just like the morning dew off the grass of my summer commutes.  If it wasn’t for a combination of both book and epiphany,  you wouldn’t be reading this blog right know.  I would still be citing many excuses against creating that cycling blog idea, turning that melody into a tune, that Snowboarding movie.  I remember before we left that weekend saying to Leane.  ”  yi know I’ve always wanted to write a book”  My Tour of the highland series is essentially that.  A riders eye view at playing the endurance athlete for a three days.

Further reading are Steven Pressfields other cult classics on the creative topic.  These should be read in order listed below.

  1. >>War of Art
  2. >>Turning Pro
  3. >>Do the Work

There you go three book recommendations for the price of one



Drinking

I Latina Carménère

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 18.35.30This little beauty was corked last wine Wednesday in the Murray house.  I first tried this on our launch night at the Acoustic Cafe.  Danny of the Kennedy brought this along and splashes me a glass and when it came back in stock in his Naked Wine membership, the offer was made to grab a few and there was  no way I was declining.



Watching

We recently watched and recommend >>THE BIG SICK. A comedy loosely based on the real life relationship between comedian Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V. Gordon and the cultural differences they faced in an interacial relationship.  Sounds shit, but is really gid.

Totally appealed to my sense of humour.  Check it out.

Get  Reading, drinking, Listening and Rolling…..Short life advice: Probably best do that in reverse order.

Daz

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