Mountain Biking in Virgin, Utah

Mountain Biking in Virgin

I was thinking about a lot of things at this moment, but most important, where and how I was going to land, recalls mountain biker Brandon Semenuk of the moment captured in this photo.  He's seen catching some big air in a canyon gap during the three-day Red Bull Rampage competition held in Virgin, Utah, in October 2013.  Semenuk, who lives in the mountain biking hub of Squamish, British Columbia, would drop about 30 feet to land near the tire track seen at the bottom left of the photo.

The Rampage is one of the craziest mountain bike contests out there, Semenuk, a third-time competitor, says.  The fact that you get to build whatever you'd like to ride is what makes it interesting to me.

Getting the Shot

An eight-year veteran of the annual Red Bull Rampage, photographer Christian Pondella is familiar with creating unique photos at the crowded event.  Each year the main challenge is finding out which riders are hitting what lines and jumps so you can get yourself in the right position for their runs, says Pondella.  I always try to do something unique and different than what other photographers are shooting.  A big part of the fun is running around the hills with all these great photographers.

To get this angle, Pondella attached his camera to a 15-foot pole and held it above the canyon to reveal the chasm Semenuk jumped into.  I felt this perspective would bring you right into Brandon's world, a place very few people want to be.  It shows where he is coming from and where he is going, as well as how precise he has to be to stick that landing.  If his trajectory or speed is slightly off, he will either smack the wall or land in the flats, both being a horrific crash he would not likely walk away from.

Pondella photographed with a Canon 5D Mark III and a 15mm fish-eye lens.  Select the photo for the large version.