Cycling Photography

Those of you who know me know that in addition to my love of cycling I am an avid photographer. While in the Army (a long time ago) I was a member of the 55th Signal Company, Combat Camera (COMCAM). My time at the 55th solidified my love for still photography and instilled in me a great appreciation for a craft that is often taken for granted.

Despite all the exposure (no pun intended), and formal training, my career path led me in a different direction, and although I still shoot on a regular basis, it is not really my bread and butter.

It is with that background that I critically look at all of the cycling photography that crowds my “wall” and have come to appreciate the work of a couple of local shooters who document our region’s, and sometimes national cycling scene. Each provides their signature style to their cycling photography making us all feel like we were there.

Over the past few weeks I reached out to Bruce Buckley and Darrell Parks to talk about their craft, how they got into shooting, and what they love about documenting cycling and the athletes that practice our sport.

Below, is a snapshot (again, no pun intended) of my conversation with each of them, along with a handful of their images for your viewing pleasure…

Bruce Buckley

Bruce Buckley, hails from Cooperstown NY, the home of baseball (or as he prefers, the home of Ommegang beer). He started shooting early on in his life, after his father exposed him to photography. “I grew up surrounded by hundreds of thousands of photos my father took all the time, so I think some of that interest rubbed off on me,” he said.

His father’s love for story telling inspired Bruce to study journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. At the Newhouse school, he started to delve more into photography, taking several classes on the subject, but admits that it was a bit of struggle for him in the beginning. “I loved the craft, but didn’t really enjoy the darkroom that much,” he recalls. “It’s only when digital came into the picture that I really deepened my involvement in shooting much more.”

After college, Bruce was riding his bike a lot and began racing regularly, including road, mountain and his favorite—cyclocross. “Everything sort of fell into place,” he said. “I was racing and noticed photographers documenting local races. That inspired me to start shooting local races myself.”

In mid-2000s, he was editor of MetroSports DC Magazine. “[In that position,] I needed imagery,” he says. “So naturally, with my background, I started shooting a lot more events. I just loved it, and over time I made it my full-time job.”

As a full-time photographer, Bruce’s talent, coupled with his knowledge and love for cycling, have made him one of our region’s go-to shooters when it comes to cycling photography. “As someone who races, I understand the emotions that cyclists experience,” he said. “I see the race from the eyes of a racer. It gives me a better understanding of the events I cover.”

Bruce puts a lot of time into crafting good images—and his clients understand the value of having a photographer that takes the time to do things properly. Although he has a vision of what he’d like to convey in his images, he hopes people can draw their own conclusions. “I really don’t talk too much about my photography—I’d much rather have the images speak for themselves.”

Shooting events can get monotonous, though, so Bruce tries to keep his skills fresh by going out and practicing as often as possible. “I have several personal projects that are more focused on story telling–on the creative aspect of photography,” he told me. “I go out and test myself as often as I can; I think it’s important to push yourself.”

If there is any advice Bruce can give to up and coming photographers, it’s to practice, practice and practice some more. “Make the technical aspect of the craft second nature,” he says. “Learn everything about how your camera works. Study the basic principles of photography. Make all of that second nature so that you can focus on the creative aspect of photography. Learn to see the picture before you take it. Make the images your own. The Internet has made it so easy for us [photographers] to learn from each other, from other photographers. Inspiration is out there, and can be obtained from anyone.”

Bruce’s images are certainly an inspiration and are certainly crafted well. They capture the essence of what it is to ride, and why we love to ride – see for yourself

Darrell Parks

Photo: Evan Williams

Darrell Park’s story is a little different than Bruce’s, but he too found and nurtured his passion for photography and merged it with his love of cycling.

An engineer by trade, Darrell started dabbling in photography early on in his life thanks to his mother’s love for the craft. “My mom always carried a Polaroid around when I was a kid, so it just seemed natural to me. It’s where I caught the bug,” he said. He got his first SLR while in high school and started taking it out with him on his outdoor adventures to learn how to operate it.

“I’ve always loved the outdoors. One day I picked up a copy of Outside Magazine and as I looked at the images I realized that was what I wanted to do. I subscribed to Popular Photography and Outdoor Photography magazines and just read them cover to cover,” he said. “I practiced and taught myself the craft over several years.”

Darrell moved to the DC region a little over two decades ago and began shooting the Crystal City Road races to keep up with his hobby. Soon after, teams began noticing his images and contracted him to capture their action. “I shared my images with the Health Net team (now United Health Care) and they began using them in promotional materials. Before I knew it I was getting hired to shoot more teams and was getting paid for my pictures. I love cycling, both riding and watching the sport, so photographing it was the next step,” he added. “This is where photography transitioned from hobby to an actual part time job. I’m now shooting around 10 races per year around the country, mostly road events and have found a niche.”

That niche is combining the love for outdoor photography with cycling. “Promoters know me as the ‘scenic photographer.’ I’ll get hired mostly to shoot wide shots that feature an event’s scenery with riders in the composition,” he said. “Most of the images end up in promotional materials for the events. I still shoot the action and often find myself either on the back of a motorbike or inside a team car during a race.” When asked about riding shotgun in a team car or on the back of a motorbike during a race Darrell says it’s “scary,” but it’s part of doing the job and the excitement that defines road cycling.

Darrell often shoots for multiple clients at the same time during a race, so he has to manage his time accordingly and make sure he gets the right shots. “I’ve been doing it for so long that I’m now confident and selective as to what I can capture. I generally head out knowing what I need and shoot economically so that I don’t have to spend too much time in post-production, and so I can get the right images for my clients. I have some freedom to shoot what I want, but some of my clients will request specific shots and I need to get them delivered quickly.”

Shooting cycling events has not yet become a full time endeavor for Darrell, but he’s looking forward to retirement so that he can devote more time to his craft. “Right now it pays for my equipment, makes me a little extra money, and I get recognized for something I love to do,” he said. “I have good balance right now, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can do this full time.”

Judging by his current portfolio of images, the more we can see the better.

You can see more of Darrell’s work on his website: DarrellParks.com

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