In spring 2020, the global pandemic brought me back home from spending winter in the Austrian Alps to Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert in Southern Israel. It’s a small town with an exhilarating landscape and the largest natural erosion crater in the world. During this period, I decided to take up a project on freeriding around my hometown: if I wasn’t able to shoot winter sports on the snowy mountains, I’d shoot mountain biking on the desert ridges.
It was my first independent photography and video project on mountain biking in the sandy topography of the desert terrain. My inspiration and narrative were to create freeride mountain biking images and videos to emphasize the beauty of the desert, while bestowing the viewer with a dramatic impression of the landscape.
Getting the perfect location for each session was the top priority for this project. I spent a long time travelling the desert by myself and found a few spots that ignited my creativity. I invited Or Gov, a young and talented rider who I met on social media, to the desert for two days of shooting. I chose two stunning locations to get perfect sunrise and sunset effects. We decided to shoot in the south of the Ramon Crater in the morning for sunrise shots, and took the other photos at the Havarim Gorge, which sits beneath the town of Sde Boker.
The heat of the moment
Shooting during the initial weeks of August was hard work – with scorching temperatures of around 37°C at noon… As such, we decided to shoot through the cooler hours of the day. The adverse heat allowed us only about two or three hours for each session per day; a couple of hours in the morning and then two or so more later for the sunset sessions. This only gave us brief windows of decent light. We also only had two days to get as much video footage as we could, so we had to be efficient.
The sessions went brilliantly. I had scoped out different shots beforehand and got more creative on location. I was light enough to move over the terrain quickly. Thankfully, the sunrise and sunset light gave us everything we needed. There was a general plan up-front in my mind for every session, but I was keen on exploring the scope of improvisation and on-location decisions. Both Or and I had an equal part in the decision-making to ensure the shots were perfect. The coordination worked well and we completed the project quickly.
Gearing up for this session, I needed my kit to be light, but I wanted to have several options for wide as well as telephoto shots. The Z 6 has been my main camera for shooting action sports stills and video for the past year. It never ceases to amaze me with its capabilities – quick autofocus and great video quality. I also use a Nikon D610 as my backup option, along with two of my favorite lenses: the Sigma Art 24-105mm f/4 and Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2.
We were both thrilled about undertaking the project and that eased the entire process. We had a great time working outside, during the itinerary on wheels and foot, appreciating nature, and creating beautiful content to inspire people.