Daniel Bear heads to Israel’s dusty interior to shoot a desert freeride…

Daniel Bear
Or gets some air time, with the massive northern wall of the Ramon Crater in the background. (Image credit: Daniel Bear)

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. 

The loose and inconsistent ground made for a rowdy ride and an impactful series of images. (Image credit: Daniel Bear)

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.

Or commits to a steep and narrow chute, while Daniel’s inclusion of the wider landscape gives the viewer a real sense of proportion.  (Image credit: Daniel Bear)

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. 

Spines, lines, light and shade detail the landscape as the sun almost sets on the Havarim Gorge. (Image credit: Daniel Bear)

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.

Embracing a ‘hike your bike’ mentality is a must when freeriding in the desert. The rider, Or Gov, had an equal say in the creative process. (Image credit: Daniel Bear)

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. 

Time for a final sunset shot before wrapping up a successful shoot. Daniel says that it was great to just get out and appreciate the landscape and create content that will inspire people. (Image credit: Daniel Bear)

For more of Daniel’s work, see his website or check out his Instagram

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Adam Waring

Adam has been the editor of N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine for almost 12 years, and as such is one of Digital Camera World's leading experts when it comes to all things Nikon-related. 

Whether it’s reviews and hands-on tests of the latest Nikon cameras and lenses, sharing his skills using filters, tripods, lighting, L brackets and other photography equipment, or trading tips and techniques on shooting landscapes, wildlife and almost any genre of photography, Adam is always on hand to provide his insights. 

Prior to his tenure on N-Photo, Adam was also a veteran of publications such as PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, so his wealth of photographic knowledge isn’t solely limited to the Big N.