For over a decade, the world’s best big mountain riders have congregated every year in Utah’s desert to compete at Red Bull Rampage. One of mountain biking’s most intimidating events, the course is known for massive gaps, steep terrain, and narrow ridgelines. So what’s it like to cover an event of this caliber out in the dusty desert filled with poisonous critters? Scroll down for a Q&A with Rampage Vet and MTB photographer, Paris Gore.
Everybody in the (MTB) industry knows Rampage as one of the gnarliest events on the calendar. Tell us a bit about the days leading up to the main event and everything you had to do to get prepare for it.
Leading up to Rampage is actually one of the best parts of the event, all the riders are required to build their own lines top to bottom down the mountain with the option to incorporate certain features along the way. During those days, they have dig crews chipping away at the loose rocks and soft dirt from dawn to dusk. Media is allowed on site early on in the week, so we are able to capture some of the dedicated craftsmanship that goes into some of these lines.
During this period of time you can start to feel out the course and where all the riders are going. It’s a pretty big mountain, so there’s a lot going on. I generally end up walking around the entire venue at least once each day, sometimes coming back to the same ridges multiple times. While some lines are being dug, others are being ridden and practiced. Keeping eyes and ears open during the day is pretty key, as you could be shooting a photo from one zone and need to book it over to another when a rider might be eyeing up a big move for the first time.
Mid week gets pretty interesting, in the evenings riders really start to try out their lines and it’s absolute chaos. There might be one crowd in the middle watching Tyler McCaul line up a massive 60 foot step down, while another rider is blasting down the opposite ridge, so it’s pretty hard to be everywhere at once. Shooting the practice is honestly one of the most fun parts of Rampage, but also one of the hardest since there’s no structure to what people are riding and when they are going.
By the time Finals comes around, I have a pretty good idea of what each rider is going to do and where. So in the morning of finals, on the drive in usually, I like to just run through in my head where the best places to go will be and what the highlight moves will be. There’s about a 5-7 minute gap between riders, and a lot of times you will want to shoot a rider at a lower section of the course while the next might be higher up the mountain. That makes things really difficult, especially since it’s really steep and very sketchy terrain to be getting around on. There’s rock falling everywhere, footsteps crumbling underneath you, intense heat, rattle-snakes, and huge cliffs that with one wrong step you could send you tumbling down 50 feet.
Tell us about your bag and the kit your packing. In detail, what setup (lenses and bodies) are you rocking and why?
I end up packing around a lot of gear during the main event, but tend to leave the bigger lenses in my truck during the build days earlier in the week. Otherwise, this all fits in my XL ICU that goes inside the Fstop Lotus bag. Having the longer lenses here is key since your line of sight around the mountain is huge, but there are a lot of good instances to use a wider lens here as well.
If there are tips that you can give to a novice shooting an event like this, what are they?
Shooting Rampage for the first time can be a bit overwhelming, so don’t try to do it all. Scrambling up cliffs or getting down in the canyon can give you some interesting perspectives, don’t be afraid to put yourself in a risky spot for the shot.
Anything else you would like to add?
Yes, Rampage can be a pretty fun even to photograph until riders start getting really hurt and that all goes out the window. Our good friend Paul Basagoitia broke his T12 vertebrae during his final run and was airlifted out of the venue. At this point he is still unable to feel sensation below his knees and is starting on a long road to recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are with Paul and his family, as they will need all the support possible right now.
Lastly, where can people find more about you and your work?