The Deep Summer Photo Challenge at Crankworx Whistler, which is the largest mountain biking festival in the world, is one of the most respected and grueling tests for photographers. Five industry-leading shooters are invited to the event, along with one wildcard contestant, to prove their photographic and mental strength for 72 hours of intense work and sleepless nights. Ultimately they edit together a three-to-five-minute slideshow viewed and judged at Whistler’s Olympic Plaza. Squamish-based photographer Ben Haggar was one of the top five selected for the 2016 contest. We caught up with him to learn more about the nonstop days and what he captured.
Photo: A contest within a contest. Competitors are asked to portray three iconic areas of the Whistler Bike Park (the Top of the World trail, the Garbanzo zone, and the GLC drop), which have been, by most measures, photographed to death. My idea for these shots was to have them viewed as a series of double exposures. The Top of the World Trail pictured here with rider Andrew Baker descends from the peak of Whistler Mountain all the way to the valley.The patio of the Garibaldi Lift Co. has always been a favorite spot for lunch or a frosty pint after a dusty day riding the Whistler Bike Park. Perfectly situated below the iconic GLC drop, riders are put to the scrutiny of a very vocal peanut gallery of cheers or heckles, awarding points for style and big air.My nerves and expectations were running high as we commenced the first day of shooting, it took me a little while to find my feet and the shots I was looking for. Here, the team rides the machine built perfection of the Whistler Bike Park.With experience as a trail builder, I wanted to show the process of how terrain changes from the conceptual stage of looking at a blank canvas of forest to a beautiful strip of single track and, eventually, to an established trail. During the shoot, we built a small section of trail and I edited it into the show using transitions making the trail appear to emerge out of the ground.Local trail builder Scott Veach touching up the landing to the opening feature on Salsa Verde.Rider Steve Storey is an absolute professional. As a photographer himself, he understands light and how it will affect a photograph. Having spent over two years as part of the team building and perfecting Salsa Verde, he intimately knows this piece of forest like no one else, including where to be at certain times of day to maximize the light, which was key on such a time sensitive project.Access to a lot of mountain bike trails in British Columbia are via rough, unmaintained logging roads, so a friend or two with four-wheel-drive are indispensable to get to the goods.The second morning of shooting started at 6 a.m. as I wanted to be in position for sunrise. This east-facing ridge received the first rays of sun streaming across the valley. I have a huge amount of appreciation and respect for the guys (like Iven Ebener here) hitting big features like this gap jump first thing in the morning without any warm ups.Widow makers (trees and branches ready to fall) and standing deadfall around bike trails need to be cleared for safety and future maintenance reasons.For a unique vantage and shot diversity, I headed into the canopy on a 24-foot extension ladder to shoot Uwe Homm.After a day of hacking out rocks and roots, tailgate IPAs are mandatory.With temperatures rising into the triple digits on all three days, the trails were very dry and dusty. Amazingly, no one got heatstroke.Scott Veach exiting old growth firs via one of the many steep rock rolls in the area.On this lesser known area at the north end of Whistler Valley, the golden hour seems to last longer than anywhere else. The long stringy lichen dangling from branches and tree trunks, locally referred to as witches hair or old man’s beard, is an indication of a healthy forest.I had this shot in my head for years before actually shooting it for Deep Summer. Exploring for basalt columns, I came across this massive basalt wall looming over the Cheakamus River. I immediately fell in love with the textures and wanted to create an interesting shot using multiple camera flashes.By the third and final morning of shooting, I was shattered. With less than two hours of sleep the night before and a long day of chasing professional riders down double black trail in the heat ahead of me, I didn’t have much left in the tank.With a pocket transceiver attached to the top of my camera triggering a remote flash, I couldn’t wear a helmet and look through the viewfinder at the same time. Although the riders were only inches from my exposed head, I chose the viewfinder over the helmet to properly frame the shot.Iven Ebener is a young and very talented slopestyle rider from Germany. His effortless style and impressive flexibility are a pleasure to watch and photograph. This was Ebener’s first trip to Canada; I’m sure it won’t be his last.As we ticked off the last few photos of the competition, I could not believe the energy and effort the riders put in to help me out. Storey, seen here, was happy to hike a feature again and again to capture different angles and perspectives.
Take a look at some of the other photographer’s work from Crankworx 2016.