ONE PHOTO & ONE STORY: 2016 MXA 250 SHOOTOUT

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OPOS_11.12.15By John Basher

It’s probably not wise to admit this, but I’ve had several run-ins with the law over the years. Blame curiosity–or ignorance, depending how you look at it–for the close calls. I never intended on breaking the law. Of course, those glum faces printed on the FBI’s most wanted list and tacked up on precinct cork boards across the country probably have the same excuse. I hear it now, ‘But officer, I didn’t mean to rob the bank. I just needed to borrow a few bucks.’ Fortunately I never ended up in cuffs and shackles. I also never robbed anyone or committed a serious offense.

I used to have a lead foot, but I stopped the habit after realizing that speeding tickets cost a lot of money. It took three traffic stops before I went broke. However, I’ve had several visits from Johnny Law over the course of my time as a photographer. That’s because I like to take photos of dirt bikes in places where motocross apparently has no right to be. Case in point, I’ve had conversations with the police in swanky residential neighborhoods and on a number of beaches. One time a police helicopter circled overhead for 15 minutes while I took photos of the 2015 MXA 250 four-stroke fleet at an outdoor war plane museum (fortunately I had cleared the location with the museum staff and had a city permit to shoot).

“I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW MANY TIMES I’VE LISTENED TO CODGERS GAB ABOUT THEIR ANTIQUE WAR HORSE, OR YOUNG KIDS BOAST ABOUT THEIR HONDA XR70 ESCAPADES. IT’S SURPRISING WHAT PERFECT STRANGERS WILL READILY ADMIT TO DOING ON A MOTORCYCLE. WHO KNEW THAT RIDING A DIRT BIKE WAS THE EQUIVALENT OF EARNING A RED BADGE OF COURAGE?”

Motocross bikes draw interest from all walks of life. For that reason you’ve likely had conversations with people at gas stations and stop lights. More often than not, the conversation starts with, “Nice bike. You know, I used to ride…” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to codgers gab about their antique war horse, or young kids boast about their Honda XR70 escapades. It’s surprising what perfect strangers will readily admit to doing on a motorcycle. Who knew that riding a dirt bike was the equivalent of earning a red badge of courage?

Last week I was responsible for shooting MXA’s group of 2016 250 four-strokes for our shootout. My goal was to capture the bikes in a picturesque setting that showcased the glory of the new bikes. I headed for a public walkway overlooking the booming metropolis of Palmdale, California. Puffy clouds created depth and gave a heavenly feel on the cool fall day. Passersby gawked at the bikes while walking their dogs, wondering why the two-wheeled monsters sat idly. A few women even stopped to take selfies in front of MXA’s fleet of bikes. I smiled at their puzzled faces and kept squeezing the trigger on my Canon camera. Just then a drone helicopter flew overhead, its video camera recording my actions. My stomach dropped. Someone was documenting my every move. I nervously waited for the sirens to break the silence and cops to pile out of squad cars with guns drawn.

Only it never happened. The drone flew away after a few minutes, and I returned to my business of photographing every bike. A low-hanging sun dropped below distant hills, the temperature plummeting into the 40s. Bikes were loaded into trucks, and the fading light signaled the end of a successful photo shoot. I thought about the drone helicopter. I shot in a public place and didn’t disturb anyone. In fact, I didn’t even start any of the bikes. It goes to show that motocross riders aren’t a motley crew of degenerates. Special thanks to Palmdale for accommodating us, and for the city’s police officers for their understanding. Now can I please get the cool drone footage?

* Attention photographers/videographers: always make sure you have the proper permit(s) before shooting.   

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