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Speak with any action sports photographer and you’re likely to find that their love of the sport started long before they picked up a camera. And it’s this love, knowledge and participation in the sport that enables them to capture and share amazing photographs. For Seattle-based action sports photographer Paris Gore, his passion for mountain biking—which started when he was ten years old—evolved into a career shooting mountain biking for clients such as Dakine, Red Bull, BMW Automotive and Bell Helmets, among others.

Gore took a photo class in high school, became photo editor of the yearbook and then “started shooting photos of biking and I didn’t look back from there.” To further enhance his photographic education, he attended a highly respected two-year commercial photography program at Seattle Central Community College and has now been shooting professionally for six years.

In photography, as in life, luck sometimes plays a role in your future. Gore got his first official gig when he was working at a Seattle bike shop and happened to pick up the phone when the editor of a bicycling magazine called about a story they were doing. “I ended up answering the phone,” Gore recalls. “I sold the story [about the Seattle bike shop] to them and shot it.” It was his first “proper assignment” which gave him “a little insight into how the world of photography works.”

But it wasn’t one assignment or “moment” that shaped his career. “I took the initiative to shoot Downhill World Cup races for a big media outlet, which distributed my images and gave me a lot of exposure. I picked up a number of clients, met a bunch of good people and learned a lot. And I got to travel around the world. It was a good way to get into the industry.”
These days, Gore might shoot only a couple of events a year, including the Red Bull Rampage, which he shoots for Red Bull. “Most of my work now is commercial—campaigns and advertising,” including a campaign for Dakine (, an American outdoor clothing company specializing in sportswear and sports equipment for alternative sports based in Hood River, Oregon.

For a recent Dakine assignment, Gore was tasked with shooting an action photo and supporting images for a two-page ad featuring men’s biking apparel. While the company might request which color clothing to use, Gore is given “a lot of creative freedom” to shoot and produce these campaigns on his own.
As an integral part of the mountain biking community, Gore has a broad network of people to work with on his shoots. For this Dakine assignment, he reached out to well-known rider, Graham “Aggy” Agassiz—“one of the most stylish freestyle riders and his style is top notch.” Gore has worked with Aggy on numerous occasions and knows him on a personal level. “We’re good buddies; our vibes are good. We’ll snowboard and fish together, too. It’s not that I just see him on this random shoot.”

The Dakine Assignment

Before setting up the shot, Gore and Aggy discussed the types of jumps that would work best. “Aggy told me that a left-handed jump would be good for him, so that’s what we decided to do.” The location they chose, outside of Bellingham, Washington, was a gorgeous, mossy area with trees that seemed perfect for the photoshoot. “It had a good run in and a kind of island that we could build the jump into.” It then took Gore and his team a couple of days to “dig the dirt and build the jump up.” While Aggy wasn’t there initially to test out the jump, Gore and a couple of other riders tested it out concluding that. “If we can ride it and make it look good, then Aggy definitely can!”

Given that some locations are fairly remote and may require a 15-mile or more bike ride to reach it, Gore often has to rely on natural light for his mountain biking shoots. Although he’d rather use lights, “If we’re riding bikes for 15 miles, it’s hard to carry the extra weight [of lighting gear]. It’s really about accessibility.”
However, wooded locations that lack sunlight require shooting at high ISOs with the potential for noisy, flat images. ”When I have the opportunity to use lights, I like to use them,” he says. “I can shoot better quality images at low ISO. And the lights help bring out details and color, which is especially important when shooting clothing.”
For the Dakine shoot, Gore selected a location he and his team were able to access with only a ten-minute hike. Equally as important, his lighting gear—the new 500Ws Elinchrom ELB 500 TTLs—is extremely compact and lightweight. Each 1.5-pound head measures 3.5 x 3.1 x 6.3 inches; the 5.5-pound power packs are also lightweight. Gore was able to fit three sets, along with modifiers and lightstands, into a single Shimoda bag, which allowed him to easily bring the gear to the shoot (and have room to transport a fog machine with a generator). “The Elinchrom ELB 500 TTL’s are fast, light and powerful and can be used for multiple purposes,” he explains. And, he adds, “That they’re lightweight is key but they’re pretty outdoor proof, too. They’re well-sealed so you can take them out in the elements and know they’re going to be reliable.”
When they reached the location, Gore started building the lighting by first shooting the jump with no lights. He then added a single ELB 500 TTL, with a bare bulb and sports reflector, for fill on the right side of the frame “to make sure it matched the ambient light and wasn’t too blown out.”

“Once that was dialed in,” Gore got out his tree-climbing gear and scaled a large tree to mount a second ELB 500 overhead. Although he had climbed trees before to capture overhead shots, this was his first attempt at hanging lighting from a tree. The light, equipped with the Rotalux Octabox 39” (100cm) and external diffuser, was mounted on a lightstand. He rigged the light with lashes and tie-downs so it would hang like a triangle, with the lower end of the triangle at the bottom of the stand, which he tied tightly around the tree (you can see the set up in the accompanying video). “Five years ago,” Gore says, “you’d never be able to do this because the lights were so heavy and the triggers were so bad. But with the Skyport and being able to adjust power output remotely, you can rig lights in new places.”
Once the overhead and fill lights were tested, a third ELB 500—with a bare bulb and the small reflector bundled with the kit—was added as a rim light. With the ability to manage 4 groups and a choice of 20 frequencies, multiple light setups with the ELB 500’s are seamless.

While the ELB 500’s offer TTL (and the option to quickly tweak the TTL setting manually), Gore opted to manually dial in the settings. The backlight was set almost at full power while the other two were about 1-1 ½ stops lower (the ELB 500s can be set up or down over 7 full stops or in 1/10th of a stop increments). Gore never ran out of battery power during the shoot since the ELB 500 can output up to 400 flashes at full power on a single charge.
Gore shot with a Nikon D810, alternating between the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 and the 24-70mm f/2.8. He shot mostly at 70mm with a shutter speed of 1/2000th second, f/4.5, ISO 640.

Capturing the perfect shot of Aggy as he “clicked his trick,” required precise timing, a fast shutter speed and a short flash duration (the ELB 500’s were set to Action Mode, with flash durations as fast as 1/20,000th of a second). Thanks to Gore’s experience as a rider and a photographer—and the responsiveness of the ELB 500’s—he nailed shot after shot. “You can see it in the image—his leg is fully extended. I know what looks good and I knew where he would click his trick [the full extension].”

But it’s more than just nailing the shot that’s critical.— Quality and accuracy of light are also crucial. And the ELB 500’s delivered on both of those requirements. “I wanted to bring that pop of light, “ Gore explains, but without the obvious "flash" look. Between the ELB 500’s quality light output and Aggy’s expertly executed jump, the image perfectly showed off the Dakine Jersey the rider was wearing—just as they had planned.
While Gore may not rig an overhead light from a tree for every shoot, he sees a great future for the Elinchrom ELB 500’s in his work. “I will definitely keep using the ELB 500’s. They’re a great lightweight option with more than enough power for most shoots in the woods.” “They put out a nice quality of light and are super easy to use.” He is excited by the ELB 500’s creative potential, too. “After experimenting with the ELB 500’s in a unique situation, I’m sure there are more creative uses I haven’t yet thought of.”

You may not be shooting a world-class mountain biker in the middle of a forest but Gore and his rig-it-on-a-tree approach is a perfect, albeit unique, example of what you can do with these compact, lightweight and powerful lights.

For more of Paris Gore’s work follow him on:
Instagram - @parisgore
Twitter - @parisgore
Facebook - @parisgorephotography
Check out his website -

To see more mountain biking tricks and adventures follow Aggy on:<br
Instagram - @grahamagassiz

All BTS shots taken by Anthony Smith, for more of his work follow him on/>
Instagram - @the4color
Check out his website -

Ad created for and apparel provided by Dakine. Follow them on:
Instagram - @dakine
Twitter - @dakine
Facebook - @Dakine
Vist their website -

Ad originally appeared in Bike Magazine, check them out on:
Instagram - @bikemag
Twitter - @bikemag
Facebook - @bikemag
Check out their website - and subscribe to either their print or digital editions.

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