The Ultimate Job Competition: An interview with photographer Beardy McBeard

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“The Ultimate Job” competition winners, courtesy of Exodus Travel, have touched down in France and have already gotten their hands dirty doing all the stuff we should be doing! In this first instalment one of our winners Riley Wolff interviews photographer Marcus Enno (a.k.a ‘Beardy McBeard’) who has been shooting the Giro and Tour and publishing his fantastic Beardy’s Caravan. Here’s how Beardy has been going over in Europe this cycling season…

“It’s so exhausting, you have no idea! Some days you wake up and you just feel totally dead… you’re thinking ‘how am I going to do this’ and then some days you feel OK. Some days you feel good but some days you just feel like you’re hungover!”

It was for Marcus a relatively straightforward pathway into shooting at the Grand Tours. “I’ve been a professional photographer for 10 years. I loved cycling and spent a lot of my free time doing it and then just started taking a few shots… it was going alright through Instagram and people just liking my stuff and enjoying what I was doing. Then we went for a holiday to the TdF and I shot some more stuff, and I was just totally blown away by the whole thing, the atmosphere, being on these amazing mountains, everything you could shoot just on the side of the road. I was so happy with the photos I got!”

If you’ve ever looked at Marcus’ images and wondered how he gets some of those amazing perspectives on the race, here’s the tip “My wife Miriam checks a lot of the route for me and shows me a lot of the spots (on Google Maps). A climb for instance might be a 20km climb and the obvious thing is to go to the top but the top usually has all the barricades and the advertising so it might not necessarily be the best spot to get an atmospheric crowd shot”.

The Grubers were probably the first to do it having the two of them there but now BrakeThrough Media do it and we’re doing it and there are a lot of other little teams doing it like Manual for Speed”.

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As difficult as it may be for a photographer to follow Le Tour, Marcus is able to put it into perspective. “When you think back to the old days when guys were shooting old press style cameras with one sheet of film on the back of a motorbike manual focusing, you’ve got to take your hat off to that style of photography. I’ve used those type of cameras and its not the easiest stuff to use in a studio situation!”

However there are other challenges for photographers, with the crowds making travelling during the stage a stressful process.

“You’ve got to have a good exit route because you can’t go backwards on the course and if you’re going to go behind the race it’s often stretched out with all the other cars. You have to try and negotiate your way through the roads sometimes…the military police, the Gendarmes (French Police) might be like “You can’t get through here!” and sometimes they’ll just throw their hands in the air and let you through if you’re persistent enough but sometimes it’s a firm ”No way mate you’re not going through here!” and that really stuffs with you!”

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Straight after the Stage finish and the podium comes another crucial time for Marcus. “As soon as I get back to the car I’ve got my wife here who’s driving and I just throw the cards straight into the computer and start downloading and writing the story. I try to get as much of that done as I can in that 10-15 minutes it takes for the cards to download. And then start editing, and I’ve got a few things that I have to send out pretty much straight away, so I’ll do those first. Then work back from that and usually get into the hotel and try and get the images looking pretty good before we head out and have a quick bite for dinner… then I get back and work on it until about 1230-1am if it’s a late one. Then its lights out!”

“There’s another 2 people working on Beardy’s Caravan in Sydney so I don’t see the finished result until I wake up in the morning and when I wake up and see what we’ve achieved I’m usually pretty happy”

“I’m always trying to do the best job I can but I’m also realistic with what can be achieved by one person in a situation that’s very limited.

Photography is always about limitation; the way the camera works in general is just about balancing shutter speed and depth of field and you’ve got to know how to work those things in your favour. You can’t be too hard on yourself”

After covering the Giro d’ Italia in May, Marcus and his wife had some European downtime before signing on with The Tour in Utrecht. Marcus did exactly what most of us would do in that situation. “I brought my bike with me! It’s in the back of the car covered with the daggiest table cloth I could find with an olive motif on it from Italy. It’s so ugly no one will want to look underneath it! I’ve got my Giant Defy with me which has turned out to be a great bike for the type of riding that I’m doing, I was in Tuscany for a while and did some Strade Bianche, some cobbles and rough roads and with the disc brakes I’m really enjoying it”

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A special thank you to Exodus Travel for providing this year’s trip to the Tour de France for our “Ultimate Job Competition.

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