The number of switchbacks were beyond counting. Another summer storm had blown in and pushed us off the trail and down into the valley for safety. Although we could ride through the weather on most days, this time we had to head for cover.
Shooting film had become our "new normal" by the end of the second week. Covering thirty to fifty kilometers of trail per day, there were endless moments that could be captured, however, only having a finite amount of film made each shot more of a decision to be weighed rather than a whim to be indulged.
There was no knowing what had been captured along the trails in the Alps, at the Hauser family cabin, or along the rocky river crossings in France. Snapping each shot was just another gamble, one that paid off.
Photography by Dan Barham
Far From Home
Initially, the Wander project was intended to be an experiment in product testing. Bring the Acre kit far from home and subject it to a proper beating, in a relentless way. Of course, this would all be documented in photos. But how to keep the photo project from interfering with the primary goal of product testing? This was our concern. As the project took shape, we came to the conclusion that film photography would be the way to go for this trip.
The theory being that we would be less focused on the images and more focused on the product and riding. Since you can't preview photos in a film camera, the tendency to obsess over the images is removed. Therefore, as a rider you sort of lose interest in the camera and it becomes much less of a distraction.
When asked to be our embedded photo journalist, Bike Magazine senior photographer Dan Barham, not only agreed to take on this challenge, but looked forward to it and started searching for vintage cameras that would work for the trip.
The down side of using film was obvious, we wouldn't know what we captured until the film was developed. The cameras may not have been working. The film could be bad. We could have come back from two weeks of shooting with nothing to show for it. Fortunately for us, the gods were on our side.
Riding for the project took place in Switzerland and along the Trans-Provence route in France. Fourteen days of near constant riding provided an intensive test of the Acre prototypes and the feedback from this testing has guided the design of our current product line as well as new concepts still in development.
It was obvious that we would need bikes that could excel in almost any condition. Massive uphill slogs, steep rutted descents, and endlessly long hike-a-bike sections necessitated bikes that could do it all. In the end we decided that the Santa Cruz Bronson and Tallboy LT would be the perfect do-it-all bikes for this type of trip. As a bonus, Santa Cruz engineer, Geoff Casey, joined in on the project to put his Bronson to the test along the Trans-Provence route. We were also lucky enough to have the support of SRAM, as their XX1 drivetrain and RockShox suspension performed flawlessly for the entire trip (and still does).
Special thanks to our guides throughout the trip. This project would not have been possible without the local trail knowledge provided by Rudy Hauser in Switzerland, and Ash Smith and Julia Hobson in France.
The challenge of using vintage film cameras is what attracted Bike Magazine photographer Dan Barham to the project. Having grown accustomed to using the best available digital equipment, Barham looked forward to using the clunky old-fashioned equipment to push his abilities and intuitions as far as he could. With a limited amount of film along for the ride, it's basically a one-shot-per-scene scenario.
- 35mm Cameras - 1982 Canon AE-1 and 1977 Canon EF
- Medium format Camera - Holga
- Canon Lenses - 50mm f/1.4 and 24mm f/1.4
- Film - Kodak Portra 400 color and Ilford HP5 + 400 B&W
Originally from Manchester, UK, but now living on Vancouver's North Shore, Dan works as a photographer, cinematographer and film-maker. Since 2008, Dan has enjoyed a position as one of BIKE magazine's select few Senior Photographers. With such a strong background in mountain biking and other outdoor sports yet able to work in all fields of photography, he took on the challenge of capturing some of Europe's best riding with only classic film cameras without a second's hesitation.