THE AMB PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
There could only be one photographer to earn the title of AMB Photographer of the Year. Congratulations Nathan Hughes.
In 2018, the Australian Mountain Bike Photography Awards presented by Shimano pulled in a broad range of entries – and the submissions for the Photographer of the Year were no different. For the major category, the photographer needed to submit an image for each category: Light, Movement, Close Up and Composition. Our three judges looked for something unique, and something showing worldleading ability in their photography. Plus we looked for a photo that made us want to ride!
Nathan Hughes was judged as having the best portfolio – and it wasn’t easy to pick given the strengh of the entries. Contacting Hughes, we learnt he is now based in Chamonix, France. It’s better known for skiing, hiking and alpine climbing, but Hughes states it’s a really good European base.
“There’s so many reasons I honed in on Chamonix, but top of the bill has to be the unrivalled landscape and amazing winters!” Hughes was enthusiastic about the location, but also for access for photography. “It’s drivable for many of the World Cup venues and it’s just
one hour from Geneva airport for the other big bike events on the calendar. I’ve only been here 6 months so I’m still in the process of discovering some of the most photogenic spots and trying to make friends with the ibex.”
“The riding in the Chamonix valley is mostly very technical on non bike-dedicated trails, which brings it’s plus and minus points. I love the wild, unexplored feeling of the terrain and the challenge of the ultra-tight turns and fierce rock gardens. The downside is that you really are bottom of the food chain on the mountain and, assuming you’re even allowed bikes on the lift, you have to be ready for dirty looks from the hikers. The backdrops here on the trails more than make up for any awkwardness in my opinion, all the more as someone with an interest in photos.”
We had to ask – what is it like being named the AMB Photographer of the Year?
“I’m genuinely stoked to win the title, thanks very much! It’s hard to be noticed and good work gets swallowed up so fast in this Intsa World we are all caught up in. I’ve never won any kind of award for my photography so the first is always one to remember too! I’m a big fan of the RedBull Illume ‘image quest’ and it’s great to see a magazine like AMB still thriving and running a bike-specific competition of similar highstandards. Not saying I’m a shoe-in for the next Illume of course.”
It’s not a given that most mountain bike photographers are mountain bikers as well – but for Hughes, the two started together.
“Photography started as a side-show to my bike riding as a teenager. It was a way to document and show off the ‘huge’ jumps and one-hander variation tricks we were doing back in the day! I took a keener interest when I started to travel and I picked up my first SLR on Ebay. At first I didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing, especially as my first Nikon was film. Not even knowing what on earth you’ve shot for a week or so doesn’t lend well to experimentation and progression. After going digital and hiring the holy grail lens, a 70-200 f2.8, for a weekend trip to the Fort William World Cup, it was Pinkbike that gave me my big break in 2013. I’ll always be indebted to those guys for launching my career out of nowhere and of course I still shoot a large amount of stuff for them today.”
Starting out in photography is usually based on seeing inspiring photos, and Hughes said it was no different, with a few photographers whose work he really followed early on.
“As an avid Dirt Magazine reader in the early 2000s it was all about the likes of Victor Lucas and Sven Martin. Fraser Britton, Colin Meagher and Ian Hylands were headlining the photography on Pinkbike so it was also the work of these guys inspiring me to keep at it. The Sprung/Earthed and Collective movies had a big influence on me and in later years, the Coastal Crew cemented a passion for digging, riding and shooting all in one... plus a lust for BC that I still haven’t properly satisfied.
I find it really healthy and refreshing to keep an eye outside the MTB industry and it’s ski and wildlife photography in particular that keep my enthusiasm for photos high. Right now I think Lorenz Holder is killing the game across a few extreme sports and his ‘Riding Thrones’ series is too good.”