After ten years of mountain biking, UK-based photographer Filip Gierlinski decided to create a project to commemorate the people and landscapes that make the activity so great for him. “I wanted a project where I could combine the personality of the riders with the trails and routes we ride,” says Filip. And so, he literally combined the two, taking portraits of the bikers who make the sport fun and landscapes of the places that make the ride beautiful. In each portrait, Filip makes one eye visible to make sure he’s capturing the spirit that the driver brings to the road.
Each collage consists of a portrait, then a landscape, and finally, the marriage of the two. Filip begins by setting up his mobile studio at one of the popular cycling locations and waiting for riders to come off the trail. He says that most people are happy to pose for him and he finds that when he shows them samples of the imageshe’s already made, they are thrilled with the concept and eager to be part of it themselves. Here’s a shot of Filip’s outdoor studio, which consists of two to three lights and a white backdrop for the talent:
The tricky part comes next. Once Filip has his portrait, he heads into the trails, walking or biking, to find a piece of landscape that will work for the montage. Filip says he’s always looking for a very specific piece of landscape that will work within the contours of the portrait.
The composition needs to fit into a certain ‘template’ to work in the montage, so I look for specific scenes and a certain look to the trail. With the montage it can get complicated and deciding on which portrait/landscape combo to use is quite a challenge to make it look just right and fit within the series.
Once each piece is photographed, Filip takes the project back to his studio, where he makes use of Photoshop, lots of layering, filters, and plenty of trial and error. The biggest task here is to merge the images in a way so that one of the driver’s eyes is visible. Filip feels strongly about this connecting theme through the photos, the eye of the driver being physically right up against the road and the course so that the two are indivisible in the photos. “This is tricky as the image has to fit with some trees or bushes behind the eye so it stands out,” says Filip. When he does find that perfect merging that combines the curves of the road with the lay of the face, he knows he’s doing his project justice in honoring his mountain biking friends.
The best thing is when I see the montages come together and take on a life of their own. I love that excitement.
The mountain biking and cycling communities are getting more invested and excited as Filip’s series continues to expand. Meanwhile, Filip plans to create more of the beautiful images and is working towards getting a gallery show to display them. “Lots of possibilities,” he says, as he keeps his eye on the prize and moves full speed ahead.
To view more work by Filip, visit fgphotos.co.uk.