Jay French has always been into the outdoors, and enjoys activities like hiking, biking, and snowboarding. After returning to New Zealand from living in London for a while, he started photographing at events and on trips that he went on.
“One day someone asked to buy one of my images. The next they were asking me to go and cover an event. Next thing I knew, my whole business model had changed to content creation! I’ve been a full-time pro-shooter for about three years now.”
An event he recently covered is one that’s held every two years on a remote farm in Southland. It’s called Farm Jam, and it features three different two-wheeled sporting disciplines coming together at The Frew Farm. Jay was there shooting the people, the sport, and the environment.
“Farm Jam is a very cool, laid-back, invitational event run by the Frew brothers. [The Frew Farm is] a pretty special location, and there’s nothing around for miles. It’s on a working farm with the jumps and tracks lovingly handcrafted by the Frew brothers,” Jay explains.
The event provides the opportunity for high-flying FMX, BMX and MTB riders to showcase their skills. When they’re not riding, they’re watching every other athlete, as the event is rider-judged. At the end of the event, each competitor votes for their top three.
During this year’s event, Jay put the Sony α9 to the test – and he had to learn how to use it pretty quickly, as he only got his hands on the camera right before the first FMX session was about to start.
“Fortunately, the α9 is pretty straightforward and I just had to trust things, like the autofocus and tracking were going to be spot on from the get-go. The autofocus was great. I was new to the electronic viewfinder, [as I’m] used to using a standard optical viewfinder, so when I looked through [it] I wasn’t 100% sure the focus was bang on, however every shot was pin sharp. I had to learn to trust the camera knew what it was doing,” he said.
With sporting events such as this, it can be tricky to really capture the essence of the action, but Jay said that the α9’s ability to shoot 20 frames per second really came in handy.
“If you’re shooting a rider doing a certain trick at 20 fps you’re almost guaranteed to get the best possible frame, be that the apex of the jump or just as the body position is perfect. You don’t need to compromise with the frame before or the frame after. It was super interesting to shoot a sequence, which I did of a rider flipping over a fence. Every frame was spot on.”
He’s also sold on the idea of having the α9 for travel shoots, saying that the relative light weight compared to bulkier DSLR cameras makes it a no-brainer for carrying in your backpack or carry-on luggage.
“I know a lot of old school DSLR shooters making the switch to Sony for this very reason, and it’s a captivating reason as well. If you’re riding for multiple days on location, any decrease in weight on your back is fantastic!”
Not only did Jay get a crash course in using the Sony α9 at the event, he also learnt a thing or two about different ways of celebrating success. Ways that you may never have considered either!
“Ever heard of a shooey? Neither had I. It’s when the winners drink the contents of the alcoholic beverage given to them on the podium, out of a shoe. Not any shoe, but the shoe that they’re currently wearing… and have been wearing all day. It was rough to watch, and made me really glad I wasn’t winning anything, but it made for some great shots!”