Simon McLaine made perfect use of the breathtaking scenery in his current home of British Columbia to win the coveted overall prize in the recent ‘AMB Photography Awards - presented by Shimano'.
McLaine moved to Canada last year from Hobart and has subsequently been living out of a van in and around the Vancouver region, riding some sick trails and doing freelance photography work.
And he admits the stunning trails and top-class local riders are a real boon when it comes to getting award-winning images.
“This prize is a milestone in my career and something I’ll hold close to me forever. I can’t believe it’s happened - I feel honoured,” he says. “British Columbia is just an amazing place and the calibre of riders here is also awesome, so with those two things combined the opportunities often come up to get out there for some pretty amazing adventures and to get some pretty spectacular imagery.”
McLaine’s background is in trailbuilding, having previously worked for Dirt Art on projects all across Australia. But he grew up trying to capture the essence of mountain biking on film and is now keen to turn his passion into a full-time profession.
“I’m essentially self-taught in photography. I started off as a young teenager making videos with my friends and got more into filming,” he says.
“But with having to carry around all that gear and then sit down and edit the footage for a couple of weeks, I started to move more into photography.
“I took a photography class in college, but most of the technical stuff I’d taught myself already. My main source of income has been trailbuilding, but I’m definitely trying to move into full-time photography.
“I always knew I wanted to move to Canada to ride and shoot photos,” he adds. “I have a Ford E350 van over here in Canada that I live in. I’ve converted it into my house, with solar panels and a fridge and fully functioning oven and stove.
“I definitely want to move here permanently and keep the dream alive! Although the big dream is to get something that’s a bit more fixed to the ground.
“I’d love to purchase a block of land somewhere on the coast or on Vancouver Island and build a cabin and also build trails all through the property. I’d also keep the van to go on trips to ride or do photo assignments.”
With this competition win, McLaine has proved you don’t need long formal training to make an impact as a photographer - and believes the main thing for anyone trying to improve and get better images is just to get out there and shoot as much as possible. In addition, chatting to other serious snappers can provide a wealth of useful information, with YouTube tutorials always available to fill in any knowledge gaps.
“The more you do something the better you get. It’s definitely a case of practice makes perfect,” he explains. “But I’ve got a long way to go and I’m always learning new stuff. Just going out and shooting photos is a great way to learn.
“Speaking to other photographers also teaches you a lot when you check out what they are shooting and what settings they are using. And on top of that you can hit up YouTube videos or read books to figure out specific things about whatever camera you have.”
Although McLaine is hoping to stay in British Columbia for as long as he can, and maybe even move there permanently, he still holds his home town in Tasmania in high regard when it comes to mountain biking.
“I grew up in Hobart and I haven’t come to BC to move away from there,” he says. “With Dirt Art you travel to a lot of places, but Hobart is my favourite hands-down. If I was to live in Australia and start a whole life there, I would definitely go back to Hobart. Everything there is really accessible. There are some big mountains and amazing beaches. The mountain biking is amazing and personally I reckon it’s the best in Australia.”
Now read as Simon reveals the story behind each of the images in his winning portfolio.