|Author: Zlatan Fazlagic
Date: 2002 Nov 20
waiting for Derek at Rocka Jacks (local coffee shop with espressos
closest to European I have encountered on the new continent) I am
skimming today's paper and preparing myself for our interview. The truth
is I am not a journalist and I didn't prepare myself ahead of time.
I am excited to talk to Derek. His photography impresses me from the
first time he submitted shots to our site. I am ashamed that I didn't
know anything about this young star in the sport I love so much, but I
sure remembered his shots from different bike magazines and catalogues.
Until lately I didn't pay much attention who took the photos just who
the riders were, what a mistake.
Derek is entering the shop greeting an employee who right away
complements Derek's recent shots published in a magazine. After we
agreed who is buying coffee we picked a quiet spot in the cafe and set
ourselves for the interview. (The espresso wasn't as good as usually but
the company was excellent so I couldn't complain)
Zlatan: When did you first get the camera in
Derek: Not until grade 12, so...... 6 years ago. I
was biking a long time before photography; I had an old Nishiki Navaho
over ten years ago. We took our bikes and went too sand hills near
Regina, and took some photos. So first thing I got published made the
cover of Bike photo annual in 98, from 10 minutes outside of Regina.
Bike was the first place I submitted my photos. Nobody told me I
couldn't shoot mountain bikers for a living, so I did it.
Now I have people ask me do you make living doing that? And I say yep!
If people did this when I started I probably wouldn't have pursued it.
I know a lot of photographers who try to work their way up from little
publications and make the name. I just had enough stuff that I thought
was OK so I sent it in and they used three shots in the photo annual.
I am born and raised in Regina. Being from Regina worked to my advantage
because I would go with guys to gravel pits or Wascana Trails and I had
to make it better than what it was. I had to compete with guys from all
over the world. Shooting in exotic locals, so I had to put more effort
into it. Now when I go to locations that are wicked I'm just like "this
is easy". Being flatlander I get funny reactions every singe time when
people ask me where I am from.
So what was your next step after you got your first shot published?
I didn't know if I wanted to go to school for photography or not. You
don't need a piece of paper to sell photos; they just want to se what
you can do. But I ended up going to Calgary and went to SAIT for two
years, taking Journalism Arts with specialization in Photojournalism.
That was pretty cool, I learned a lot about computers.
Zlatan: Did it help you in your profession?
Derek: It didn't help my shooting style so much as
it help knowing computers and marketing. When I was going to school I
worked for Mark Gallup, which is a big time snowboard photographer. I
got to see how his operation works a little, before he fired my ass when
I got cover of Bike cause he didn't want to train competition. His exact
words were:" I know you gonna make it I just don't want to help you get
Zlatan: Didn't a magazine contact you through
Derek: Launch Mag? Yes they did and I send them
60-80 slides. They are pretty nice, small BC magazine. That is good too,
that I am starting to get known by the riders. Dangerous Dan before he
even knew me dropped 20 footer for me. He was really scared that I
wasn't going to get the shot. I can understand that. He did it a bunch
of times though and I sold that shot everywhere. Cove production made a
calendar, it was in a Race Face catalogue, Bike etc...... That bumps me
up in his books so he will be willing to do something for me next time.
Just like riders have to build their name, it's same with photographers.
Zlatan: How do you get people to ride for
Derek: Just call them, E-mail them. They are pretty
good, Wade Simmons, Richie Schley all those big guys are very cool.
Zlatan: Do you pay those guys?
Derek: I am giving certain guys percentages of
editorial sales, guys that do that professionally. I think they
appreciate it, and it gets both the rider and photographer looking to
get the best shot.
Zlatan: Are you sponsored by Ellsworth?
Derek: Nope, but I've shot for them and I have a
good little side deal, in regards to editorial photos.
Zlatan: How did you get that?
Derek: We did a trip two and a half years ago, we
contacted about 50 different companies and got 5 aboard to give us
products in return for exposure in magazines. We got free equipment and
they got free advertising. Advertising is super expensive, and we
couldn't afford all the gear we needed. We had Bell, Spy, Camelback,
Roach, and Ellsworth. Lead to some long-term clients.
Zlatan: You got some photos in 2003 Giro
Derek: Oh yeah that photo with Richie Schley in
Kamloops and Dam on the Shore. The Richie shot was a photo the Fox hired
me to shoot and when they were done with them I got them back to
Zlatan: Do you ride with guys when you work
or how do you follow them?
Derek: Depends of the location. If I am in North
Shore I will probably just hike, cause it is such a bitch to bike
around. If I am in Kamloops I bike. It is good not to have bike if you
don't need it so you don't have to worry about it like moving it out of
picture and such. The photo shoots probably lack luster compare to what
people think. It is a lot of work. You put a lot of sweat into it and
sometimes you don't get anything. But sometimes you get good light, good
riders and locations. It just comes together, that's when I get really
Zlatan: How much time you spend shooting?
Derek: This year I spent maybe four months actually
shooting. You spent more time trying to promote yourself, ironically
shooting becomes a smaller part of it.
Zlatan: How do you promote yourself?
Derek: I try to use magazines to promote my name
little bit, to get my name out there. Ultimately I want to sell to
companies because they have bigger budgets. Magazines are cool and it's
rewarding to see you shot in print, but you got to pay the bills. I was
shooting in Canmore 24 Hours of Adrenaline and Jon Gibson told me "you
are not gonna get rich of the magazines" and it is so true.
Zlatan: What is your favorite place to shoot?
Derek: Kamloops....... Oh yeah that place is so
nice. You go to shoot in Kamploops and you get a shit load of good
stuff. Somewhere else, even Moab, you can get some good stuff but not
like Kamloops. You get nice single track laced in sage bush, caly
freeriding, it's wicked. Have you been in Kamloops?
Zlatan: No (embarrassed)
Derek: You gotta go to Kamloops. It is so much fun, the trails just
flow. When you go to Vancouver you get beat up on every ride, sometimes
you get tired of it. So it is nice to be able to let it go and have some
Zlatan: How do you like shooting in Vancouver
Derek: It's tough to shoot there. It is always,
raining and dark. And there's a lot of politics involved with shooting
Zlatan: Then how do you shoot there?
Derek: If I shoot black&white I will shoot 3200 or
6200 speed and still getting 1/250 to 1/8. It's real grainy, but grain
gives it a nice feel. There are some places where you get good light but
not much. Guys build a stunt specifically for a shot so they get good
Zlatan: Who do you like to work with?
Derek: They're all good guys. I would say Tippie is
pretty energetic, that's an understatement, he is a lot of fun to work
with. He is super keen to get a good shot too. He's a crazy party
animal, he shows you good time for sure. He lives in Kamloops so it
works out good for shooting. I shot some of the Specialized catalogue
with Tippie this Summer.
Another person is Dan, I have done quite bit of stuff with him. He's got
the Shore dialed, plus he builds a lot of the trails you've seen in
Zlatan: What is the coolest thing you
Derek: The coolest thing I shot this summer, was a
new thing that Dangerous Dan built. It's a 200-foot ladder bridge that
is 6 inches wide and it goes 18 feet in the air with teeter-totter in
the middle and you have to huck of at the end. I shot Super T and Dan;
they were shooting with Bjorn for Kranked 5. I was shooting with this
really grainy black and white, so I was like, oh am I ever going to get
wicked shots. When I got the film back the #@%!ing guy totally screwed
them up. He mixed them up in the processing, I was pretty chocked about
it, he even blamed it on me..... whatcha' ya' gona' do?
Zlatan: What is the funnest shooting trip you
Derek: For fun factor I would say it was when I hit
the road for two months with three guys in the van. We left from
Calgary, and went all the way too the coast, from the coast went to
Vegas for Interbike, after Interbike we hit Utah and Colorado. Two
months no worries, we spent very little cash, I even made some money as
I sold photos and the story to a Mountain Biking UK magazine.
Zlatan: Where do you see mountain biking
Derek: It went through its growth spurt before I
got there. But now it is getting more mainstream. You see it more in
stuff like the Red Bull Rampage. Also you're starting to see it in
commercials and they're even working on a North Shore video game. New
bikes are a cross between everything; DH, urban, dirtjumping, bmx all
wrapped into one bike.
Zlatan: What would you say to someone who is
trying to make it in to bike photography?
Derek: I knew that question was coming. I was
trying to think what I would say. Don't listen to people who are saying,
" It isn't real job". If you really like it you'll be good at it,
because you will be putting a lot of time into it. If you are just doing
it cause you think it's cool, or for the glory of having something
published then you probably won't last long. There's a lot of work that
you do and don't get paid for so you better like it.
Zlatan: What are the plans for the future?
Derek: I am trying to do more ski stuff this year.
Also I want to be a One-stop-shop. Beside photos I know how to do
digital manipulations, design and layout. I could do an entire
catalogue, come up with ideas, shoot it and design it, so it would be
mine baby right from the start. That way I could do bigger projects, but
less of them.
Zlatan: What's new at Derek Frankowski
Derek: Now I am working on my website
frankowski.ca. I am putting nice
big photos because I hate when some photographers put little pictures
you can't see. I guess they are concerned about getting them stolen, but
I would rather have people get a nice look at my photos than worry about
a few people steeling them. The site will be good for me because it will
make me more accessible to potential clients.
For my website I got a web space package with 1GB per month bandwidth
limitation. A day after the site was online a phone call woke me up. It
was my web provider saying I had 3GB upload first day. He suggested I
should get a package with more bandwidth.
Zlatan: What equipment do you use?
Derek: If you want to get your stuff published they
don't want digital. I shoot all film, no digital. Almost every company
and magazine want's original slides, but I think eventually digital will
replace it. I have a Nikon 16mm fisheye, 24mm, 50mm and 80-200mm , F5
body, F3body and a few other trinkets.
Starting off I wouldn't buy a very expensive camera at first. You are
better off too spend money on a good quality lens than the body. First
thing I got published on the cover on Bike was just outside Regina, with
an old manual Nikon and 24 mm lens. I love it, prairie boy nails the
cover of photo annual.
Zlatan: What would you do if you weren't
Derek: If I wasn't doing photography I would do
design work or sell vacuum's . I just love a good vacuum.
Zlatan: Sex, drugs and rock&roll ?
Derek: No drugs, unless you count coffee, just sex
and rock and roll. It is good time; you get to hang out with good guys
take some photos. I am thankful for what I got. I don't have to go to a
9-5 job. I wouldn't trade it, It is a dream job for me. If you can make
it happen it's a good lifestyle, I am not going to lie to you.
For more of Derek's work go to
http://www.frankowski.ca I am sure you will enjoy it.
The story by
www.shutupandride.ca - editor
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (remove 99 for the address)