We’re crazy about our recent pics taken in Munich by photographer COLIN STEWART. So we sat down with him recently to learn more about the man behind the lens.
Where are you from?
I was raised in a village called Banchory in Scotland. I studied at the University of Glasgow, then lived for a few years in an historical village called Linlithgow, close to Edinburgh, before moving to Munich in 2004.
How/when did you originally become interested in photography? And specifically photographing biking/sports/extreme sports?
In Scotland, I was really into climbing, skiing, running and mountain biking. I always took a camera on my trips to the mountains and photographed the routes we did. I enjoyed taking pictures but never really took it that seriously at the time. I did, however, develop a better appreciation of mountain light.
When I moved to Munich I didn’t know anybody at first, so I just visited different mountain areas on my mountain bike and got to know the area. With a new job and better pay I could afford better camera equipment and, through the mountain biking, I slowly met people interested in sport and photography. Through these contacts I began to do work for the BIKE and FREERIDE magazines, which are both based in Munich. I shot bike tests initially and some tech-know-how’s with famous riders then moved onto to bigger mountain projects including both photography and video.
What was the most extreme location you’ve shot in?
The extremity of the situation is mainly felt by the riders and athletes. While I try and keep up with them as much as possible, I am definitely not at their level and usually shoot from safe positions. For some of the most extreme bike descents I have filmed, such as, the Alpspitz, Zugspitze and Steinerne Rinne, I have just walked up with my camera equipment.
The riskiest shooting I have done is in winter and ski photography. Magazines usually want untracked powder shots and the riders are gunning to get out the next day after storms. These situations can be potentially very dangerous in terms of avalanche risk and, of course, changing lenses and operating a camera in such extremely cold conditions can be a tough game.
Where are your favorite locations to shoot? (best urban/mountains/etc…?)
Being based in Munich I am very lucky to have so many varied mountain locations just down the road in Bavaria, Inntal and Italy. There’s really a lifetime of locations to get through, and more.
Urban cycling-wise, obviously, Munich is a sweet spot for me and, in summer time, I can fit evening shooting in after my day job. Evening light has the best light anyway and I have a growing network of models now who enjoy the cycling photography. I’m amazed how cycling is so embedded in Munich’s lifestyle, it really is a beautiful and relatively safe city to ride around. Many cycle ways connect the city’s parks, forests and beer gardens together and, in summer, there’s no better, or faster, way to get around the city. Every year that goes by I notice more people on classic old Italian bikes and fixies and the whole scene is generally becoming more fashionable.
In the past years I’ve had a couple of visits to NYC and love to shoot there too. During my last visit I got some urban cycling shots that I’m very happy with and got into some gallery publications and a front cover in the German magazines. I’d love to come over for another visit as soon as time and resources allow and would welcome the opportunity to shoot some more projects there.
Where are your favorite locations to bike? (any thoughts on biking in Europe vs. New York- or Munich vs. other cities in general?)
Favorite locations to bike are the same as for shooting, both go hand in hand.
During my last visit to NYC, I bought a bike and cycled around the city because it was the fastest way to get around different photo locations with other riders. However, at first, it felt as if it was the most dangerous riding I’d ever done and certainly took a couple of days to get used to it. In comparison, Munich is extremely safe and orderly and motorists have a lot of respect for cyclists.
In terms of taking pictures, NYC seems to be a little more security conscious as well. Jeff and I stopped on the upper concourse at Grand Central one day, just having ridden up through the tunnel from Park Avenue, and I literally had about 3 minutes to take a picture before security chased us off. Luckily, the pic came out well and I’m confident it’s a unique image.
Why do you bike?
For exercise and the feeling of freedom it gives me. I collect old Italian racing bikes and love to restore them and indulge in riding them; everyone has a different feel and experience. The social and photography side of riding is also very important to me.
What do you ride?
I have a whole cellar full of amazing bikes from an old Cinneli fixie, which is my favorite city bike, to full suspension enduro bikes, made by Liteville, to a selection of old classic racing bikes ( Eddy Merckx, Colnago, Francesco Moser, Peugeot ) to 29er’s, Fat Bikes. Pretty much enjoy riding them all and, most likely, will continue to expand my collection.
Any awkward/funny/inspiring bike/photography moments to share? (or personal biking moments) Jokes, political rants, etc…?
During a summer visit to NYC I walked through SoHo one morning and clocked a sweet bike chained to a lamp post on Wooster Str. I went for a coffee in Cafe Duke and walked back down the same street an hour later and, just by coincidence, the bike’s beautiful owner was unlocking her bike. I said hello and asked her if it would be okay to take some pics of her. Turned out she had just bought the bike and was very proud of it and would be pleased for me to take some shots. After a couple of minutes shooting she had to go onto her next appointment but I gave her my card and said if she wanted the pics to drop me a line. She contacted me that evening and I sent her the pics. Turned out she was a famous model and I didn’t even realize. A few days later we met again and I spent some more time taking pictures of her on her bike. I’ll never forget how cool and friendly she was and open to photography and, naturally, I felt very lucky to have made the contact.
To contact Colin directly, email him at email@example.com.