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Nothing is really anything until it turns into something, and nothing-specific is exactly what we were aiming for when we did our first “Badlands” trip earlier this spring. Any of the things that it could turn into were fair game and by keeping the recipe simple, we figured the ‘something’ we would end up with would be exactly the something we’d like to have.
That simple recipe goes something like this:
-like-minded friends looking for an excuse to spend time in the desert
The first Badlands trip yielded an action edit (“Badlands 1”) and an action/BTS mashup (“Cats Don’t Need Dollars”).
Often these days, a mountain bike video project starts with very opposite origins to these Badlands shoots. There’s a brand message, and the video is a conduit to deliver that message; or there’s a new product that needs content for its release. There’s nothing wrong with these types of projects, but if these are the only projects we as athletes are ever involved in, it would become easy to forget why we started doing any of this in the first place. There are barriers that exist with brand projects that prevent riders from shooting together because they have separate sponsors. There are boundaries on what types of riding can be featured depending on what product is being promoted.
We all started doing this out of pure enjoyment for mountain biking, and the challenges involved with setting up little goals for yourself and accomplishing those goals. In fact, while I was writing this, I had a nice little 45-minute visit with the guy who got me into mountain biking in the first place about 22 years ago. Talking with him took me down memory lane and I could remember how it felt to just be utterly enamored by the endless possibilities that a mountain bike and an area with terrain could represent. It was only natural that at some point we would want to document these moments in order to relive them on more mundane days. This is the point where the camera got involved. When a camera is introduced, you have an extra boost of motivation to set goals for yourself because, just like a hunter keeping the antlers as a trophy, you now have a tangible creation you can take home to serve as a reminder of that good day, that adrenaline rush, and that feeling of accomplishment. This process is a blast. It’s even more enjoyable when there are no strings attached. The reason to do it, is simply to do it.
Brad Holmes is a unique human. He’s one of a kind for a lot of reasons but he’s also one of ‘our kind’ because he understands more than most what it’s like to create things because you truly enjoy it and truly believe there’s a point in doing what you enjoy—even if that’s the only point. It may look easy and fun, but creating a bike video requires a shit ton of work. That’s why a lot of people only do it when there’s a reason to call it ‘work.’ Brad was one of the biggest pro free-skiers in the ’90s and early 2000s. His career started in moguls competition before he transitioned into being a full-time free-skier, appearing in the biggest ski films. There was no bigger personality in the sport than Bumpin’ Brad Holmes. The years of dreaming up intro-skit concepts for his film segments and sending it in the backcountry for the cameras led him to pursue his own cinematography career, in which he has been super successful. When you’re shooting with Brad, he understands all the pieces it takes to make the puzzle and he’s been there on both sides of the lens. He’s not naive to the reality that tackling an action edit takes a ton of time, hard work, and risk, but he’s the driving force behind the Badlands series because he loves this shit and can’t wait to get out in the desert for the next dose of challenges.
Cam and Ty
My brother Tyler and I also share this restless desire. We’re constantly looking forward to the next time we get an opportunity to film together. Those opportunities have become fewer and fewer over the years as we’ve moved farther away from each other both geographically, and in terms of brand partnerships. For the stars to align in such a way that we end up shooting a high-quality edit together, things beyond our control have to fall into place. Why would we passively wait for that to happen when we could do a Badlands trip with Holmes? Hence, “Badlands 2.”
Drew Lederer (and Hunter)
Re-joining the crew from “Badlands 1” was our second camera angle and drone operator Drew Lederer. Drew (and of course his dog, Hunter) is an indispensable member of the posse both for productivity and crew morale. Drew comes from the ski cinematography world and is an absolute ace. Ski fans will recognize his name from numerous Sammy Carlson projects.
We figured for this installment, it was time to invite another certified keener to the crew, Dusty Wygle. As our “Badlands” project-with-no-purpose has continued to evolve, it has become apparent that our objective is contagious. Dusty is always looking for an excuse to push himself in the desert and experiment with what he’s capable of on a mountain bike (which is A LOT.) His pro pitbike background and decade of experience on Nitro Circus Live make him insanely good at reading terrain and rising to the occasion when the pressure is on. Also, a lack of opposition to rising before the sun for morning shoots, hiking up steep hills countless times, and swinging the dig tools, are all prerequisites for a Badlands trip that he possesses.
There weren’t many photos from “Badlands 1,” but that’s not a problem for “Badlands 2” thanks to Eric Parker. Parker fit right in and snapped the nugs you’re looking at right now. He’s the man. An avid kayaker, skier, mountain biker, and professional photographer, he knows that it takes hard work and dedication to get the shots, and we’re so grateful he was down to come on this trip.
Back to the topic of this project being contagious—we accumulated quite the crew of guests on this trip. Some that you’ve heard of and some you haven’t. Ethan Nell and DJ Brandt both make guest appearances in the edit, and once the BTS series starts, you’ll see riders like Jack Graham, Harley Klemme, Ryan Rodriguez, and a kayak full of other keeners who came out for a good time.
In the “Badlands 2” action edit above, you’ll see all the best shots we were able to snag during our week in the desert, cut together by Brad to the tune of two tracks by Queens Of The Stone Age that we all agreed belong in a desert freeride edit. Stayed tuned to my YouTube channel as well for a BTS series that reveals what goes into getting the shots and makes you feel like you’re there hanging with the crew.
This Badlands project is something that just feels right. By starting out with little expectations other than to shoot what we enjoy, the project has defined itself simply by existing and evolving. Each episode, a new location, new friends joining the crew, new challenges, and the hijinks that transpire along the way. We hope you enjoy all the content that comes out of this trip, and we hope it inspires you to get out and do what you enjoy simply because you enjoy it.
Photos: Eric Parker