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At Beta, selecting the perfect cover shot is a process that rarely flows linearly. It begins with Beta’s photo director Anthony Smith narrowing hundreds of photos that have come in through dozens of submissions from photographers around the world, down to around 10. We then go through multiple rounds of eliminations as a group in order to get to the final selection. Sounds linear enough, except more often than not, we toil over it for days, bring up new selections, and wind up revisiting ones that had been cut days earlier.
That’s what happened this time around. The shot that landed the cover, taken by pro rider-turned shooter, Dylan Sherrard, was actually eliminated as an option during the first round. It’s obviously an absolutely stunning shot that’s worthy of making the cover, but our heads were in a different place thematically during the first round of cuts, so away it went, back into the general selections folder.
It wasn’t until we’d narrowed our options down to two finalists but were somehow feeling unsettled about moving forward with either one, that we decided to revisit “that insane mirror shot we cut in the first round,” as someone on the team put it. Immediately after putting it back in the mix and letting our art director, Heidi Carcella loose with design elements, there was zero doubt left that we’d found Beta’s Summer 2021 cover.
Here’s the full un-cropped image before the logo and cover lines were added, followed by Sherrard’s own words behind this incredible moment. Turns out, capturing his final shot wasn’t that unlike our selection process.
“For me, personally, this image and the subsequent cover space it’s been awarded is a strong reminder in trusting the process.
When I wanted to create a reflection image that felt interesting and truly dimensional, I knew Soren Farenholtz would be the key rider to work with, for both his clicked and effortless style and his keen eye for details. We set up shop in the Kamloops Bike Ranch back in April, and started working out the dusty reflection scene with something a fair bit different in mind. Initially, I had a detailed vision of a horizontal composition on this jump, with a sun star touching the horizon. We worked toward that, achieved it, and the image felt great.
But as we were about to call it a successful session, we thought perhaps a crack at a vertical frame might be worth it as well. So Soren rushed to sneak a couple hits in while we still had the sun beaming on the hillside, and we lost it on the first try. As my camera’s viewfinder became a total silhouette, I was immediately reminded of how much I love the soft and smooth light of that post-sunset glow. We gave it a few more hits as the evening pushed out the day, and this final hit felt like the one—different than what I first imagined, yet more deep and exciting than what I’d hoped for.
As a photographer, I’m guilty of getting stuck in the pursuit of perfection and desire for absolute control over a scene, light, weather, and style. But when perfection is often a projection of my own imagination and values, I enjoy the challenge and process of being bold enough to submit myself to wonder and celebrate my surroundings as they are, imperfectly.
And if I’m in the right place with the right rider, sometimes the inverse relationship between perfection and control just work themselves out in harmony.”—Dylan Sherrard
Beta is available on newsstands in the U.S. and Canada at Barnes & Noble, Raley’s and Indigo. The quarterly print issue is a perk for U.S. residents who have a Beta Pass or Outside+ membership (international residents receive a digital issue). Find more on membership prices and packages here.