A Mountain Bike Photography Adventure in the Italian Alps

“Can you do it again… please?” Trails regularly echo this whenever a rider and photographer take up residence on a rock slab, berm, or drop-off. 

Usually, there’s a sharp intake of breath. The rider dutifully pushes back up. The photographer fidgets a meter to the left or right, re-assessing earlier angles and decisions before swapping a lens or a battery. 

And so the enactment of mountain bike photography continues: a loop playing on repeat until relief, exhaustion, or darkness finally lets them move on.

Riding breathtaking rocky trails in the Italian Alps
Riding a Rock Slab in the Italian Alps

Pro Rider and Pro Photographer is surely a match made in heaven. Perhaps. But it’s a popular presumption that mountain bike photography just needs an alignment of rider and lens-person and, well… the magic ‘just happens’; but it isn’t always like that. 

Misunderstandings and poor timing, frustrations, attitude and exhaustion, and bad weather or bad line choice can threaten the best-laid plans of even the most professional rider-photographer team.

Today we have become so accustomed to seeing amazing mountain bike photography—dreamy photos of amazing action immersed in incredible scenery and bathed in heavenly light—that it’s easy to forget what it takes to capture any one of those images. 

But behind every shot, there’s a hidden interplay: one that is enacted between two individual creatives who are used to expressing themselves through very different media —the bike and the lens. 

Each mountain bike photo is typically the result of many hours spent planning, and many calories burnt riding or pushing bikes. Each is the result of a discussion of ideas that, if all goes to plan, will lead to an expression of creativity from both involved. 

A mountain biker sprints down a trail, hugging the side of a mountain at sunset.
Scotty Laughland

Words are swapped, decisions are made, cranks are turned, and shutters are clicked. Maybe there’ll even be a fist bump. Maybe.

Of course, mountain bike photography would be easy if every trailhead could be reached effortlessly in just a few minutes, and sunsets glowed for six hours every day. But real mountain biking is about challenges and rewards, and if you’re anything like Pro Bike Gear community riders Scotty Laughland and Dan Milner, then chasing those rewards means embracing those challenges, especially if you’re searching for spectacular rides and photo locations. 

This is how the team came to roll out of Cogne in the Italian Alps and into a testing three-day adventure. In their sights was a 3200-meter-high alpinists’ tin bivouac shelter—a spectacular overnight location that would make for both dramatic mountain bike photos topped off with a killer descent. All that stood in the way of either was a 2100-meter climb following tough alpine trails and plenty of hike-a-bike. 

A mountain biker rides off into the sunset on a rocky trail in the Italian Alps
Mountain Bike Photography with Scotty Laughland in the Italian Alps

Drawing inspiration from their spectacular surroundings to help battle fatigue, cold, and hunger —and the lure of a warm bed—the team embraced their quest to find creativity on the harsh, rocky trails surrounding their temporary tiny home; Here, in an unforgiving landscape where the balance teeters between aspiration and luck, and creativity and compromise, the pair offer a glimpse into the narrative and decision-making that goes into ‘getting the shot’. 

A pro rider and photographer stand beside their bikes in the Italian Alps.
Bikes, Dan Milner, a small shelter, and the Alps

Can a tiny hut perched on an inhospitable, rocky ridge at over 3000 meters altitude really become the perfect place for two creatives—one on the bike and one behind the lens— to collaborate? 

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