Rider’s Lens: Michael Drummond’s Photography
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In this Rider’s Lens, we look at the work of UK-based photographer Michael Drummond, who shares a selection of images and the story of how cycling with a camera has shaped his life, starting with his BMX days and continuing on to participating in events such as the Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco. See more here…
Words and photos by Michael Drummond (@michaeldrummond)
I’m Michael Drummond, a photographer, writer, and appreciator of most things. I get really excited by all sorts; my mind is always racing with ideas, ways to tell a story, or how to solve a problem. I love getting into what I do. Without a task at hand, I’m like a little lost deer: stressed, fidgety, and thinking of how to get back out. I struggle to relax and settle, which in turn keeps me creative. In short, I’m a creative with ADHD.
My first experiences in photography were watching my dad photograph his scale models in the garden, lining up miniature planes, battleships, and tanks on a rough wall. I was fascinated by flicking through his photo albums, and soon enough he let me use his camera. While he was driving my grandma home one evening, I sat in the back clicking away on his old Olympus, taking pictures of the neon signs, the dashboard, traffic lights, and illuminated scenes through the car window. The anticipation was mega; my first roll of film, all to myself! When they came back, the prints offered ghostly remnants of places and moments streaking across the frame in erratic lines. This is the moment that really sparked my love affair with photography. I took an analytical approach to work out why these shots had come out as they had and set about understanding the technical side of things so I could start to create and capture things as I intended.
Gradually, I honed my skills further, documenting local bands and my friends out riding. BMX and music were a massive part of my teenage years. Eventually, not everything I shot was total crap. It was slow, but I began to contribute to the BMX magazines and brands I long looked up to, even spending some time in front of the camera along the way. That said, BMX has its costs, and injuries took their toll, putting me on the path to bigger wheels and touring under the guidance of a friend who owned a vintage bike shop. It opened my eyes to cycling history, the finesse in frame building and I haven’t looked back.
These days, stories that arise through my curiosity and subsequent interactions are what I enjoy most. Incidental encounters with incredible, interesting people make the journey. Without them and their tales weaved in with mine, I wouldn’t have a complete narrative to tell.
It’s hard to imagine how my work life would be without riding bikes and the opportunities that have come off the back of it. First and foremost, BMX really gave me the confidence, outlet, and positive attitude I have today. Without that, I don’t think I would have had the oomph to step into a life of self-employment.
Not only did cycling allow me to develop my writing and storytelling, but it also led me to a natural evolution of turning my lens to some of the other amazing communities within cycling. Like stepping into the time warp of Eroica up in the Peak District of England, where hundreds of bikes and people were paying homage to the history of cycling, head to toe in WWII-era wool and riding 30kg bikes, or having the opportunity to film a documentary of celebrated frame builder Trevor Jarvis in his workshop. It’s taken me to the Olympic Velodrome to make portraits of Sir Dave Brailsford and had me lurking in bushes while shooting crit races in Crystal Palace. These have all been eye-opening turning points but the greatest impact has come from appreciating the bike itself as a tool in its own right, a platform to literally take me through places where photos and stories await.
I’m currently dipping in and out of a few long-form projects, one of which is a short film about my father and his scale models. It’s a project I’ve touched on for years but I’m excited to nurture it and create something entirely fresh. Last year, Craig Bilham and I filmed close friend and endurance athlete Alvaro De La Camara on his journey to the south of Spain, this became known as Cycling 4 Soup Batch 1, and upon its completion, we instantly started plotting and developing a really exciting new challenge that we’re now starting to pitch to brands and platforms, so our next few weeks are going to be busy with the hustle.
I have been trying to train locally as I’m looking to compete in a few more endurance races throughout this year, namely the Atlas Mountain Race, which I raced in the first edition of last year. Seeing as it’s now shifted to October, it gives me a little more time to prepare. Most recently I have been lucky enough to be part of some discussions with Shift Cycling Culture on how to develop innovative ways to use cycling to combat climate change. I’m also slowly editing a mountain of footage together for a vlog about my ride from Hungary to Venice for Komoot. Come the end of the month, the first episode should be live.
My hope for the future is that my work continues to develop and be seen by more people. After exhibiting last year with a group of talented artists, I suppose the progression is a solo show of a new series or a further developed body of work. I’ve also been plotting some routes that have a heavy focus on food and drink, telling stories of producers and growers on the continent, while the work will be looking at these subjects specifically. I’m sure on the way I will stumble across some wonderful moments of serendipity. Over the last 18 months, I’ve slowly done more gear reviews, bikepacking trips, and endurance races, so I guess going forward all I can wish for is that this continues and I keep meeting more and more riders, strangers, and friends from around the world.
Michael’s Photography Gear
I usually prefer shooting on my Bronica ETRS with a 75mm lens, as it’s very compact and ergonomic for a medium format system. Paired up with Portra 400, it’s perfect for most of what I do. But I’ll often use a Canon 5D Mark II with a 50mm 1.4 or perhaps a 70-200 if I’m feeling strong. The DSLR is slung around my shoulder via a homemade three-point strap system and the Bronica is kept in its own case. While riding, it’s either stored in my Swift Rando bag on the touring bike or when I’m out on the rougher stuff it gets popped in a backpack, usually my Lowepro Pro Runner BP450 AW II.
- Canon 5D Mark II
- Canon 50mm F1.4 USM
- Canon 24-70mm 2.8L
- Nikon 100mm 2.8 + adaptor
- Bronica ETRS 645
- Bronica Zenzanon 75mm 2.8
- Kodak Portra 400 or TX
- Halina TLR 6×6 (sometimes)
All that being said, I’ve shot some incredible images using a variety of different mobile phones in the past. Most recently a Huawei P30 Pro, which shoots RAW and produces some pretty detailed files.
Burgos, Spain, 2020. I’d been chasing GPS ghosts of Alvaro’s position across the plains of northern Spain with another photographer for around 45 minutes, tracking him using Whatsapp on what was a barebones filming trip using a little Volkswagen Polo as HQ for the week. The weather was ultimately horrid just north of Burgos, rain was relentless for almost two hours, and the temperature dropped massively. Finally, we crossed paths again.
The whole landscape was dripping, the palette of both sky and road were a drab grey, punctuated with occasional pepperings of colour in the form of road signs and rows of yellow crops. We drove ahead to pull into a layby up the road and I ran up a farmer’s track for a higher vantage point. By this point, his body position just oozed misery as he pushed through the headwind and freezing rain. To me, it felt like the best way of expressing the hardest single moment of his journey.
About Michael Drummond
Michael Drummond is a human who thoroughly enjoys using a camera and the written word to tell stories and share beautiful interpretations of the mundane. He hopes his work resonates and allows others to see a bit of themselves. You can find him on Instagram @drummondphoto and at MichaelDrummond.co.uk.