How I Got That Shot - Mike Tittel's Mountain Biking Shot

Mike Tittel ( is a Salt Lake City, Utah based commercial, advertising, and editorial photographer who specializes in shooting sports, fitness, adventure and active lifestyle images on location.  His work has been used by some of the largest outdoor industry companies, and his combination of artificial and natural light makes his imagery a polished view of the outdoor world.

Mike Tittel:  "I've always had a huge passion for the outdoors and leading an active lifestyle. Prior to becoming a photographer, I worked as an outdoor educator leading teenagers on adventure-based trips throughout the Western US. It was those experiences in the wilderness that spawned my desire to share my love for adventure and active lifestyle on a larger scale. Once I picked up my Dad's old Olympus OM-1, my life changed forever. It led to a life of pursuing this craft. When I started my career, I was focused almost solely on adventure sports. Now I am really drawn to anything that inspires an active, heathy lifestyle. Some of my commercial clients include Columbia Sportswear, Trek Bikes, Wenger, Gerber Knives, Cascade Designs and publications such as Runner's World, Outside, Men's Journal and Fitness.

"Throughout my career I've always been a huge believer in shooting personal work. Much of it is inspired by my own personal experiences in the outdoors, as is the case with this image of local mountain biker, Jay Burke, which was taken on the Spiro Trail in Park City. I've ridden and run this section of trail many times as it is part of one of my favorite loops in the area. Although the trail climbs high above the valley offering great views of the surrounding area, I was drawn to the less obvious lower portion in the forest. I really liked the warmth of the golden sunlight streaming through the lush green forest.

"For this image, I found a section of trail that work well compositionally but that was open enough to see the sun so that I could include a sunburst in the frame. I also wanted to keep the sun as a rim light on the mountain biker. Given the extreme exposure latitude, I intentionally overexposed the sky to maintain detail in the forest. To really make the rider pop, I knew I wanted to bring in studio lighting. I am a huge fan of the Profoto Acute 600R pack for these types of shoots. I used a small 2x3' Profoto Softbox (without the inner baffle) to create a fairly soft light source to highlight the mountain biker. I stuffed it and my assistant in the bushes, camera right for a classic "pinch" technique. The pack was fired by a Pocketwizard Plus 2. Some of the gear used for the shot included the Nikon D700 w/MB-D10 vertical grip, a Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens, and a Sandisk Extreme Pro CF card.

"I think the biggest key in successfully photographing any sport is knowing the subject matter and being able to anticipate what is going to happen. As an avid mountain biker myself this came easy for me on this shoot, but one can get similar knowledge by asking questions and keen observation. For the most authentic images though I think some personal knowledge of or connection to the subject matter helps."


Camera: Nikon D700 with MB-D10 vertical grip
Lens: Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8
Settings: ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/250 of a second
Other: Profoto Acute 600R, Profoto Softbox, Pocketwizard Plus II

Stay connected to Mike: Portfolio | Facebook | Twitter


Powering Up and Storing Images in the Backcountry
How I Got That Shot - Royce Bair Shooting Nightscapes
Eric Meola's Images Since "Last Places on Earth"

Joel addamsJune 2012LightingMike tittelMountain bikingNikon 24-70 mmNikon d700Nikon mb-d10PicturelinePocketwizard plus iiProfoto acute 600rProfoto softboxSports photography