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5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media

I’ve been dying to get @Panforte and @BrakeThrough, otherwise known as Iri Snow Greco and Jim Fryer of BrakeThrough Media, to do a “5 Questions” interview for nearly a year. However, if you follow them through Instagram or Twitter you’ll know how RIDICULOUS their schedule is. One moment they’re in the heart of Belgium shooting the Spring Classics, the next they’re in New York City filming/shooting exquisite looking (and hopefully tasting) cuisine.

This is a massive interview—I indulged a bit with the bonus questions. So let’s get to it.

Tell us about the featured shot:

The limestone stairs at #Louisville2013 became a signature spot for many photographers on the CX Worlds course. It offered a grandscale background of fans, flags, and color while allowing us to capture close-up the gritty, mud-strewn faces of the riders cresting them. Jim and I didn’t spend too much time at the top of the stairs during the race, though, since it was a slick hillside run-up or slide-down from them to get to other areas to shoot. In this shot, American Jeremy Powers tops the stairs with Ryan Trebon hot on his heels. The significance of this moment in time is unique since it shows two of the top American cyclocross racers against a backdrop of the greatest CX crowds the U.S. has ever seen while the USA Cycling logo can be spotted behind them.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Jeremy Powers Grinding

Why I picked it: I’ll admit this wasn’t my first choice. I was considering one of the B+W crowd shots, or epic Belgian crosser eyes (among others), but this captured more of what I felt represented CXWorlds as a whole. It shows the conditions (muddy bike/kit, snowfall, and depth of field enhanced steepness), the atmosphere (size of crowd), and the race action. Yet there’s more to it. You can clearly read the effort of the day on J-Pow’s face and the near futility of battling the Belgians and Dutch. And like BrakeThrough said above, 2 of the top ‘Merican Cxers framed by amazing crowds and the USAC logo makes this an exceptional shot indeed.

What got you interested in photographing cycling?

How we got our start in photographing cycling was a bit of an unconventional process since we began on the video side of the sport. As for cycling as a specific specialty, Jim gets all the credit there. He raced as an elite up until 1997 and then stayed in the sport on the marketing, event promotion, and apparel side of the industry. When he and I started working together in early 2009 I was just getting introduced to cycling and, I admit, my involvement was cemented by his utter passion and commitment to showcasing the glory of the sport. It’s not an easy sport to shoot but it may be one of the most rewarding.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Amy Dombrowski Mud Face

What are your favorite cameras/lenses for shooting races?

Everyone has their preferences and often it just comes down to what you got used to first. For us, we are all Canon when it comes to stills. For video, which we shoot as well, we use Sony, Canon, Panasonic, etc. But for stills it’s pretty much Canon 5Dmiii’s and the Canon 1Dx lately. Lenses we won’t leave home without include: 70-200mm f2.8II, 16-35mm f2.8II, 50mm f1.2, 85mm f1.2, 24-105mm f4, and occasionally a 14mm {semi fish-eye}. A telephoto is critical as the “money-maker” lens for actions sports and the 70-200mm is pretty much the most versatile one when it comes to cycling. Plus, for close up shots you can get a gorgeous depth of field with it as well.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Telephoto Captures The Good Stuff

Wide angle lenses like the 16-35mm are great for pre and post race and behind-the-scenes as well as close-up race action, especially in turns, corners, or getting the action on the side of the road. One of our favorites, the 85mm, is pure lusciousness. Amazing for portraits, bike details (bikeporn), and texture of all sorts. Our general philosophy is “experiment but find your arsenal.” Being comfortable and confident with your gear is almost as important as the gear itself.

Bart Wellens and Niels Albert chasing the leaders at 2013 Cyclocross World Championships.

What’s your post-processing routine?

Lots of coffee. After that anything is possible. We are shooting RAW on CF cards, so the download can take a bit of time. That’s when you need the caffeine boost. Once the race is over, your adrenaline starts to deplete quickly… especially as evening sets in! As for post processing, because there are two of us this aspect can get a bit complicated.We routinely shoot for 2-7 clients, so at a stage race or similar event you’re starting your post strategy first off with discussing about how to meet different client needs and timelines.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Compton Cruising To Second

Between the two of us, we’ll start out by flagging all shots that could be suitable for specific clients and some that we might want to include in our portfolio, social media, etc. We’ll each set up specific collections in Lightroom relating to the daily and weekly deliverables for that event. Then comes the actual selection process of curating a balanced gallery for each client. We basically show each other what we each have and then narrow down from there. Editing the images then has a lot to do with what “look” our clients are going for, how they will be used (website, FB, IG, ad, print, etc), and how experimental each client is. We edit in color and B&W but primarily save our most artistic work and/or edits for our own portfolio use. With two of us shooting, we can offer more in-depth and comprehensive coverage overall while providing two perspectives on how the day unfolded.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Vos Was Unstoppable

Any tips for capturing the perfect cycling shot?

Tough question! Wait, there’s a perfect cycling shot?! I guess let’s start with – it depends on the scenario, the setting, and the context. We always strive to adequately capture the intensity, the emotion, and the authenticity of the moment – be it in training, in race, after the finish, on the bus, or at home. What might be the perfect shot in the viewfinder may not be the perfect shot on the computer once you start editing it. Likewise, a shot that does not appear ‘perfect’ might actually become so when you start to see certain elements more clearly.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - All Eyes On Them

For example, at #CXWorlds we had a tough day of shooting, the course was very challenging to navigate making for a lot less coverage. I think lots of photogs were frustrated and we both felt like we walked away with some mediocre work. But then in the post processing stage, we realized we had some great shots that reflected wonderfully for certain brands, like Giro helmets, Oakley glasses, and WD40. This is just an example but it points to the complexity and subtlety in knowing what is ‘perfect in a vacuum’ and what is perfectly going to fit someone’s editorial or commercial needs.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Flyover Runup

Bonus: As we’re seeing/reading above, you guys just returned from an amazing #CXWorlds. Let’s hear about your experience!

We shot #CXWorlds in St. Wendel, Germany, in 2011 and in Koksijde, Belgium, in 2012. Going to #Louisville2013 was a bit of a crap shoot… I don’t think there was a single photog there that really knew what to expect. At the European Cyclocross Worlds and World Cups, you are really entering the belly of the beast. The fans in Belgium last year topped 600,000 – generations-long fans in a die hard cycling culture of drunken revelry. Louisville this year had some chaos going right into it. The Ohio River was expected to flood the venue so having all four races scheduled into one day made it super challenging for the media, the team staff, mechanics, volunteers, etc.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Tim Johnson Goes Down

On a brighter side, it was great for the spectator perspective and energy. I think ultimately more fans came out for the combo of races on Saturday then we would have seen on Sunday for the Elite races only. Especially competing against Superbowl Sunday, realistically we lucked out on Sat with crowds! Shooting cyclocross is always a blast and easily the most visually dynamic when conditions get sloppy. But having a great backdrop of fans and flags can make all the difference.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Van Der Haar

Bonus: You two have forged a unique path as photographers by starting in video. How did that come about?

Our company, BrakeThrough Media, really began on the video side and evolved to include photo as well. I started out as a producer/director in television and first got involved in cycling through a documentary film project while Jim had already developed a video audience for his cycling videos on While video was our primary medium, many of our clients kept asking if we did photo as well… and after a couple of years we started to dabble in snapping photos during some of our video shoots.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Kaitlin Antonneau Grinding

Initially it was more for fun with behind-the-scenes content – challenging us to stay creative, and useful for promoting our video work in social media. It wasn’t long before many of our existing clients were asking for photo galleries along with video, so we started to devote more energy to playing catch-up in the photo world. Meanwhile, many of our photog colleagues were getting their feet wet in the new demands for DSLR video. Quite a role-reversal all around.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Flyover Vertigo

Bonus: How has video made an impact on your still work?

I think video producers bring a lot of skills to the table when it comes to photography since we already know a lot about framing, composition, narrative, light, etc. The greatest challenge has been the psychological shift in trying to capture a “story” in a single frame versus 24fps or 60fps (frames per second). Aesthetically, our photo work has been strongly impacted by our video work. Our filming style has always been about character, texture, environment, and sensuality. When we started taking stills, we naturally gravitated towards these stylistic themes – focusing more on the behind-the-scenes and lifestyle aspects to the sport, intimate details such as sweat and mud and bikeporn, and the personalities of the athletes and staff. Anything we felt we couldn’t fully capture in photo, we knew we could elaborate on in video so that gave us a dual approach in crafting the stories we wanted to tell.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Belgian CXer Eyes

Bonus: I follow you both on Instagram see you shooting all over the globe, frequently as a team. How does that work?

Our work life is rather unique, even within the world of professional photographers. As a couple, we are able to travel extensively together and share experiences on-the-road together. This is something that we are both extremely grateful for since many of our colleagues who travel often for work are separated from their spouses or families a lot of the year. Add to that our work in food & wine, and you may find us posting about truffle-hunting in Northern Italy or shooting a Paris – Roubaix recon in Northern France with the same frequency.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Mourey Remounts

Likewise, because there is two of us, we can “divide and conquer” when needed. In 2011, I flew back to the USA to shoot TV commercials for a client in California between Gent-Wevelgem and RVV while Jim stayed in Belgium to shoot Flanders recons. I arrived back in Brugge the morning of the race and met him on course to retrieve my press credentials and start shooting. That was pretty intense and exhausting to say the least but allowed us to do work for clients on two continents in the same week.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Nys Riding Dirty

Bonus: Speaking of Instagram, you both are very active IGers. What are your thoughts on the IG community and how has it affected your work?

Since we are such a small company social media has always been paramount in promoting our work. That pretty much goes without saying these days. But along comes Instagram. For photographers, it was a love / hate platform. I think Jim and I embraced it very early on since it was a visual opportunity to connect with like-minded people and brands and as a platform it was still experimental. Now, we are seeing a lot more of the brands we work with on IG and that has upped the stakes. We have gotten photo gigs from our IG posts more often than through any other social platform or website.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Overwinnings Voor Sven Nys

Only word-of-mouth tops that. So, in the end, regardless of all the copyright hooplah over the Facebook takeover, we still feel that is a valuable and enjoyable process. Stylistically speaking, it allows us to post our images in a different manner than we would on Flickr or 500px and also to test out different visual signatures that we are just toying around with. In that respect it’s been great to be exposed to our colleagues’ work on IG and to the IG community as a whole which offers endless inspiration and creativity.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Nys Scrum Shot

Bonus: Lastly, not everyone may know it, but you guys shoot (video and still) a LOT of food. Let’s hear about that!

Initially, when we partnered as BrakeThrough Media, we thought we would streamline our fields of expertise into my food background and Jim’s cycling one. But as it happened, Jim became a real foodie and I embraced the intensity of a sport that was completely new to me. It wasn’t long before we could both tackle each field and so we kept the company as an amalgam of our niches.

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Wellens Calorie Doping

As a company, our work goes in waves – sometimes all we do is cycling and sport for six months, and then all of sudden we get back-to-back wine shoots or an extended project like our original web series “SAUCE’D” where we are immersed in Italian cuisine and culture with an irreverent NYC chef [Link: Sauce’d]. We feel that the unique mix of sport and food keeps our work in both areas fresh – we let the sensuality and texture of shooting food inspire how we shoot cycling, and we bring the dynamic energy of sport to our culinary projects. And… we never get bored!

Social Media Links and Websites

Twitter: Iri Snow Greco: @panforte and Jim Fryer @brakethrough
Instagram: @panforte and @brakethrough
Flickr: BrakeThrough

Gallery: All Access Gallery: Food of the Tour
Gallery: Gallery: Up close with Hesjedal in Milan
Post: Riding the City in Search of Food

5 Questions With: BrakeThrough Media - Pit Soup


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