Photo Select – Quad – Tanner Gemperle

In this article I am going to be going much further in-depth with a few select photo’s, explaining what went into the particular shot, the detailed spec-info and even an overview of how exactly I went about editing the photo.

Tanner Gemperle – MMX Sunset

Camera – Canon 60D
Lens – Canon 18-135mm f/3.5 – 5.6 IS
Shutter Speed – 1/250th (Flash Sync Speed)
Aperture – f/6.3
ISO – 200
Focal Length – 39mm
Flash – Fired, on Camera

This photo to me is one of my all time favorites. Surprisingly, even with this result, this has been one of the (if not the) only times I’ve used my flash and this lens. I was always very skeptical using that lens in the field, its plastic, slow, and cheap. That being the case, is the only wide-angle lens I own, so when I need it, I used it, and it worked well. This photo was the first time I used my new flash as well; it’s not a wireless flash like I wanted, but it too was what I could afford. The big problem for me with the flash was that it didn’t high-speed sync, meaning the highest my shutter speed could go was 1/250th, which is scary-slow with this kind of action. After around 10 shots of this same jump, I got a few with absolutely no blur on the rider.

So how did this photo even come about? Well, a few of the NorCal riders (I believe it was Steven Daniels and his family) rented out the MMX track for the day so the quads could get some practice. My brother is also a NorCal quad rider, so I convinced him that he should go and get the practice, but in reality I was just itching to use my new flash.

At first, I didn’t even realize that we were going to be there until sunset. It was a Sunday and we had school the next day, and with the 3-hour drive back none of us wanted to get home around 11 pm. However as the day went on, I kept getting better and better shots.

I was there mostly to do a photo/video shoot with Tyler Horisk, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only person I shot!

On the side, I was there shooting video for a NorCal quad rider, Tyler Horisk, as well as some photo’s for him. Most of my day was spent talking with him, getting video clips, and a couple of photos here and there of him and a few other riders. Somehow, on our way back to the car, Tyler and I, as well as Tanner (in the photo) got to the top of this triple and decided to get some sweet side-by-side whip shots at sunset of the two of them. After a few good side-by-side photo’s, Tyler took a break and it was just me and Tanner. The sun was just at that perfect point, but at the time I was afraid that it’d be dark by the time a got a really good photo. I nearly gave up, at that point I thought I had some really cool shots, why shoot in the dark? I snapped this photo, a few others, and really didn’t notice the potential of this photo at the time.

I got home, late, around 11 pm, and quickly went to editing the sunset shots. Again though, this one made it through edit without really catching my attention. There were probably 3 or 4 other photos I liked more at the time. And it stayed that way for months. This photo was shot on September 25th, 2011. And just two weeks ago did I realize it’s full potential.

As it turns out, a fresh edit was all that this photo needed to go from an ordinary photo to my favorite of all time.

I was sitting at my computer screen, trying to find some older images to re-edit using Adobe’s new Lightroom 4 software, when I came back across these photos. I went through and realized that image really stuck out when I edited it. The separation of the rider and the background was so much more apparent than most of the others. Beyond that, the photo was tack sharp, with no blur on the rider at all. After working some magic I came up with this final image. I just stood back and looked at it for a few minutes. I just though, “Really? Nearly 7 months just sitting here, just waiting for a fresh edit!?”. I was astounded that it was so simple. I had the photo there the whole time, I just didn’t have the knowledge to recognize what it could become with some more work in post.

On the Left – Original File. On the Right – September 2011 Edit (Original Edit)

Original September 2011 Edit on the Left, and Fresh April 2012 Edit on the Right.

So what exactly went down in Lightroom 4 that made it so much better? Well, a combination of their new exposure sliders and some old-school Photoshop work. I cleaned up the background a bit in Photoshop, then pumped my shadows, boosted my orange, tamed the overexposed sky to bring out the clouds, and topped it off by crunching some of the blacks in the background to further showcase the separation of rider – background. One of the most obvious changes to the photo’s composition is the crop; changing the rider from center screen to top left. I did this so that the sun would be in the bottom right, and rider in the top right, and the dust more in the center to really balance out the composition.

So there you have it guys. My favorite quad photo ever, and the detailed story behind it!

-Dylan Cole

Like this article? Let me know! What would you like to see? What did I leave out? Let me know and I’ll change things up! Leave a comment below.


Photo Select – Quad – Robert Stewart

Today I have decided that I am going to be going much further in-depth with a few select photo’s, explaining what went into the particular photo, the detailed spec-info and even an overview of how exactly I went about editing the particular photo.

In this article I am going to be going over quad-photo’s only, but soon will do this same thing for the motocross world as well. I hope to make this a regular thing, as I take photo’s I’ll show you all my favorites and how the photo’s came to be.

So let’s get to the photo’s:

Robert Stewart at Glen Helen

Camera – Canon 60D
Lens – Canon 70-200mm f/4L USM
Shutter Speed – 1/1250th
Aperture – f/4.0
ISO – 100
Focal Length – 104mm

Let’s start off with some background. This is an image of Robert Stewart at the last round of the 2011 Yamaha QuadX Series at Glen Helen. The fist curve-ball about this image is that nobody knew that we were supposed to be on the REM track until the day of practice. Which really wasn’t too bad for me, because I like the track for photo’s, but it definitely shook up the riders (including my brother) so that was pretty interesting.

What was the reason for being on the REM track when they told us we would be on the main track? Well, the first annual Showa Ride Day was booked for the main track for Saturday, so they pushed the quads over for the weekend. Practice day was interesting for me to say the least. With riders like Darryn Durham, Blake Baggett, Cole Seely, Dillan Epstein and more just a walk away from the quads (which is what I’m there to shoot), I found it very difficult not to go over to the Showa Ride Day and get some shots of pro’s. If you read this article, or saw the photo’s on Vurbmoto’s Facebook, you know that I spent nearly 90% of the day over at the ride day. Which was actually the right decision, it was probably the one single event that got me the most exposure in my career; it also put me in touch with the whole Vurbmoto crew, which sometime down the road will be invaluable.

Finally, after spending the rest of Saturday at the hotel going through my ride day photos, Sunday came around. I was pumped all day from the shots I had gotten the day before of the dirt bikes, so at that point I was already happy with the weekend regardless of how the quad photo’s turned out.

Throughout the day, all 3 or 4 of the photographers that were there really took an interest in the turn just before the straight-away where this photo was taken. The turn was pretty rough and had a pretty large berm, really good for quad shots. That particular turn got pretty sketchy a few times with the photographers. Since the turn was so rough, a lot of riders got sketchy and went off the track at times, right where us photogs’ were leaning onto the track to get good images. I liked the turn as well, but trying to be different from the rest, I focused a lot on this rough straight just after the turn. Towards the end of the day, the straight had huge acceleration bumps half the way, then even gnarlier breaking bumps the other half.

I really tried to get some images of the bikes jumping all around and maybe getting a little sideways out of the turn, then bicycling a little in the bumps. In this particular photo, Robert got very sideways out of the turn and actually came back to the inside and went halfway off the track up the rut. About half of the way down the rut there was a big dip, I knew it was coming up, and I knew one of two things was going to happen. Either Robert would hit the jump, endo, and crash, or he would hit the dip causing a large explosion of dirt. As you can tell, the latter happened. As soon as I clicked the shutter I smiled. I knew what the photo was going to look like. And I just prayed that it was sharp. I quickly checked on the back of camera, and my smile grew; it was probably my sharpest photo of the day.

So there you have it. Lot’s of time, planning, and even some luck went into the shot. But how did I get it to look exactly like the one seen above? Heres a shake-down of the editing:

Original – Edit

So what exactly went down between the original and edit? Well mostly, a slight crop to tighten things up, and my usual high-contrast, bright shadow, deep blacks kind of editing job. Sharpened things up (even though like I said, it was damn sharp to begin with) and a tiny bit of brush editing to brighten key areas.

So there you have it. The full down and dirty detailed description (holy “D”!) of how this photo came into existence. Coming up next, one of my personal favorites, a shot that I feel I will be known for one day.

Like this article? Let me know! What would you like to see? What did I leave out? Let me know and I’ll change things up! Leave a comment below.

-Dylan Cole

Evolution of My Editing

Today I did something I haven’t done in a very, very long time. That is open a photo that I took with my old Sony Alpha A300 camera and 18-70mm kit lens. There’s actually a funny story about why I haven’t looked back to those photo’s, it’s because at the time, when I had the camera/lens setup, I was 100% convinced that the ONLY thing keeping my photo’s from being amazing was my equipment. Any time I looked at a photo that I didn’t quite like, I was so quick to say, “Well it’s my $600 camera, of course it isn’t as good as a pro photographer with their $3,000 camera and $7,000 lenses!”

I’m going to just come out and say it now, I was wrong. At the time (June 2011 to be exact) I was so focused on the fact that I had such seemingly “useless” camera gear compared to the top pros gear, that I lost focus on my composition and editing technique. I studied the actual mechanics of photography, such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, you know, the “technical” stuff, but I didn’t study how important the overall composition is to a photo. I thought, “If my exposure and everything is right, then there is no reason my photos aren’t as good as the pros, other than the gear of course”.

And another incredibly important thing that I overlooked was my editing. I DID edit my photo’s, but I didn’t really do much. Keep in mind at the time I thought it helped a ton, but looking back it actually hurt my photos a lot of the time. I also had thousands and thousands of photos from each weekend that I felt compelled to edit each and every one, so quantity definitely on over quality there.

Let me show you what I mean:

This is the Original file straight from the camera

And here is the Original Edit I did of this particular photo

Now over the past year obviously a lot has changed in terms of my photographic abilities. Now I look back and see all the “operator errors” and less of the “camera errors” that I saw at the time of these photos. I used my new found photography technique and composition skills incorporated into my improved editing skills to completely change the composition and appearance of the same photo, simply by applying the new skills I acquired through the past year.

And here is the new edit of the same photo.

Isn’t that pretty amazing? I just wanted to show you guys that your equipment isn’t the only thing that can hold your photos back from the next level. There are a thousands of little things you can do to decent photos to make them extraordinary, and I hope this shows you that. That being said, I still drool over the top of the line equipment, but unlike back in June 2011, now I know the difference between what better gear can do to my images, but also what better technique and skill can do. The best way to improve your photos is just keep shooting, keep learning, and stay hungry for incredible images.

-Dylan Cole

Dylan Cole Photography on

As some of you may or may not know, is a popular motocross news website. They focus hugely on being a media-friendly company (lots of photographers) as well as being really one-on-one with their viewers. Of all the moto-sites out there, this is the one that’s always been my dream to be published in. My biggest goal has always been to get my photo’s onto vurbmoto, and just the other day it finally happened.

A few weeks ago, my brother had a Quad X race down in San Bernardino, CA at Glen Helen Raceway. Quad X practice was on a Friday on the smaller track, while there was also a Showa Ride Day next door on the large track. I read that this was going to be the same day, and I even read a few of the teams that might show up, but come Friday morning I really had no idea what to expect. We arrived at the track around 9 A.M, and I immediately spotted the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki semi parked by the snack shack. I was pretty excited to say the least, but upon second glance I realized it was actually the amateur team, not the top pro team.

After getting my camera and gear ready, I walked over to the pit area of the main track to see who else had showed up. As I walked through I saw the Troy Lee Designs semi along with the Rockstar Suzuki Amateur team rig. I was excited to see that Cole Seely and Travis Baker showed up in the Troy Lee area, so at least a couple pro’s showed up for sure.

I walked around the track a bit to get my camera setting dialed on the local-slow riders so I’d be ready for the big-guns to begin riding. After I felt that my setting were pretty much dialed I started to walk back to the smaller track to see how my brother was doing in his Quad X practice. On my way back I looked down the road before I crossed it to make sure nobody was going to hit me, and who should I see but my all-time favorite Lites class racer, Blake Baggett, in his lifted, flat black, badass truck. I stopped on the side of the road to get a few shots of him pulling into the pits and snapped a few more shots of his bike in the back of his truck with his new #12 numbers on it for 2012. I watched him drive down the pits passed the Troy Lee Team semi, before being stopped by a small group of kids laughing and talking to Blake. I don’t know exactly how the conversation went but I do know it ended with Blake playfully pinning his truck in neutral and sending plumes of dust shooting up from his exhaust before driving off.

As I walked from the Quad X practice back to the main track, I took a closer look through the pits to see if anyone else had showed up. To my happy surprise, I saw the familiar bike of Monster Kawi’s Amateur rider Dillan Epstein. Upon further investigation of the pits I saw a pretty confused-looking Darryn Durham changing in the back of his flat black stealth cargo van. I think he was probably confused as to why I was looking at him change, haha, but oh well.

I was very excited to get some pictures of Seely, Baker, Epstein, Durham, and most of all, Baggett. I clicked shot after shot and hoped some turned out pretty good. At this time I had no idea if anybody would even be interested in these photo’s, but if nothing else I was taking them so I could have some decent computer and iPhone backgrounds of pro riders for myself. After Quad X practice I was pretty bummed it was time to go, since the pro’s were still riding. But I knew we had to get things ready for my brothers race the next day and I was pretty confident I got some decent shots. On the ride to the hotel I was clicking throughout the 1,900 photos I took, and I knew that they were pretty damn good, so good that I had my sights set on getting them online.

I wasn’t sure where to begin in asking if anyone would like to use them. And the worst part of the whole thing was that the next day I saw Racer X and had some photo’s from the ride day already on Facebook. At this point I was still in San Bernardino, and couldn’t edit photo’s until I got home Sunday night. Needless to say next I’m buying a MacBook Pro so I can edit pictures the day of taking them not five days after-the-fact. It’s common sense that if you’re photo’s are done before other photographers, and they are good, you will be sure to get them in somewhere. When I got home I edited the hell out of the photo’s as soon as I possibly could and immediately as I hit “Export” checked all major motocross news outlets to see who did and did not have any photo’s from the Showa Ride Day. First I checked Vurb Moto. And to my luck and excitement there were no Showa Ride Day photo’s to speak of on either or Vurb Moto’s Facebook page. I quickly shot off an email to their Editor who’s email address I had from a few months back when I applied to be a Vurbmoto hired photographer (which I was denied, but told to keep in touch). The next morning, at 6 A.M (okay on a side note, every email I’ve ever got from him has been at the exact time each morning, and no matter when I replied to that email I wouldn’t receive a reply until the next morning at almost exactly 6 A.M, weird), I read that he was interested in the photo’s for either a Darkroom Gallery or as I suggested a Facebook Exclusive.

I received the mail he sent me at exactly 6:18 A.M and I had a reply (including a link to where he could save the photo’s for upload) by 6:23 A.M. I didn’t hear from him, but I kind of expected that after the first few hours because he said in his email he’d be leaving for the weekend by 9 A.M. So I waited patiently until the weekend was over, and even waited all of Monday to give him a chance to get caught up with everything. Finally Tuesday afternoon I decided to send another email to remind him and resend the link (I was a little skeptical that the email got to him, hence the re-send). I promptly  woke up at 6 A.M for school, and immediately checked my email. Sure enough, 5 minutes earlier I received a reply saying to keep an eye out for my photo’s, he had them up on

Now, although I was extremely tired from it being 6 A.M and all, I’ve never been so happy from an email. As I ate my morning Eggo Waffles, I checked Vurbmoto’s Facebook to see a photo album titled “Showa Ride Day” and in the description of each photo seeing “Photography: Dylan Cole”. When it came time for me to get dressed for school, I immediately picked out my Vurbmoto T-Shirt to wear for the day in celebration.

After telling all the friends, and showing everyone that I could find the album on Facebook, I often got the reply “Bummer it’s on their Facebook and not”, to which I replied, “Hell, I don’t care if they were printed on an official vurbmoto toilet seat, if they’re on anything affiliated with VurbMoto I’m stoked!”.

Even more to my surprise, when I got home I went to to poke around the motocross world. I clicked their usual feature “Hot Links” to read the most up-to-date news. And boom, second article was a photo that I recognized, a photo of mine I took of Blake Baggett. Then I read the first few words of the article, “Dylan Cole recently headed out to the Showa Ride and came back with some cool imagery”. I was even more happy than my photo’s being on their Facebook.

Vurbmoto is the coolest, friendliest, and most visually appealing motocross website I’ve ever seen. THey will always be the first place I check with for any sort of Photo related work. I would like to thank the entire Vurbmoto staff, and a special thanks to editor Brent Stallo for allowing all this to happen to a tall 16 year old kid named Dylan Cole. Biggest photo-accomplishment of my entire life.

Vurb Moto’s Website:

Vurb Moto’s Facebook Page:

“Hot Links” Featuring my Photo’s:

Specific Showa Ride Day Photo Gallery on Vurbmoto’s Facebook: Showa Ride Day Album Full Ride Day Gallery: