YT Mob Log: Entry Six

Isac Paddock: The Man Behind the Lens

Photos by Isac Paddock/YT Mob

The youngster tasked with capturing the fastest man in the world is far from a household name in the sports photography world. At just 20 years old, Isac Paddock has made his dream a reality and is lucky enough to travel the world as the YT Mob photographer. We sat down to ask Isac a few questions and let him share his story in hopes of inspiring some other young button pushers out there.

Who is Isac Paddock? How did you get here?
Being a World Cup photographer was childhood dream of mine. To most I am still a kid, so it makes it even more special that at the age of 20 I have made my dream a reality. So what if I can’t drink in the U.S. or rent a car, I consider my current position affirmation enough of my “adulting” skills. Thanks to some hard work and good luck I shoot for one of the best DH World Cup race teams, and certainly one of the greatest downhill mountain bikers of all time– Aaron Gwin. After two years of traveling with the Mob I’ve started to understand what living out of a suitcase entails, and there’s nothing I would rather be doing!

In 2014 I was doing my first freelance gig for MBR Magazine shortly after completing work experience with the London based magazine. I was on assignment shooting the World Cup in Fort William, it was my first World Cup. Whilst documenting the weekend for MBR, I met Martin Whiteley, who was (at the time) the owner of Trek World Racing. He was one of the few people who gave me the time of day. Over the next two years I sent Martin an endless amount of emails. To my surprise he responded to each one. Eventually he contacted me to shoot a TWR Team Camp in Spain in early 2015. I knew I was getting closer to the dream. After that short adventure my desire was even stronger and I put in even more hours developing my skills. I worked to pay bills, mulling along in a photo studio shooting bathroom products from 9 to 5. Out of the blue in November of 2015, Martin rang me up on my 2-hour commute home– in the rain I may add. By the time the call had ended he had offered me a job. All he could tell me was that he was putting together a new program, but couldn’t say what riders or what brand. To be honest, I didn’t even care about salary. I was just excited about the opportunity.

Martin Whitely and Aaron Gwin, Shot by Isac Paddock

Fast forward two years and here we are. I have just finished my second full season with The YT Mob and I’m fueled up for the future! Unlike many other photographers who travel the circuit, I am contracted by Martin and work only for the YT Mob. My primary job is to document the team throughout the season. This focus allows me to dedicate more energy into capturing our riders rather than the whole field. The only advantage to shooting for numerous clients is money– something that doesn’t motivate me as much as good times. The upside is reduced stress in having to hustle for an endless number of bosses. Plus, hanging out after an evening of editing with the rest of the Mob is pretty cool, especially since it’s usually in a beautiful mountain town.

What has been a memorable highlight so far in your journey with the Mob?
One of my most enjoyable moments was in Cairns, when four of us including Neko Mulally impulsively decided to rent kayaks at 6am and head for an island on the horizon. Little did we know that it was going to be a 4-mile rowing exercise. I didn’t mention this was the first morning of practice! Luckily all I had to do was hold a camera the rest of the day, not ride. The sipping hour occurs every evening at 6:30 and is hosted by our road manager Paul. The session is always a good time and filled with plenty of good drinks, banter and laughs with the team. Another memorable moment I had was drinking at the boss’ bar in Granada, Spain. It was the end of my first year for the Mob and Martin was mixing some great tunes and drinks in his private indoor club. Team mechanic Ben and I accepted the invite and proceeded to drink his liquor– a lot of it. In hindsight a bottle of Gin between two people is never going to end well. The next morning I found myself sleeping in the shower. Needless to say, the Ryanair flight home that morning was as bad as it sounds…

Being a photographer isn’t all kayaking and sleeping in showers. It’s an incredibly serious role and I’m proud that I am responsible for all of our team imagery and social media. I’m also the man in charge of all content for the team and athletes’ Instagram accounts. Last season I felt a lot of pressure as I had no real experience working for a team. I didn’t really know anybody on the circuit, yet I was delivering content to some of mountain biking’s best athletes. It was my debut year and I had a lot to prove. I still have got a lot to prove, and that’s what keeps me on my toes. This quote is an inspiration and reminder to always stay focused.

“I think it’s dangerous to think that you’re successful, because then you become complacent”

Neko Mullaly by Isac Paddock

What is it like working with Aaron Gwin?
It was pretty crazy when I found out I’d be shooting for Aaron. I quickly told all my mates and they too were amazed as this was our sporting hero– someone who a lot of people look up to. This is probably where a lot of the pressure stemmed from. Yet that pressure is mostly self-inflicted, as Gwin is incredibly easy to work with and is always happy to do, ‘one more run.’ Of course it’s probably like three more! I live for the moments that Aaron and the rest of the team tell me, ‘that’s a sick photo.’ It makes my endless hours of hiking mountains worthwhile.

How long have you been a photographer?
Professionally three years. I started my career shooting product in a Manchester-based studio whilst attending every UK National Downhill race I could to try and get my name out there!

What gear do you use? What does your typical pack look like on a race weekend?
On a race weekend I will try and keep my pack as light as possible. Unlike many other photographers, I need to be agile and most of the time we are on the mountain for the majority of our day. Why lug around extra equipment you don’t need? In my 26L Evoc Photo-Scout I normally pack a Canon 1DX and Canon 5D3. As for lenses, it’s typically a 15mm, 24mm, 50mm, 70-200mm as well as memory cards etc. The rest of the space is filled with food and hydration.

Do you have a dream camera set up?
The one I’m running was my dream! And now I’m looking to purchase a 300mm lens in the off-season to complete my setup.

What are the hardest conditions to shoot in?
Most certainly dust, and coming from the UK I’m not used to it. It makes changing lenses a nightmare! It’s enjoyable for sure and the shots are incredible, but for working conditions and equipment it’s pretty difficult to say the least.

In your eyes, what makes the perfect picture?
A picture that captures the moment and tells a story without words. Yes, you can argue that’s what video is for, but nothing beats flicking through print and being able to relate to pictures without reading the caption.

Who has your inspiration been for capturing images?
For race photography I’m inspired by Nathan Hughes. Not only are his images great in the first place, but his post processing adds another dimension. His work always seems to be different from everyone else’s.