<b>To best enjoy this slideshow HIT PAUSE NOW. You can now manually go to the next or previous slides by clicking on the image above after you listen to Gary's audio, study his epic pics and read the informative captions. FLIPPER RULES!</b>
The 36 photos are presented in the order in which Gary took them. - <b>A World Cup day pretty much always starts in the pits, trying to glean those little tidbits of info that lead to knowing how the day's story may unfold.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>We're lucky on the World Cup to work with legends, and not just riders. Doug Hatfield has been involved in our sport since the beginning and actually well before that.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>It's all about that last minute attention to detail. Stylishly trimmed number board and matching zip ties with the right breakaway point. Oh, and rider's start times of course.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Race day fuel for mechanics, photographers and crews alike is always found in the SRAM big rig.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>A new addition to the World Cup weekend is the Junior Men's race. I'm not sure what a junior man is, but the racing was intense. Noel Niederberger with a 4:48 to take the win.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>World Champion, Morgan Charre, warms up away from the maddening crowd at the top of the track just before finals.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Tracy Hannah helps me get the what seems like now-obligatory-scenic-over-the-lochs shot.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Double press of the shutter. One shot wasted. Old habits die hard.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Race winner, Rachel Atherton, and her mechanic Andy Lund are both in quiet reflection here prior to her race run.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>The fans' costumes get more and more elaborate year after year in Fort William. Not sure of the link between Scotland and the RAF fly boys from years gone by, but hey, it adds to the shot.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>I mis-timed Rachel Atherton's run from gondola and this was all I could get before she dropped down to the deer gate. </b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>A happy Rachel Atherton and her dad surrounded by crowds after winning by a 10 second margin.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Fellow South African, Johan "Pottie" Potgieter, goes large over the new table tops on the motorway...almost as large as the dude's head who wandered in at the last moment!</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Because of said large noggin in the last shot, I had to take one more here - this time Kiwi, Ed Masters. #nipples</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Jared Graves boosts into the amazing Fort William finish arena. If you haven't experienced this place for the atmosphere, you are missing out.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Oops - forgot to switch off camera as I climbed over the course tape and hit the shutter. One more wasted.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Working the crowd shots in Fort William is so much harder with thousands of your closest friends wherever you need to get to. Greg Williamson takes the hot seat and ended up 17th.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>The legend that is Steve Peat crosses the line in front of the fans.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>After a huge crash on Friday, Josh Bryceland, picked himself up and took the race by the scruff of the neck to take 7th on the day.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>To shoot a pan you need a lead in shot, the actual shot and a lead out shot. Vertical pans are even tougher - especially trying to shoot only a single shot. Apologies Aaron Gwin.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Greg Minnaar, by his own admission, struggled at Fort William. 8th on the day and work to be done for Val di Sole. </b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Tried hard to restrict myself to one shot of Greg, but as I said before, old dogs can't learn new tricks...at least not in one afternoon at a World Cup.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Sam Hill is back! Not that he ever left, but he is finding his form once again and the field needs to watch out come VDS and the rest of the season.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>New team, new bike, but the same old Brook Macdonald. Flat pedal thunder and straight onto the podium.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Another welcome return to form is Sam Blenkinsop. Gone are the flats and in are clips and enduro training fitness, but the hands remain bare. Awesome to see him get loose again!</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>This is Fort William - the crowd, the course, the moment. Gee Atherton crosses the line to set the fastest time and leads to the win.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Double click again. Given the crowd and the moment, I'm surprised I didn't shoot more to be honest!</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Danny Hart boosts into the finish arena. Given his qualifying performance, everyone expected the man from Redcar to smash the course a new one, but it was not to be...this time.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>I tried to get off the grandstand to capture what I predicted would be Gee's celebration from the hot seat, but the crowd made that impossible. So I shot from the stands, and then a flag flew over! </b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Gee and Rachel Atherton hug in the finish arena with me still stuck in the stands.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>I doubt there is a better feeling than standing on a podium on home soil! Rachel Atherton acknowledges the crowd.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Podium shots with crowd, while not the most exciting, do tend to capture atmosphere more than some other images.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Gee Atherton proves that Fort William is fast becoming his stomping ground. </b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>The less said about this gift from Greg Minnaar the better. But it involves a fountain, a scooter and lots of booze! I'm glad his focus skills aren't like his bike skills.</b> Photo by Greg Minnaar with Gary's camera
<b>Andrew Neethling signs his back plate for some young fans after the race.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
<b>Last shot of the day. Beers and dinner are finished at the Ben Nevis Inn and our annual pilgrimage to the Highlands of Scotland draws to an end. See you next time.</b> Photo by Gary Perkin
I have been coming to the Fort William World Cup since 2002 and missed only a couple of rounds in that time. 2004 when I took the year off to get married and find my focus and 2012 when I retired from World Cup photography. But here I am back at the crucible of World Cup racing, standing shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues, some who have been here before, some first timers. And then most importantly the thousands of fans who line the course and fill the finish arena to make this the pinnacle of our sport.
I arrived on Friday after a press camp to launch a slew of new Santa Cruz bikes - something I have been working on in Santa Cruz for the last 9 weeks. So arriving at downhill's best event in the middle of the 10th week on the road, for the 10th year had me filled with mixed feelings. Seeing old friends is the highlight of any World Cup for me - be it a year or a week apart - stories need to be shared, travel nightmares laughed at, beers or coffee to be had. This is what I realized I missed the most about the circuit this weekend - that simple casual camaraderie! You get to wander the pits and speak to the riders and mechanics get a feel for who is on the pace, who is hiding their pace, or lack thereof.
But trying to find the motivation to shoot my first World Cup in over a year had me in two minds. Do I leave it to the new kids on the block and just soak up the atmosphere? Or do I buckle down and get back on that horse? Well, I did both. Friday I went up in the gondola and did what I have never done before - I had a beer on the deck overlooking the top of the course and just soaked it all in. Saturday I walked the track with Rob Roskopp and talked lines, history, pal mares and general banter before settling into more beers for qualifiers. I took a handful of iPhone photos and even less Canon photos. What was I doing? Well, to tell the truth I was truly enjoying myself - but I knew I had to take some photos. I felt guilty for being here and not doing the race, racers, crowds or event justice.
So I decided to take up a variation of a challenge one of my mentors Malcolm Fearon proposed way back when - shoot a World Championships on one roll of film. Given I didn't have a film camera here it had to be done digitally, but that’s ok as this isn't a World Champs - but it pretty well might as well be given the pressure and atmosphere. I shot as if it was film - no test shots for light or panning and no deletes - just 36 shots from the start of the Junior Men's race to end of the weekend. I hit some multiple exposures - old - or I guess new habits die hard with 10fps. I did hit the shutter accidentally while climbing down the track somewhere and waste an image - and Greg Minnaar did grab my camera in the pits and take a shot. This all just adds to it I guess.
It seems apt that at the end of my World Cup career I've had to the chance to in essence go back to the beginning of my World Cup career - Stellenbosch 1997 - which I shot on film - and what started this whole crazy, beautiful life in MTB.
As I roll out of the hotel room at 1:20am to head to Edinburgh for two flights home to my girls, I realize I didn't say goodbye to a whole bunch of my friends. But then I realized we never really do say goodbye when we're on the circuit! It's "see you in a bit", "safe travels", "next time" - wherever or whenever that might be.