Photography with Emily Maye

photography by “Emily Maye”:  

Take a look through Emily Maye’s ever growing collection of cycling photography and you’ll find wildly different photos on the subject. A background in cinema is easily recognizable through her ability to capture action as well as the all the goings-on associated with the daily hum of bike racing. She shines in her newfound work with cyclocross and offers a fresh eye on the sport and its characters. Emily’s passion for cross, however, was put on hold back in late December 2012 met she up with Team Sky on the island of Mallorca, Spain to shoot photos of the team for Rapha. See the Team Sky Lookbook. Not only was this the team’s debut ride in the clothing, but it was her first time on the back of a motorbike. We sat down with Emily to get her take on shooting with Team Sky and the upcoming Cyclocross World Championships.

RAPHA: This was your first time with Team Sky, but not your first time traveling with and shooting a team. You got your first crack at it with Bontrager-Livestrong during the Tour of California. What’s it like to move from them to the Tour de France winning team?

EMILY MAYE: Obviously everything is on a bit larger scale. There are a lot more people, a lot more staff and riders but it was very calm at the hotel. It’s always interesting to see how different teams organize themselves and communicate information to each other. When I end up with a different team in the same hotel at a stage race, I always look for those things, like the way they post signs for instance. I remember at the Tour of California when everyone was in the same hotel on the last day, all the teams had posted their team’s info by the elevator and they all presented it slightly differently. It was funny then because the hotel was full of a bunch of people that were there for hockey and not the Tour of California and I wondered what they thought. That type of stuff is as interesting to me as the race. 

Did it help that you knew Ian Boswell & Joe Dombrowski? 

Familiar faces for sure. I first met Joe and Ian when I was with Bontrager at the Redlands Bicycle Classic stage race in March. I was really excited to see them in their new environment. It was really cool to see that they had this incredible future ahead of them and their excitement about that. It was only 7 months prior that I interviewed Joe on the first day of Tour of California and we talked about one day him riding the Giro. That was before he won the Baby Giro and now he’s going to ride the Giro with Team Sky this year. That’s amazing and not surprising at the same time. Ian is such a smart guy and a leader, they are both so deserving of these opportunities. Neither of them were on our shoot for Rapha but I had a hard time not snapping a few pics of them in the hotel. Habit, I guess. 

How do you approach a shoot? Like what did you do to prepare for the shoot in Majorca?

There’s one element of preparation which is a given, I make sure I have the equipment I want to use and that batteries are charged and all that. I think about which lens to use the most probably. But all that’s just being ready to go to work. In this instance, I had never been on a moto before so I practiced that to make sure that it wouldn’t be interfering with the comfort level of what I wanted to get on the day of the shoot.

The night before, Slate and James (from Rapha) and I talked at the hotel about the logistics of the day and I asked questions about what Rapha wanted and how to approach the look and feel. I was told “be awesome,” and that was pretty much it. They had the confidence to let me just go capture the day how I saw it. That meant a lot. Conceptually I didn’t come at it with any pre conceived ideas. It was guys I had never met, a team I’d never worked with, on a route I’d never seen so any ideas that I went in with wouldn’t have really been too helpful. I hadn’t seen any piece of kit they were going to be wearing either. So everything was a first reaction. I’ve learned to trust my eye and not over think it intellectually. Most often I find the not knowing really enjoyable and it yields good results.

Was there anyone in particular that you took a liking to? Or found easier to shoot than others? I know that you’re a big fan of Lars van der Haar in the cyclocross scene because of his expressive face, who stood out like that at the Team Sky camp? 

Van der Haar will give these looks that appear to have a novel of thought going on in his head in one split second. I’m sort of endlessly fascinated by that from him photographically. He’s in a world all his own. The four riders that we worked with at SKY were wonderful to photograph and completely easy in front of the camera. They each brought something different to it and I wanted to photograph them as naturally as possible and not tell them how to be or get in the way. I knew when I was taking the photos of Pete getting ready for his ride out on the road that his expressions were very strong and would play well in the frame. They were all very accessible in the process. I was happy to get the photo of Edvald Boasson Hagen laughing at coffee because that’s a side you don’t often get to see within race and is how these guys are in person.

You also shot the Specialized Lululemon team. What are some of the differences in a pro women’s setup than the men?

I was with Specialized Lululemon for a week outside of Faro, Portugal for training camp the week before the Rapha shoot and there was a similar structure to the day. They start with yoga, breakfast, training ride, lunch, massage or meetings with the director regarding their upcoming season, dinner and then have to be ready to go at it again the next day. I believe they (Specialized Lululemon) are now in Mallorca as well for another camp. You also have new riders coming into SKY and just meeting their new teammates and the same with Specialized Lululemon. Reflecting on the previous season’s accomplishments and looking to the season ahead share a similar focus in both camps. I guess that’s more about similarity than difference.

What camera(s) did you use for the shoot?

Canon 5D Mark III. 

You have a background in cinema. What applies from that world into the still world? Especially when we are talking about the movement of the bicycle? Do you think about the shoots in the same way?

I think my background in cinema has a huge influence on my photography. I was in cinema critical studies at USC School of Cinema-Television and then finished up at Columbia with screenwriting/writing and I think the combination of those two makes me pretty focused on story and execution. There are some elements of studying cinema that go into how I frame a photo but I think it comes into play even more when I make a selection of photos as a whole and try to communicate a mood or story. Rapha films really do a great job of capturing movement on a bicycle combined with a tone that makes you want to ride. It’s a hard thing to do with photography when you stop the action. When you freeze frame TV footage of the Tour de France you don’t necessarily get that sense of movement that you’re talking about yet when you freeze frame Louis Malle’s “Vive le Tour!” you do. So there’s something in that difference. 

What are some of your current favorite films? Do you try to get to the cinema when you’re on the road? One of my favorite things when traveling is to try and get out to the movies. One time when we were on the road with the Rapha Continental Slate and Daniel Paisley and I saw Terminator 4. It was pretty terrible. 

I’m a total nerd for French Crime Films. Obsessed. Every Jean-Pierre Melville film. That’s my area of interest. The Conformist is my favorite cinematography though. Assassination of Jesse James is the movie I saw and most wished I had made. Almost Famous I really love. I like the whole being on the road thing and having this adventure and not really being able to go home. That and Cinema Paradiso stand out as really powerful films emotionally. for me The Lives of Others, La Jetee, Z, Control, Two for the Road, Un Prophete. I love going to see movies in other cities when I am traveling. There’s something about that relationship to sitting in a dark theater and giving a film your time that is a comforting ritual to me. When I was younger and studying ballet, if I was away from home, I would go take class wherever I was. It had a universal language to it. Going to a movie is like that for me now. And in no way does it have to be an art film. I like all spy films. Every single one. But Elevator to the Gallows! That’s my favorite film of all time. Well, Goal! and Goal! 2 are also pretty good. Either Elevator to the Gallows or Goal! 2 is my current favorite film. Cinema is still my favorite art form and I hope I go back to it someday.

I know you quite recently spent some time shooting professional cyclocross in Belgium after only two races in the US. That’s quite the trial by fire, but also similar to your entry into the road cycling scene. What sort of benefit to you get from going all in like that? 

Fresh eyes are of a benefit for sure. Sometimes it’s a mix of both experience and fresh eyes. Professional cyclocross in Belgium, when seeing it for the first time, hits you as a unique relationship between fan and rider and I’m sure that diverts my eye in what to photograph a bit. But those first two races I shot in the US also helped with experience. If you aren’t where you need to be the shots are missed. I think there is a balance to the two aspects, but it’s a mysterious one for me. I feel comfortable with the unknown though. The trick is to keep bringing that fresh eye to places you’ve been before as you gain experience.

I would also think that you build quite a rapport with the riders, seeing them day after day. 

I try to stay invisible really. What I don’t want is for them to play to the camera and put on a show for it.

Did you have any European cross favorites? 

Seeing the Europeans race in person for the first time was really fun. They have such incredible bike handling skills. And the weather is awful. It’s hard for me to get around the course in that weather and they ride through that black mud so beautifully. Sometimes watching the U23 and juniors race gives you a real prospective on how you develop skills at each level. It’s the same course and I really enjoyed watching the differences in how each handled the course with more experience.

Any fun stories with any of the riders? I had an embarrassing weekend with Stybar once where we couldn’t stop making eye contact at a hotel. It was purely coincidental, but started to become quite humorous as he would be standing there around every corner. 

That’s a good one. I like that. Thor Hushovd came around the corner from the bus on my first day of shooting cycling ever and ran into me with his bike. He was world champion at the time and he was very nice and apologetic. I think probably my favorite story was being on the start line in Bredene when Sven Nys pulled the beer out of his pocket. There were no photographers at that race because there had been a bigger race the day before. Nys had left the course to yell at a fan who threw beer on him while riding and the video had made it all over the internet. Stybar gave Nys a beer before the start line as a joke and so he showed up on the start line and had to take it out of his jersey before the race. I like those moments personally, whether the photographs work out or not.

The UCI Cyclocross World Championships is a couple weeks away in Louisville, Kentucky, I know that you’re going to be there. What are you hoping to shoot while you’re there?  

Whatever’s happening, I have no plan for what I want to get specifically. There will be plenty to respond to on the spot. But I have spent a great deal of time brainstorming a cool way to present the photos and I suspect it will be a pretty special weekend.

Who are your picks (both men and women) for World Champion? 

I would like to see Katie Compton win. Vos is incredible but I would like to see Compton do it with the great season she is having. For the men… a Nys, Van der Haar, Powers podium would be amazing. Too bad no Stybar, he had a podium chance for sure. I think Niels Albert could be world champion again without question. It’s going to pretty exciting. I don’t think I have fully wrapped my head around how exciting it will be.

Now you’ve shot cycling and you’ve got a pretty good grasp on other types of sport photography, such as ballet. Is there anything else you would like to shoot? Another sport or even broader reaching type of photography? Presidential portraits, war correspondent, hip hop music fans, emerging technology profiles, midwest farmers? I don’t know, you tell me….

I have always loved political photography and I would very much like to do that at some point. I would really like to photograph basketball. Either behind the scenes with an NBA team or March Madness would be fun. The coolest thing about photography is that opportunity to go into so many different worlds.

You’ve alluded to a new project, both photo and written, on twitter. Can you tell us what that is all about? 

Kids and the development of pro cycling ambitions.

Your 2013 has started of with quite a bang. We are looking at your work with Team Sky currently, seeing you pull together some fantastic images of cyclocross and have seen some Specialized luluemon as well. Do you take a break now? Or is the CX World Champs a jumping off point for a whole new set of cycling related adventures? 

It’s sort of a continuation from the traveling that started with Cross Vegas back in September! When I come home I will go do the training camp with the Bontrager Team in California and then I will be heading back to Europe for the Spring Classics. There is quite a bit left in cycling for me this year. The season really lasts all year now that I’ve gotten into cyclocross. 


Keep an eye out this weekend as the UCI Cyclocross World Championship’s roll into Louisville, Kentucky. Follow Emily Maye on Instagram and her blog for up to date photos from the weekend. Check out’s interview with her from a few weeks ago.