March 19, 2010

Behind the covers

Besides being a freelance outdoor writer/photographer, I work a few days a week for Adventure Cyclist magazine as an editor/photo editor. (Was there full time for a couple years, but a full-time office job, even one as cool as that, was entirely too office-y for an outdoor junkie like me.) So I manage most of the photography for Adventure Cycling and one of my favorite things to do is put together the covers of both Adventure Cyclist and Cyclosource, a gear catalog also published by the Adventure Cycling Association. There are some brilliant photographers out there traveling in remote corners of the planet on bicycles and I love going through their best work to find striking covers that convey the majesty and daring of their journeys.

Here's a look at some of my favorite recent covers and the original shots that birthed them. I often see a cover in a horizontal shot and then crop it to fit. A perfect example of this is the cover of the April issue, which we just sent to the printer (Adventure Cycling members can expect it in their mailboxes in about three weeks). Here's the cover...

This shot was taken on Alaska's Dalton Highway by one of my favorite velo-lenseman working today, Cass Gilbert. Here's his original:

The March issue of Adventure Cyclist features an image from the Korean coast by my main man Gregg Bleakney. (note: I don't always get to choose the type coloring on the covers. Just have to say that. I also fixed the cover typo — can you spot it? — before this was sent to the printer.)

This is an example of a cover that deviates significantly from the original composition, which I love. Here's Gregg's very cool original of an impressively corkscrewing Korean road:

The February cover was a unique one for Adventure Cyclist. No riders in dramatic landscapes here, just a sea of colorful humanity in vivid, sausage-casing attire. The February issue is the "event issue," which is to say it focuses on event rides, which typically feature hundreds (or thousands) of people riding and camping together for a few days. I'm sure they're fun, but not really something I'm personally interested in. When I first saw the original image I immediately had the idea for a wall-of-people, Where's-Waldo-style cover, but before I showed it around the office I needed a tagline. After staring at the image for a minute, I came up with "Losing Yourself in Event Rides," which cracked me up to no end. But I didn't think the powers that be would let me leave it on there. Thankfully, I was wrong. Here's the finished product:


And the original, shot by Dennis Coello from a cherry picker at the pre-dawn startline for an event ride in Texas:

The January issue featured a self-portrait taken by yours truly on the Sheep Mountain Trail in the mountains outside of Missoula. This was a "Malkovich, Malkovich" moment for sure — I was the author of the story, the photographer for the story, the subject of the photography, the photo editor of the magazine, the editor of the magazine, and the designer of the cover. A little incestuous, eh?

Here's the original shot, plus the cover I would have chosen had I run the zoo by my bad self.

Lastly, here is Adventure Cyclist's Sept/Oct cover, perhaps my favorite cover of last volume.

Taken by Dutch photographer Paul Jeurissen amid the tea plantations of India, the full image is even more striking. I remember seeing this for the first time and being completely smitten. Had the thought of trying to make a cover out of it, but wasn't sure if it would work. As soon as I mocked it up, I knew we had a winner. We were on the verge of having inadequate resolution, but there were just enough pixels there to make the crop work.

Anyone who is interested in more discussions about photography and magazine design should check out my blog posts over at the Adventure Cycling blog. My latest looks at the winners of the recent Adventure Cycling photo contest and serves up the story behind this most unusual image:

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