It's almost impossible for anyone of us to travel to a Motocross or Supercross event and not want to take pictures. We all want to capture the incredible moments and the unforgettable memories that we have made at what is, for many of us, the most amazing event in the world. After any race the flood of photos from fans on social media is almost overwhelming. Combing through thousands of hash tags and tagged pictures it becomes apparent that there is definitely something special about capturing the precious moments of a motorcycle race. For many of us, we just take pictures to record the memory, but for some it is a passion that burns deep. The very skilled and talented among us use the art of photography to tell a story and often times see something that is right in front of us in a new and unique light. Professional photographers can be seen all over a racetrack using their specialized equipment to take stunning shots that most of us drool over.
As the sport and industry grow in popularity the demands for coverage grows exponentially. It is not uncommon to see more and more photographers and videographers emerging from all over the country. Despite the large influx of talented hopefuls looking to make their mark, only a select few make it to the stage of a Pro Supercross or Motocross event. At this level nothing is restricted and access is an after thought. These lucky individuals get a chance to meet and interact with the heroes of the sport face to face; they get close enough to the action to feel the earth rumble under their feet as the best racers in the world battle right in front of their lens. It is truly is one of the most thrilling jobs on the planet. Ashley "Crashley" Yant-Blaylock is one such lucky photographer/videographer. Ashley, through her media company OC Media, has taken her passion, work ethic, and talent to incredible heights and now calls some of the best photographers in the industry her contemporaries. We had the chance to sit down with Ashley and learn from her about what it takes to be a photographer and videographer in the sport, and how others can as well with a little handwork and dedication...
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Ashley Yant – Blaylock, but most know me as Crashley! I am from Portland, Oregon.
What do you do?
I am a college student currently getting my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Digital Film and Video. Besides my personal Instagram I have been working on building, learning and growing the media accounts that highlight my work (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook) with photos & videos of my story telling journey; which has recently led me to a great opportunity with Moto Stuff. I help out their company and Instagram page by creating about 3-5 posts per week and at least 1 video per month. My biggest and first priority is team/rider reports. From there it can be anything from interviews to creating original content. Whether that's taking photos, filming, reposting, editing, or interviewing, I’m their gal! The cool thing about Moto Stuff is that they are all about support, collaboration and getting creative. From the get go they told me that they wanted to integrate my company, OCMedia, by working together to help get my name out there as well! We help each other out and it's really cool! So on top of Instagram marketing I spend a lot of time at the races and with my father. On September 21, 2015 my father had a stroke while having lunch with his friends at a golf course, which left him paralyzed on his whole left side. Thankfully and amazingly he is recovering so until he is feeling comfortable again I am right by his side. I always set aside quality time to be with my pops.
How did you get involved with photography?
That's a really good question! I've always been a fan of the photography I just never really saw an opportunity in it for myself or thought about it as a career. Shockingly that all changed when I got a summer job from my grandparents who live in a small town called Moro. I was a truck driver that hauled grain for my grandparents wheat farm in a sweet old school C65 Chevy. Keep in mind that we were farming in the middle of the summer in eastern Oregon where it reaches well over 100 degrees. Often times I had to wait at least 30 minutes or more between truck loads with minimal phone service. Like anyone I got really-really-really bored and extremely exhausted in the heat. Wandering outside of my truck one day I started to observe the sights and beauty around me. It was absolute serenity to say the least.
This was back in 2010 just when Instagram started kicking off. I started snapping photos and editing them to save them to post to my Instagram and Facebook after work. I was really happy with them and only used my iPhone 4. After a few weeks, near the end of the harvest season, my grandma took snap shots of the combines and other heavy equipment, per our tradition. This time she hopped in my truck to get some photos, but she handed me her old Canon camera and said, "Will you take some photos for me? You always have had a good eye for things!" Needles to say it was so much fun and I had a blast. After that I just kept taking beautiful photos and continued to have fun with it. Sadly, I didn't have a camera of my own and I knew I couldn't make a career out of my amateur iPhone pictures. To my surprise my wonderful mother bought me a Nikon D5100 set up at Christmas. I got started taking photos right away. Shortly after that I got really into Motocross and riding. I had a blast riding, but the expenses and limited travel options forced me to stop. Since I couldn't ride I would venture to the track every Thursday to shoot photos and then soon after I was getting some quality video! I had finally found my calling and combined my heart, passion, and skills. I figured out how to enjoy and learn more about the sport of Motocross without getting hurt! The best part is that I could really be my most truest self. Fast forward to present day and I am still in love with my passion of story telling through photos and videos. It's been an amazing ride and I can't wait to see what's in store for Official Crashley!
What brought you into the sport and motorcycles?
Before I got I started playing around with cameras I had no idea what I REALLY wanted to do. At one point I had already attended 3 colleges with for 3 different majors. I just didn't have a foundation for fueling my passion and to help keep me learning about photography consistently. That is, until I bought my first dirt bike! I first found out about it when I was chilling with some buddies and one of them turned on a YouTube video called the Dean Wilson Heli shoot . I was immediately captivated by the whole production. I knew for sure that I wanted to do that. Even though I had never ridden a dirt bike in my life I was completely sold! I saved up some money and on a random Thursday in June 2012 I went into Motosport Hillsboro and said, "I have $2100 and I want a Kawasaki" and left with a 2004 KX125.
I loved it, but soon after getting it I whiskey throttled, superman-ed, endo-ed, crashed, and established the nickname "Crashley". Like most moto folks I met tons of rad people and was so hooked on the sport and lifestyle. I loved everything about the motocross community, the thrills, the adrenaline, the challenge, and I wanted to learn more! Unfortunately, I was fairly accident prone and not to mention a very broke college student. This resulted in me retiring my 2004 KX125. I sold it although I was very understandably bummed. Even without a bike I still wanted to learn and watch. It's such an intense sport and compelling sport.
What sets you apart from other photographers?
That is a very tough question. Honestly, I would say that it's my personality. I'm just a social butterfly with an open mind. I definitely love to observe my surroundings and find those rare moments to capture that anyone and everyone can admire. Creating something that inspires and creates memories is absolutely the best feeling to me and I think it shows in my work.
What types of projects have you been apart of?
I had the amazing opportunity from the Wylder Family (owners of TNMX) to be a video sponsor for the team of the Thursday Night Motocross which is located in the middle of Portland International Raceway. Shortly before going live on Facebook or Instagram was a thing a classmate of mine and I attempted the first ever live stream broadcast at Portland International Raceway at a Thursday Night Motocross event. It worked out well, but it was definitely laggy since our internet wasn't especially good, but overall it was a cool experience and I learned a lot! Not bad for a couple of amateurs! I also helped with a charity event around Christmas time where I produced a video with other videographers in the area called "Santa's Mini Moto Revenge" for the Kurt Caselli Foundation Fundraiser.
When I was working for Red Bull as a Wing Team Member, I had the amazing opportunity to help run the Red Bull PDX Instagram account with some great photos that I took myself which was pretty cool. Working for the company also gave me other media opportunities through Red Bull. One in particular being a video that I produced for the grand opening of iFly Portland with the Red Bull Air Force Team. Through this opportunity at Red Bull I also met a friend who worked at Fly Racing and hooked me up with the opportunity to shoot photos for Fly Racing at 2016 Washougal Nationals. It was totally bad ass to say the least! Later that year, my buddy Jon Currier (an amazing photographer) got me an opportunity to work with Blowsion Surf Slam. They hired me to produce videos for the weekend event at the Oregon Coast at Pacific City, Oregon. Jon and I also collaborated on a film produced for Gresham Ford in Oregon for a contest where they finished in the top spot. I also got a chance to meet another videographer from the Blowsion Surf Slam event which lead me to travel to Lake Havasu, Arizona to help film and edit the 2016 IJSBA (International Jet Sports Boating Association) World Finals!
So far this year I have continued working on a documentary with my father on his progress and recovery from his initial stroke back in 2015. I also had the opportunity to work with Epic Nomad of The Ride of My Life as a videographer at an event called MUFF ( Moto Union Film Festival). The event is held in Park City, Utah at the historic Egyptian Theatre. We were able to stay at the Skull Candy Headquarters which is pretty rare for people to do. We were even able to take a shower in the building! This year is filled with unlimited possibilities, but I am excited to see what is going to be next!
What's a typical day like for you getting shots at the races?
Oh man, I'm like the Tasmanian Devil when I'm at the races! You only get a certain amount of time to get a shot, so I try to go in places where others are not. If I have seen photos at that particular track I usually try to avoid getting that same shot to make things a little more different. Most of time I go to a place where I can get a really good angle. As you can imagine it's very physical and challenging. I like to go back to my vehicle to hydrate and recharge every now and then. For me, it's different every time because I like to challenge myself in a way that ensures that I progress. The most important thing that I do when I take photos is review them during my breaks. I delete the bad ones and load them on my computer if needed or I put in a new memory card. It all depends on the race, but that's what makes it an adventure and so fun, you never know what kind of shot you will get!
How do you prepare for getting shots at a race?
If it's an overnight type of race I always make sure I have some sort of power nearby for my batteries and memory backup. This usually requires camping of some sort. Whether it's an overnight or day race I always check out the track and scope out some cool options and ideas. It's also important to check the schedule of the day and the race times. It make it a point to double check what riders or teams are in each class or moto that I'm shooting. It goes without saying that I always double check my that my batteries are charged, memory cards are formatted and that all my equipment is packed to haul. Most importantly, a protein bar, water and gum!
Describe some of the hardest and most rewarding things about your job?
For me personally the hardest thing about my job is the pressure that I put on myself to capture that perfect moment or tell the perfect story. I tend to be a perfectionist and sometimes it can be frustrating because I realized and learned quickly that we are our own worst critic. The most rewarding parts of my job are being able to see all the different forms of happiness that is brought out from people that are captivated by that photo or film. It's also an amazing feeling when you are recognized or acknowledged for your work. It's incredibly rewarding and makes it worth it.
What are somethings you have learned along the way?
Life is full of surprises and you have to always stay strong by trying not to take business personally. Also, I have definitely learned that I need to pack lighter when I travel and strategize more for a smooth trip. This is key to anyone looking to get involved in the sport. This helps because equipment isn't very light, unlike our iPhones. Something I'm still learning is how to navigate the industry with being a female in something so male dominated. It's intimidating at times, but also gives me a different perspective. I learned you get your freedom when you learn to love and know yourself. I've also learned you have to ignore the haters because you must be doing something right for them to take time out of their day to talk some smack, right?
On that note, get to know who you're working with by asking questions and a whole lot of them. This really helps in trying to stay clear and aligned on the project or job. One important thing that I've learned and has helped me is staying positive, meditating, researching a lot, but most importantly being open to learn. Many people tend to stay stagnant, but I've learned to take chances and make sacrifices. When discussing upcoming projects, I've learned communication is critical. When getting booked for a job, make a contract or some sort of documentation of what the job entails and what you and the other party have agreed upon. Always know the who, what, when, where and a payment plan. I've learned to trust my gut too since as humans we are more intuitive than we think or even realize.
What would you say to people who want to do what you do?
I would say...HELL YES! It's such a rewarding passion to have, for both you and others! Be proud of your work knowing that you captured a moment in time worth a million words, feelings, and memories. If you truly love it then you won't give up, but just know it gets tough sometimes which only means we're learning and makes the reward that much better. Every one of us is unique, so don't be afraid to set yourself apart and be creative. You will be amazed at what beauty you inspire for yourself and others around you.
How would you inspire them?
I would hope to inspire them with evidence from my own experiences and the experiences of others by encouraging and motivating them not to be afraid. Anyone can truly be whoever they want to be, they just have to believe in themselves! I would also invite them to go on an adventure with me and our cameras with no destination set. Only going to wherever our instincts tell us. That is where our story of inspiration would start.
What are some things they should be aware of?
Be well aware of everything! Getting into this industry can get somewhat expensive, but it's an investment. You are essentially investing in yourself which is your art. This also makes things more enjoyable and achievable. If you love photography then it's worth all the more. Remember to be safe and aware of your surroundings so no one gets hurt. These sports are inherently dangerous if caution isn't taken. Action sports photography requires a lot of camera setting changes, for lighting, speed of object and depth of field. It's also fast paced so you have to know how to get that certain shot you want, keeping in mind the speed that the object is going. It takes some serious practice, but it'll get easier after every session. This journey will be worth it all when you see each of your finished projects/jobs! Don't let people take you for granted. If you can, make sure to travel and experience all life has to offer, because just from what I've seen so far, there's a lot! Most importantly always remember to breathe, because it does get tough both physically and mentally so knowing your zen is key!
What are you working on to expand yourself, your efforts, and your team? What is in store for you in the future?
I am currently working to expand my media company by continuing to take opportunities that present themselves along with getting creative on different projects that I'm working on. I'm currently trying to figure out different ways to be creative, but also learn different things by branching out and collaborating with people outside of Oregon, which is pretty exciting! This year is all about opportunities to learn and grow, but most importantly to enjoy the journey!
Ashley's story and journery is something that we can all learn from. Getting into something that you are passionate about is sometimes scary, but is always worth the effort. In this sport nothing is gained easily at any level however knowing your path or plan and staying dedicated can take you a long way. Be sure to follow Ashley on Instagram (@officialcrashley and @ocmedia_ ) and stay tuned to the TCE site for more monthly highlights and interviews.