J. Billera has had some very iconic stunt images circulating the interwebs over the years. While he does have some serious skills behind the lens he also gets to take advantage of some intense local talent such as AZ’s Finest and Bill Dixon. We asked him to break down photographing stunt riders and to give us some tips on making our sport look good.
Name J. Billera
Location: Phoenix, AZ
StuntBums: Do you ride?
J. Billera: Some dirt, but no street. AZ drivers are careless plus who would take the pics if i rode?
StuntBums: How did you get into shooting bikes/what is your photography background prior to motorcycles?
J. Billera: Right out of college I ran the online and store front for LBZ clothing. Needing images for the website and wanting to get out and support the guys riding for me, I picked up a camera and started to learn how to use it. Shot some fmx but really found my passion being around the AZ's Finest guys. They welcomed me into the spot and it just started from there. Trial and error.
StuntBums: Show us your all-time favorite stunt shot and explain why you dig it so much.
J. Billera: Wow that is a tough one! I have something I love and hate about all my pics. I'm a perfectionist so to me, nothing is perfect. However, if i had to pick, it would be this one because it looks like Jesus busting a high chair in his joggers.
StuntBums: What is your biggest challenge shooting bikes and how do you get around it (or try to get around it)?
J. Billera: Making a living off it!
Other than that I would say trying to stay relevant and constantly putting pictures out there that people enjoy looking at and that do the riders and the sport justice. Anyone these days can pick up a camera and go out and take a thousand pics and come back with one magical shot. It's all about consistency. I fail and I learn. I get around it by never giving up.
StuntBums: List three tips for beginner stunt photographers.
- Don't be afraid to move around to get the shot and try different angles- but stay out of the way, there is a lot going on at the spot as it is.
- Make sure you understand how the camera works on manual, as auto will only get you so far.
- Get in with some good riders. You can only do so much with power wheelies and stoppies. Don't be intimidated to approach riders and introduce yourself. Be respectful and ask if you can take some pics. Most will be happy to do it just make sure to have a way to get them the images. If it wasn't for people behind the camera, no one would see the cool shit they do.
StuntBums: People are always concerned about their camera gear, what are the top 3 essential pieces you would recommend for a beginner to buy for their collection?
- Lots of GOOD memory cards. Don't buy cheap. I have missed out on pics because I was full and had to start deleting stuff. I have also had a card crash and lost a day’s worth of content.
- Filters for your lenses to protect your investment. Lots of little stuff flies around, especially when it comes to burnouts. Last thing you want is a rock chipping your expensive lens.
- Extended battery grip. If you are shooting on a DSLR, this is key. You have twice the battery life, the camera will fit better in your hands, and you have two triggers that make it easy and comfortable to shoot no matter if in horizontal or vertical.
To see more of J. Billera's work visit his website.