Name: Dave Raffa
Hometown: Englishtown, New Jersey
Years Shooting: 5
How did you get your start in photography?
I picked up a 1970s Minolta 35mm camera at a flea market a few years back and never stopped shooting.
Quick breakdown of your gear…
Fast, light, and cheap. I have a fairly inexpensive setup. Everything I have was chosen for a reason. My main goal is to have relatively light bag and set up quickly. I shoot with a Nikon D40 for its flash sync of 1/500th. Lenses; 50mm 1.8, 35mm 1.8, 8mm fisheye, 10-20mm super wide, and a 55-200mm. For light I have four Vivitar 285hvs and one 283—with the sync cables soldered directly into the flash to cut down on set up time. And sync them all synced Skyports.
How do you split up your time between riding and shooting?
It’s really hard to split up the time, especially when you’re filming as well as shooting. No one wants to carry a camera bag around, let alone two. A lot of the time I’ll go out with a slightly different mindset depending on who I am riding with and what my goal for the day is.
Does it ever get hard for you to put your bike down in the middle of a good session to shoot a photo?
I was a rider first, and always based my life around my bike. There were times when it felt impossible to put the bike down and shoot. After years of filming and shooting photos, I’ve grown to deal with it. It’s always going to suck to put the bike down when you’re having a good session. But in the end, taking a dialed photo is just as rewarding as landing a dialed trick.
Seeing as how you started out shooting film, do you still use it from time to time?
When I was going to school I really enjoyed spending time in the darkroom. I wish I still had access to a darkroom and had the time to use it, but those days are gone—at least for the time being.
Did your interest of photography lead you into filming?
I don’t think one lead to another. I feel like they developed together. As long as I’ve been riding, my friends and I have been filming. Video cameras were always around. So I’ve been “filming” longer than shooting, but when you’re younger you kind of just point the camera. It’s different when you realize there is something more to it than that. Whether I’m a shooting photo or filming, I want to capture the trick the best I can. There are all these variables that have to come together to make a good clip, photo, or even a trick. That is how I see it, and that is what draws me to doing all three of those things.
Which do you find yourself doing more? And do you have a preference?
In the past I have filmed more. Mostly because I was always working on video projects. More recently I’ve been working on a project with my friend Josh Babu, who is doing all the filming and editing and everything is coming out great. I’m psyched on it. Anyway, since I haven’t had to worry about the filming stuff, I’ve had more time this past summer and fall to focus on shooting photos and I’m really happy about that and thankful for all the photo opportunities my friends have given me. Overall, I probably still spend the most time of my time on the bike, but I don’t know how much long that is going to last.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Just looking for good times with good people, and trying to have fun. That’s my inspiration.
What form of BMX do you enjoy shooting the most?
Unique sets for sure. I am a huge fan of creative riding. I love seeing good use of a spot, both in the riding and how the photo is shot.
Do you enjoy shooting photos of anything else other than BMX?
With all the gear and traveling to spots associated with shooting BMX, sometimes you forgot the simple enjoyment of just taking a photo. I enjoy any kind of photo taken.