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So far it’s a solo ride.

Shooting the Breeze With Gravel Photographer Alex Roszko

Jim Merithew |

I'm huffing and puffing like I've just run a dozen miles when, in actuality, I've just hiked somewhere short of a quarter mile. It probably doesn't help that I'm at 10,000 feet and in a panic trying to find the perfect photo spot. The Leadville 100 kicked off about an hour ago. I drove out into the countryside, hoping to take some beautiful photographs of Big Brennan Wertz and the other racers ripping the singletrack.

There are videographers and photographers wandering a little lower down and a little higher up, but I've found the perfect spot just around the next bend. As I start to get excited, it happens again. Out of nowhere, Alex Roszko appears in my spot—the secret spot—the spot only my artistic eye could appreciate. And not for the first time, I'm staring at the back of Roszko's head. 

It happened at the start line of MidSouth. It's happened in the rolling hills of Steamboat Gravel. It's happened at just about every major gravel race. 

And I'd love to say I hate him for it. But sadly, it turns out he's a good guy. He exudes a certain calmness reserved for Zen Monks, and he holds no ill will when I show up second to all of "his" spots. I decided I needed to know more about this stealthy creative, and his story is too good not to share with you. Enjoy. 

Do you remember your first bicycle? Can you tell us a little story about your earliest days learning to ride a bike?

My first bicycle was a little coaster brake Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle bike from Toys R Us. I was probably 3 or 4. I don't remember learning to ride it, but I remember doing the longest skids I could possibly do, until I fell and roasted my leg on the concrete. I still have the scar on my knee. I loved that bike. I would take it off jumps in Jr. High and roll to friends' houses. Long live TMNT. 

How about your first camera and learning to take photos?

My first camera was also a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle camera, one of those long and narrow film cameras with stamps on the lens, so each picture had a Turtle giving a peace sign in the corner of the image. I actually still have those photos. Unfortunately, there aren't any dates on the developed photos, but my brother is probably 2, which makes me four years old. I had no idea what I was doing. My next and probably most important camera experience was when I went to Australia in 7th grade. My dad lent me his Canon Elf digital camera, and I went crazy. One particular place made it all click: Frasier Island. I'd walk the beach during sunset, play with settings, and take photos of mangroves silhouetted by sunset. A few days later, I saw a postcard in a gift shop of the same tree, on the same island, with the same sunset, and I realized, "Woah, those images could be worth something". I still have those images as well. I continued playing with cameras, taking classes, and learning to develop in the darkroom. I skateboarded for 20 years, would always take photos of friends and play around with flashes and whatnot. Then I tore ligaments in my ankle and, while healing, decided I'd take photography more seriously, so I transitioned into a filmmaker/photographer role. I got a sequence in Thrasher around 2011, and that's where photography made its commercial mark.

At some point you got chocolate in your peanut butter or peanut butter in your chocolate. When did you realize you could combine these two "hobbies" into one thing?

Luckily, photography goes well with anything, unlike peanut butter (peanut butter and pickles? Nah). I bought a Canon 6D with a credit card in 2012. My vow was to pay it off with the proceeds I made from the photos I made with it. It didn't take long with graduation photos, engagement photos, weddings, corporate events, etc., but I realized these were boring and not fulfilling. Around the same time, I was getting into this whole two-wheeled thing. I'd ride to work (I worked full-time at an engineering firm), ride to Barton Springs, go to friend's houses, etc. So, naturally, as my two passions combined, I began taking photos of my bikes and people on bikes. 

Fast forward eight years, and I was still working weddings, but I'd become a part of the Austin cycling community. Then COVID hits. I start working from home, playing bikes, and being more creative. I wondered if I should finally move into the freelance world, so I approached The Meteor in Austin, TX. I thought I'd get Austin's best bike shops on retainers and be responsible for their imagery, and then I'd have a healthy little business. I set up the meeting with The Meteor on a Friday at 1. I ended up getting let go at noon that same day. So, I drove down to The Meteor and had my first retainer client an hour later. I laughed to myself; I was only unemployed for an hour. I continued to work for The Meteor and did my thing until my name/images got around to the right people. Things popped off from there. 

We've seen you photograph from the back of a side-by-side, while hiding in the bushes, from the saddle of an e-mtb, on your road bike and while being driven around in a media vehicle. If it was up to you what is your favorite photo situation?

I was just at the front of a historic Unbound in the Orange Seal jeep. That was pretty special. Capturing unique images and being able to see every inch of the course while watching all the action happen isn't something I've been able to do. If I had to rank them, the e-mtb was probably the most fun (Durango Derby, Leadville), the side-by-side the most successful (MidSouth), the Lead Media Vehicle the most unique (Unbound), and riding on my road bike is the most exciting (primarily commercial shoots). 

I didn't enjoy the moto experiences, especially in the sand at Valley of Tears. It got so squirrelly I was sure we were going down on several occasions. The stress of keeping your skin and getting the shot doesn't mix well. Then there's driving yourself, which I've done at most of the races I've covered. I enjoy those the most from a social perspective. Getting to the spot, seeing your friends, tag teaming spots and angles, then we all blast to the next one. That's fun. But they're also the most hit-or-miss. 

Can you share your latest photography tools?

I currently use two Canon R5s, one with an RF 24-70 f2.8L and the other with an RF 70-200 f2.8L, secured with a Black Rapid Dual strap. My favorite piece of kit is my Ricoh GRiiiX, which I use most often. It's the perfect little camera, and I adore it. I've sold at least 10 of the images I'm sharing. Sponsor me, Ricoh? Lol. 

And what about your latest bicycle toys?

Today was New Bike Day. I finally got my Enve Melee built after waiting for one piece for a couple of months, so that's fun! My favorite new bike toy is my custom Mosaic GT-1 ARi. Wow. What a machine. I've already travelled to Europe with it, and it's exactly what I wanted in a bike: Clears 38s, aggressive gravel geo, light, stiff, and beautiful. I'm so happy with it.

You travel quite extensively. Do you have a favorite place to ride? And is this different from your favorite place to shoot?

My favorite place to ride was somewhere I first experienced with our mutual friend, Brennan Wertz. We traveled to Alta Badia together in 2022. I've returned every year since (we're going this year in September). What a special place - great riding, great views, every climb has coffee and pastries at the top. It's perfect. 

And my favorite place to shoot - this is going to be cheesy, but probably wherever my partner and I are. Either at home making pancakes in the morning light or on a bikepacking trip to an old city in Spain. I enjoy capturing our little moments on my Ricoh, wherever they happen. When we travel, I keep a photo diary, and I really enjoy it. 

What is on your bucket list for both?

Bucket list travel is tough. I've been super lucky to travel as much as I do, both for work and pleasure. I've been sitting here thinking about this for a few minutes. Probably the Okavango Delta in Botswana during July. I've been itching for an African Safari since I was a boy, locked in watching Wild Discovery on the Discovery Channel. That might be a bucket list shoot location as well. I don't think I'd go too hard on taking photos, maybe as a catalogue. Like a real-life Pokemon Snap, but I wouldn't need to get all artsy fartsy. I want to see all the wildlife with my own eyes. 

Finally, can you share some tips with us want-to-be bike-riding photographers?

Jim, you gotta pay for my secrets. I think the most important thing is to be nice, fun, and pleasant to work with. Yes, you have to be good at what you do, but there are instances where aggression, greed, and competitive spirits get in the way of otherwise talented photographers. Have fun, be nice, keep your promises, and deliver bangin' photos, and you'll be successful. 

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