I'd like to introduce myself to Vurb readers and share the story of how I got here. My name is Eric Narvaez and I'm a photographer.
My love of motorcycles and racing started when my Mom was pregnant with me. I've seen photos of her riding my dad's 1969 CB750 in one of those white ping-pong ball helmets, looking ready to give birth at any moment. I grew up an Evil Knievel fan, and owned every single toy made in his likeness. By age four I was jumping trashcans and collecting my first set of scars.
My family did not have a lot of money while I was growing up, but between my lawn-mowing and some serious penny-pinching I was able to get my first bike; a used 1979 YZ80. I wheeled it into my bedroom after everyone went to bed and laid there on the floor reading the owner's manual till I fell asleep. Buried in a box somewhere are photos of me riding my bike at 6:30am that next morning wearing only my tighty-whiteys and cowboy boots. During that time I started collecting all the motorcycle magazines I could, carefully cutting out the full page photos and taping them on my bedroom walls. From a very young age I was drawn to motorcycle imagery, and the feeling is just as strong today. I took photography in high school but was drop- failed for basically being a class clown. It would be a long time before I would get excited about making my own photos again. I also got my first street bike about that time and "missed" a few days of school a week practicing my trail-braking in the roads above Malibu on the Yamaha RD400 that I built during a summer spent at a motorcycle mechanics school. I also owned a Yamaha XT 600 that I rode on every fire road and trail I could find in the Santa Monica Mountains. Motorcycles have always been a distraction too hard for me to resist.
I worked in several different industries and held blue collar jobs as well as managed several branch offices for a large marketing firm. After years of working hard to make other people's dreams come true, I decided to pursue my own. The pull to pick up the camera again started to get so strong that I traded my mint condition 2001 CR250 (that I swore I would never part with), for a used Nikon D-80 kit. I took the camera on a lake trip with friends that 4th of July weekend and it only took a few shutter actuations for me to find a happiness I'd been chasing for decades. After editing the first batch of pics with iPhoto and sharing them, I knew being a photographer was my calling and that I'd been ignoring the talent inside me. It also revealed that the camera I was told had a few thousand clicks, had a bad sensor that produced a green line across the images when the level adjusters were tweaked a certain way. Turns out it had about 60,000 shutter actuations.
There was nothing I could do and the seller denied knowledge. I felt burned. I traded my prized dirt bike for a door stop!
Things were getting pretty tight for me financially and I could not afford to buy a new camera, but I was determined to learn everything I could about photography and to pursue a career that involved me holding a camera and making photos I was proud of. I left the company I was selling marble and granite for and soon ran out of money. All the while I was using the damaged D80 to practice and learn how to use Photoshop and Lightroom to edit and remove the green line. I started to post photos on Flickr and Facebook and soon started getting support from friends that saw the quality of my work improving, and the passion in me anytime I talked about photography. It's very rewarding for me to have someone like a photo I took of them. Needing a new camera and being pissed about getting ripped off made me more determined than ever to pursue my passion. Feeling nostalgic and sad about trading one of my bikes made my next move even more difficult. Knowing in my heart that photography was where I belonged and hoping Lady Luck would someday smile upon me, I sold my Rolex GMT Master ll and bought a new camera an hour later. I placed an ad on Craigslist that night as an event photographer and two days later, without ever assisting or being a second shooter, I was booked to shoot a wedding! I bought a 50mm lens for $120 and satisfied the clients and their family as well as proved to myself I belonged in the game and could handle the pressure of shooting such an important day by myself.
Around this time I was hired by Patch.com as a photojournalist (a job I created for myself) and received a quick education in journalism from Rebecca Whitnall, who I owe a lot. Without her encouragement and guidance I would still be doing donuts.
A few weeks after the wedding I was contacted by a motorcycle racer named Michael Gaynor who was trying to make it to a big rally race overseas, and wanted some stills and ride shots of him on his rally bike in the desert for his sponsors. Knowing I was a moto head, he asked if I'd be interested in doing it as a way to help promote myself and start to break into where I really wanted to be, while helping out a privateer. I agreed to drive the two hours to Cal City for a race and it ended up getting cancelled. We setup two more shoots that both fell through and I started to get discouraged and gave up on Michael. Out of the blue Michael called me about a year and a half ago and asked if I'd be interested in shooting a race he was invited to ride in. It was hard to get excited after the previous letdowns but, through what sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher, I
heard... "Dirt Rider Magazine"..."Ricky Johnson"..."Navy Seal." I was packed before he finished his sentence! Turns out it was the 12 Hours of Glen Helen and he'd be on the Dirt Rider squad with Chris Denison, Ricky Johnson, and a Navy Seal. It was an opportunity I wasn't going to pass up. I shot the race for Michael in close to 100 degree heat with a consumer grade camera and kit lens. I wrung my camera's neck that day trying to get usable photos for Michael in hopes some might be good enough for Dirt Rider too.
Throughout the day I could not stop smiling. Here I was hanging out with Ricky Johnson listening to him tell me stories about his childhood after riding in the heat for over an hour. I knew that covering motocross and off-road racing from inside out was what I wanted to do and nobody was going to stop me. As it turns out, Dirt Rider had someone covering the race for them, but saw some of my photos on Facebook and asked to use a few. I sent a handful of good ones off and never heard back. I certainly didn't expect to be paid but one day a check came in the mail, and then another. I had to call to make sure it wasn't an accident! Words cannot describe how stoked I was that my photos were being published in a magazine that I used to cut the pages out of, and being paid too.
From that moment on I just kept my head down and kept peddling. I was invited by the team to shoot the 24 and this gave me a big confidence boost that I had been needing. Shortly before the race the team decided to cancel, and after reading the email I was totally bummed out. I knew if given a chance I could produce nice useable images to accompany a story about the race. Knowing I could not continue to get by with just a kit zoom and 50mm lens, I had put a deposit down to rent a 70-200mm and would be stuck paying for it. The next week is a blur as I started to realize that the doubters might be right; that I would never get a job shooting moto for a magazine or website because of this or that. In what would come to define the next year of my life, an inner drill sergeant emerged and I began to curse myself into attention. From that moment on I decided I would take the setbacks in stride and not get negative. This is where I belong and I'm not quitting. Like something out of a book or movie, in that moment of clarity my cell phone rang. The caller ID said Chris Denison. It felt like I just got hit by lightning, no shit. He called to apologize for them having to cancel but asked if I would be interested in covering a crazy Irishman that works for a UK magazine coming over to solo the 24 Hour. I was interested indeed. When I asked if he had a bike, pit crew and lights he replied "my brother is pitting, we got him a bike and he said Geoff (the Irishman) told him ''I?ll just ride close to somebody at night to see". I was hooked! I met Geoff Walker and Scott Denison at Glen Helen after acquiring a large pit for us (several pros
stopped and asked for the spot but I held my ground like I'd done this a million times). He was impressed by the pit location and size (I parked my truck sideways) and gave me a cup of the sweetest coffee I?d ever tasted (I couldn't even drink it and I think he meant it as a prank). We got the pit sorted and bike prepped. Baja Designs hooked him up with lights and after not riding for eight months due to reconstructive elbow surgery, Geoff came in second. A bond was formed between Geoff, Scott Denison and me over those twenty-four hours and a friendship started to develop. The story was published in Dirt Bike Rider Magazine with six pages of my photos and a few ran in Dirt Rider as well. Soon I was being told I was the team snapper for the upcoming EnduroCross finale in Las Vegas.
So, at this point things are starting to happen fast for me, but I've been ready for this my whole life. In order to shoot the race right I had to beg someone with enough cash to cover the credit card deposit on two lenses costing about $5000 to replace. Thank god somebody else out there see's the look in my eyes when I talk about photography. Shooting the EX race in Vegas exposed a few shortcomings in my gear and skill but by the end of the night I was getting usable images for the magazine and the article was impressive. As soon as it was over, plans to come back for the 2012 opener began and I was again included as team photographer.
Since 2012 started, I also decided to work on changing some things in my personal life, starting with my fitness level. I'd grown to 206lbs and a size 38 pants and one trip up Mt. St Helen carrying all my gear during the 24 almost killed me. I knew I was in bad shape and serious trouble if I continued to live the same way. In 12 weeks I lost over FORTY pounds of fat, went from size 38 to 30 and have never looked or felt better in my life. That same drill sergeant really helped me out when it came to eating right, cycling, and laying off the beer!
I expressed a desire to work with Vurb because of the quality of content it puts out and their appreciation for the hard work that goes into creating it. It's run by those that can and do and I want to be associated with a team like that. Over the last few months I've talked with Andrew and Meg about how I could be part of the growing Vurboffroad team. In the meantime, I just finished shooting the 2012 EnduroCross opener for SR75 World Team and Dirt Bike Rider Magazine U.K. where Geoff was running 7th until he went over the bars on the last lap, cracking a few ribs and bruising his frank and beans beyond recognition. As I write this I'm super-stoked to be headed off to Hangtown on Friday to shoot my first big Outdoor MX race. I get just as excited to shoot a big race as if I was racing in it myself. Loss of sleep the night before is common; in fact sleep won't come till the last photo has been uploaded onto my hard drive.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope to share more of my life on the road as an action sports photographer in the months to come.