Racking Focus with Spencer Owens

Posted by Kevin Tucker on

“Racking Focus in filmmaking and television production is the practice of changing the focus of the lens during a shot. The term can refer to small or large changes of focus. If the focus is shallow, then the technique becomes more noticeable.”
Spencer Owens is one the most relevant motocross photographer/videographers today, having his work featured in some of the most prominent media outlets within the motocross industry. Recently, he has shadowed the legendary Simon Cudby at RacerX, one of the top motocross magazines in the industry. Some of Spencer’s recent work can be seen in Phantasos Media’s Season 3 of the Spectrum Series. While at the pinnacle of his field, Spencer has a story that not many people know about...until now. We recently sat down with Spencer to talk shop and to help share his story.
Hemlock Hat Co: First off, you have been an ambassador for the brand for a few months now and have helped a lot with getting our name out there, so thanks for that!
Spencer Owens:  I love being a part of the brand! The hats fit my lifestyle perfectly and I can’t imagine them looking any better

HHC: Let’s dive in, where does your passion for motocross stem from?

SO: Well I got my first bike when I was just 5 years old, a CRF70, and rode BMX even before that.  My dad got me into riding, and his dad got him into it, and so on. Once my dad and I convinced my mom to let me start racing, I raced in a lot of the local southern California amateur series for a few years.

HHC: So before cameras came bikes and racing?

SO: Yeah, a lot of people don’t know that I was serious about racing and was training and aspiring to turn professional one day.

HHC: What happened?  I mean, you’re obviously not racing in the pro classes, but you are still very involved in the industry with photography. How did that happen?

SO: ​I have always taken pictures, even from a very young age I was expressing myself through photography and graphic design. But my love at that time was motocross and I was focused on racing and really determined to go pro, but my life changed very unexpectedly. I had a really bad crash while training at Pala Raceway in Southern California 2 days after my 14 had just switched to a 250cc four stroke coming from a 125cc two stroke, and was trying to get used to the new bike. I was pushed off balance by a gust of wind over a big finish line triple and cased it pretty bad. I was knocked out for about 10 minutes, which obviously is not a good thing. 

HHC: Wow, so you suffered some pretty bad injuries then?

SO: Yes, on my initial hospital visit the only thing that was really hurting me was my head and my leg. They did an X­ray and found I had shattered both my tibia and fibula. They told me it would take about 6­ - 8 months to recover, but 7 weeks into it the doctor discovered that I had also broken 4 toes and my ankle. I had dislocated my knee, bruised my shoulder and ended up having nerve damage in my entire right leg. I was told I might not walk again without a leg brace so riding / racing motocross was definitely not going to be in the cards. I had three surgeries and a 14­ month recovery. That was a really scary period of my life. I even wrote a book about that insane year. LOL

HHC: That’s heavy man. Really tough to come back from, is that when you really committed to photography?

SO: Well, I actually started getting back into graphic design while I was recovering from the injury. I decided to start a clothing company to help raise money for other injured riders. As time went on some of the motocross shops started carrying my designs. It’s pretty cool when you see people around town wearing your shirts. I initially started taking pictures at the track to put on my shirt designs and found that I really loved shooting moto. I also worked in the entertainment industry for a while which really helped to hone my skills in front of and behind the camera.

HHC: Did you immediately start hitting the So Cal moto tracks to get your name out there?

SO: I did start going to the tracks but not necessarily to get my name out there. I was just having fun. I was homeschooled, so I was lucky to have the freedom to start taking some college classes while I was recovering from my injury, which is where I really grew my knowledge of photography and design.

HHC: College classes, at what age, 14? SO: Yeah, haha, I was actually 14 ½ when I started taking college classes. It was funny because my dad had to come with me to class because obviously I couldn’t drive myself. Everyone just thought that we were friends, nobody suspected that he was my dad or even that I was only 14.

HHC: That’s amazing. That’s very impressive that you were motivated to learn at such a young age.

SO: Thank you. It was a great experience and those classes really helped me when I started to shoot moto seriously. I was actually 17 when I realized that I should combine my love for moto and photography. The first time I intentionally went to the track to just shot moto, I was at the Elsinore track and Cooper Webb was there. Long story short, I had a great time and Cooper reposted one of my photos on his Instagram, which was really cool for me. That confirmed for me that I was where I was supposed to be. That’s when I started hitting it hard and “trying to get my name out there”. LOL It’s all been a crazy ride from there but my real “start” into the industry came about 4 months later when I saw Simon Cudby at the San Diego Supercross in 2015 and showed him some of my photos. The next thing I knew I was interning with him and shooting for Racer X. I have been very lucky to have Simon as a friend and mentor and the support of everyone over at Racer X.

HHC: You have an incredible story and have already been very successful in this industry and your work really speaks for itself. I think it’s apparent that you are doing what you are meant to do.

SO: Thank you!  I am very lucky to be doing what I love every day. It has taken me to some very cool places and I have met some amazing people. I’m very excited to see what the future has in store for me.

HHC: And what do you have in store for the future? Or at least anything that you’re allowed to share with us?

SO: Well on the schedule for the rest of the year I have the USGP at Glen Helen, Red Bull Straight Rhythm, and Monster Energy Cup again this year. Monster Cup last year was my very first supercross event that I had ever shot so it will be great to go back there again this year. I also still contribute to the Racer Exposure column that runs in the monthly issue of Racer X Illustrated. I’m a freelance photographer so as far as projects go ... I’ll have to keep those under wraps for now . . . ;)

HHC: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down with us and share your story. We are very happy to have you as an ambassador to our brand and look forward to seeing your work in the near future!

For photography inquiries or to work with Spencer, contact: spencerowens165@gmail.com

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