Professional mountain biker leaps into air alongside mustangs of Wild Horses Monument

August 5, 2018

He’d driven by the statues of the charging horses numerous times while crisscrossing Washington.

Then, a few years ago, an idea started to form in Ben Herndon’s mind.

A biker flying alongside the leaping mustangs of the Wild Horses Monument near Vantage, Washington.

“I thought it would be fun to do something a little different with it,” he said. “I like shooting Americana and history of the West, too, so I guess it was kind of a funky way to combine some of those elements with adventure elements.”

Herndon is a full-time freelance photographer based out of Lewiston. He makes a living shooting outdoor sports, adventure and recreation photography. Usually, he prefers a more candid style, spending time with his subjects while trying to capture a moment.

But this particular idea, one he described as more artistic, stuck with him for months and eventually years. He reached out to some mountain bikers he knew. None took the bait.

Until he called Jeremy Hottinger, a professional freeride mountain biker based out of Salt Lake City.

“He kind of pitched this project to me,” Hottinger said. “It sounded like something I wanted to be a part of right off the bat.

“It’s just a very unique experience. You know it’s one of those things that’s probably never going to be recreated.”

Herndon paid for Hottinger to build a jump out of plywood and paid for his travel costs from Salt Lake.

The two of them headed to Vantage in March to try and get the shot.

Unfortunately, high winds grounded them for the first three days.

“We tried several other times, but it was so windy that sunglasses were getting sucked off my face,” Hottinger said.

Finally, on March 29, the winds died down enough.

The jump Hottinger built was about 5 feet tall and probably weighed 100 pounds. Carrying it up the steep hill to the monument was the toughest part of the whole expedition, Herndon said.

The two carried the jump from the inside, which meant Herndon and Hottinger could only see their feet as they trudged up the hill.

“I mostly like the idea of someone seeing us at 4 a.m. and getting a laugh out of the whole thing,” Herndon said.

Around 5 a.m. on March 29, Hottinger started jumping. He went about 9 feet high and got about 15 jumps in during the brief morning window.

Herndon, who was about one-fourth of a mile away, got the shot of Hottinger flying through the air silhouetted next to the charging mustangs.

Since then, the photo has received some exposure, Herndon said, but both believed it wasn’t about the money or acclaim.

“Mostly, it was just about doing it for the sake of doing it and trying to do something different,” Herndon said.

Herndon said he considered carefully whether his photo would increase the “Instagram hot-spot train” phenomenon where people flock to a particularly picturesque area to recreate famous shots.

Ultimately, Herndon said he came to the conclusion that the area was already popular and the shot itself was “way too much work” to recreate easily.

For Hottinger, who has been part of hundreds of video and photo shoots for ad campaigns, the low-key artistic mission was a pleasant break from the grind of a professional athlete.

“I would much rather spend multiple days shooting the same thing to get a beautiful shot rather than hammering out Instagram posts left and right,” Hottinger said.

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