UTVUnderground’s 2017 Year In Photo: Ernesto Araiza

It’s amazing how fast time goes by. Here we are wrapping up another amazing year at UTVUnderground and Mad Media and it feels like everything went by in a cloud of dust. This was the fourth season of racing that I shot professionally and it was an amazing year all the way around.  I was reminded often that I still have a lot to learn in this fantastic world of racing photography. I’m not gonna lie, shooting UTVs sometimes is the most difficult part of my job. To make them look “dynamic” I need to get really creative with my shots whereas shooting Trophy-Trucks can make even the novice photographer look pro because of how ferocious they are at all times.

It is always fun to look back on work you created so I was excited when Joey D. hit me up to showcase my years work in an article.  This year I was able to shoot the entire Best In The Desert and SCORE race seasons, and other events for UTVUnderground like the UTVUnderground Legends Rally in Baja, and the always fun XP1K project (XP1K4) with RJ Anderson. In between I was able to capture some other events which provided for some fun frames. Below is some of my favorite work from the year, hope you like it.

Best In The Desert…. 

BITD was not the easiest to shoot this year. I was working mostly for other brands that made it impossible to solely focus on UTVs. Combine that with less dynamic terrain (blade in the desert) and it makes for a real photographic challenge. However, I was able to shoot at the biggest events like The Mint 400 and UTV World Championship, and the smaller races like Tonopah and Pahrump 250’s.

If you’re reading this here on UTVUnderground you probably know this area (pictured above), the infamous “FOX Proving Grounds” at the Mint 400, one of the worst (or best for us photographers) sections of the Mint 400 track. I remember when I arrived for the first time and saw all of the FOX flags and thought “F*ck me, how am I going to avoid all of these flags?” So instead of avoiding them I used them as part of the composition, creating interesting visuals in the photos, and no, FOX did not pay me, but I wish they did.

The UTV World Championship is one of the most fun events I get to shoot every year. The photo above really sums up perfectly what the UTVWC is to so many, the biggest UTV race in the world. Capturing the full line u of UTVs on the starting grid with the Laughlin skyline as a backdrop says so much about the size of this event. Its never easy to capture an image that sums up and event, but the above image will be used for years to come to showcase in ads or promotions as to why you want to attend and compete at the UTVWC.

The intense battles between racers that the UTVWC offers is simply unique. Anytime you can capture two or more vehicles battling always increases your chances of a fun image. For me, watching Dustin Jones & RJ Anderson fight through the Laughlin course and seeing vehicles like the Redlands Racing Polaris RZR fly through the infield jumps were highlights for me. Its an honor to be one of the official photographers of The Mint & UTV World Championship.

In addition to the larger Mint & UTVWC events, I had a chance to shoot UTVs at smaller races like Tonopah and the Pahrump 250’s. These shorter races make picking your spots that much more important. Pahrump offers the chance to get some great silt shots and Tonopah has some amazing background scenery. PRO TIP:  if you’re a racer and want an extra pop on your photos, have small LED’s or headlights turned on during the race like the frames above show, I love the intense-look of Sim’s UTV for example and its easy to identify when Guthrie Jr. is cutting through as well. Their lights give the car a sinister look at times and in dusty conditions helps identify the vehicle and bring forth a cool look. Anytime there is a chance to shoot a race car silhouette I try not to waste them. The image above showing the RZR blasting into the sunset makes for a real wall hanger!

UTVUnderground Presents: The Legends Rally – BAJA

Not all of my work is done at races. There’s a lot of different events or even private sessions that the UTV world offers me on a month or sometimes weekly basis.Walker Evans was this year’s Legend, he shared with us some amazing stories of his racing years. I felt like a kid listening to him but was a little intimidated when I was trying to take a photo of him. During our journey I was able to capture this special shot of him (above) that to me summed up Walker in his happy place.

The Legends Rally is by far one of my favorites. It provides the perfect excuse to drive UTVs in Baja with amazing food and even better companions. For those who don’t know me, I am from Ensenada, Baja California in Mexico so Baja is more than just a place to race or explore, it is my home. Capturing the essence of my country and being able to showcase my friends from outside of Mexico enjoying the land as intended is certainly something I enjoy.

I’m going to leave this photo here and slowly walk away…..

The Matlocks, Jimco, and Katie Vernola….

One of my most memorable private shoots this year was with Matlock Racing. Wayne and Kristen are top-notch UTV racers and great people all the way around. Being invited to shoot them was another great privilege I had in 2017. We took some time to break out my studio lights during one shoot and I was able to capture this portrait of the ‘bad ass’ couple giving them a heroic and yet sexy look.

We spent time with the Matlocks in Baja for a shoot with FOX and we able to line their race fleet up for a cool shot. Both Kristen and Wayne each have their own race vehicle, pre-runner and support truck, making up one impressive lineup of race equipment! Putting them side by side off of a little jump we found in Baja made for a fun capture as well…

The photo above is from an upcoming feature vehicle story on the new Jimco UTVs, coming soon to UTVUG. I was able to control the environment and use my lighting to produce some cool images of their very impressive RZR builds.

I also had the opportunity to work with Katie Vernola on a commercial shoot for NavAtlas. This was my first time working with a professional model and would be lying if I say that I wasn’t a little bit nervous. Katie has a very beautiful and unique look. She was very professional and fun to work with.

The Glamis Dunes, RJ Anderson & XP1K

I have a total LOVE / HATE relationship with Glamis. For one, shooting in the sand is annoying as hell. You hike the dunes and have to constantly survive the heat for hours and hours. Its simply exhausting, not to mention the sand all over myself and my equipment.

But then, you end up with photos like these above and it makes it all worth it. The dunes always provide for some amazing action and even at times some big air. Drivers always try to push the limits in the dunes and sometimes it creates some carnage. Don’t worry, Mr. Sims didn’t crash Joey’s new Dynamix edition RZR above, he saved it….

There are shoots with drivers, then there are shoots with RJ Anderson. Capturing him in his Pro4 truck in Glamis was nothing short of amazing. His technique, aggressive style and amazing 900hp all-wheel-drive truck made for some amazing images.

When it comes to the most famous of RJ Anderson projects, It doesn’t need any sort of real introduction. XP1K4 is the craziest UTV video that there is and in this 4th edition the wall of death took the prize for me. Being inside shooting with RJ driving on top of me was definitely a top moment in my 2017 amongst seeing him do other things in his RZR like 50/50 grinding. Being able to work alongside my friend and mentor Vincent Knakal as well as the Mad Media / UTVUnderground crew on this project is always a highlight and honor.


My favorite place on earth, and I try to always express that through my work when shooting there. You can see and experience so many different types of terrain and scenery by driving only a few miles in any direction.

This year we had the opportunity to work with the rookie team Dynamic Racing, where we showed them the magic of Baja both good and bad. I chased them through an entire week long pre-run of the Baja 1000 and then started all over again to chase them during the race as well. By the end of it all we were a family.

And of course, the action never stopped during the races down in Baja. And incase anyone ever wonders, Rhys Millen’s Poalris RZR is my favorite UTV. I do love the bright colors you see on vehicles like Marc Burnett’s Monster Maverick, but Rhys Millen’s RZR has a look all to his own and when he drives past you, you can feel and see his skills.

I always say that to make the UTV’s look awesome ‘just add silt’ or ‘add a crash’ but there are times when too much silt can be a bad thing and too much crash can always be a bad thing. Silt does make every machine look cool, and almost always produces a great capture, but it also can absolutely punish your gear!

So there you have it, my 2017 UTV season recap. I hope (after a nice holiday of relaxing) to come back again next year with even more, and better images for your viewing pleasure. Thank you as always to UTVUnderground & Mad Media for allowing me to be part of the action and thank you to all of you for liking and viewing the images we work so hard to capture.

See you all in 2018,

Ernesto Araiza // UTVUnderground.com

You can follow Ernesto on Instagram @araiza11