Last weekend I covered the Mountain Bike Enduro World Series (EWS) event, which took place in Derby, Tasmania, and I though it was a good time to reflect and share what I've learnt over my years of photographing fast actions sports.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the EWS events, they usually take place over one or two days. The riders navigate 5 - 7 stages but are only timed on the descents. Participants are required to ride back up to the top of each next stage and complete all stages within a set window of time, without any assistance, including mechanical.
Firstly from photography standpoint, riders are literally flying (up to 60km/h) so having your camera set up to freeze the action is critical. Shutter speed is important, if you want a tack sharp image, your shutter speed needs to be at least 1000th/sec, but 1250th/sec is ideal. This means using as much available light as possible, and often mountain biking is done under the canopy of trees, so a wide open aperture is vital. A lens with an aperture of f2.8 useful, I've gone all the way to f1.6 but the risk missing a shot due to the shallow depth of field does increase. If you are really struggling with light, a high ISO of 4000 - 6400 is ok, as long as the shot is exposed correctly, a little gain wont hurt your image.
Once your camera is set up my most important advice, and what I've told other photographers starting out, is get to the event early and choose your track side location wisely. Too often I see images on social media of a rider that looks like they are out for a leisurely Sunday ride in the park.
The biggest challenge for a photographer is not mastering the settlings of your camera by nailing a composition that displays the true energy, speed and extreme nature of the sport. So make sure you get in to a position where you know the riders will be at their absolute limits, fighting to keep control of the bike.
Thats where the best images come from….. and a few crashes! Work the angles, get down low to make obstacles look bigger than what they are and don't be afraid to get close to the action and get your camera a little dirty.
That’s enough about the technical stuff, now on to the event. The town of Derby and the people are just beautiful and it was the perfect setting for a World series event. The weather on the other hand, wasn’t so pleasant. Pouring rain all day made it a hard day out for all involved - the riders, organisers and spectators, but no one was deterred and crowds on each stage were spectacular. The racing didn't disappoint with a close etched battle between the best riders in the world and for the men it came down to the 7th and final stage where Adrien Dailly from France took the win from beneath Ireland’s Greg Callaghan who finished 2nd. Our very own star from Western Australia, Sam Hill took out 3rd place. In the womens competition, Isabeau Courdurier from France took her first ever EWS win ahead of rival, also from France Cecile Ravanel.
So the racing is done, but the days not over and as the champagne is being popped down in the pits I'm transferring gigabytes of images on to a hard drive and sending them off to riders and clients.