Capturing emotion in a split second – Sports photographer Russ Ellis

My name is Russ Ellis,
I’m a pro cycling photographer. I work for a number
of world tour teams covering bike races all over the world. This year’s been a great year — I’ve been to the
Tour Down Under in Australia. I did the whole of
the Giro d’Italia in May, and spent all of July
doing the Tour de France, so the camera has been
all over the world with me. I’ve always had an
interest in street photography as well as sports
photography, so my style of sports photography
came from that kind of background — getting portraits,
getting in close with people and emotion and telling
a story from a personal side rather than just a sporting side. It’s important with my style
of documentary photography within sport that the camera
and the equipment can live up to what I’m doing and be fast
enough and not let me down. The Sony α9 is great
for everything I do — I can tell a story,
I can capture the action, I can quickly go from
the riders coming past, shooting at
20 frames per second to just flicking round
and getting a nice portrait. Especially with something
like cycling and sport, it’s not just getting the image — it’s getting the
body position correct. If they’re pedalling
past you quite fast, with 10 frames per second,
you may still miss that optimum image, but with 20 frames per second,
you’re going to guarantee that you get the right body shape and
people’s expressions on their face. If you’ve got
20 frames to pick from, you can pick the one
with the most emotion. The α9 autofocus is amazing as well. So even at 20 frames per second,
it locks on to the target and it keeps tracking
and I find I’m getting pretty much 20 frames all in focus. Yeah, the autofocus is great. I’ve just got it on
single point at the moment. I’m picking the rider out,
taking as many shots as they come through
the pool of light there and then when
I review the images after, I’ll be looking for the
right facial expressions and it’s just getting that
perfect position on the bike in the right amount of light as well. So, with 40 pictures
in 2 seconds, I’ve got a good chance
to get a really good shot. The Sony lens line-up
for me is perfect, really. It’s got everything I need.
I’ve got all the prime lenses I use. So the 28mm and
the 55mm Zeiss 1.8. Then I’ve also
got the 85mm 1.4 if I want to do portrait,
and the 24-70mm and 70-200mm if I want to
go a little more traditional. I’ve also got the 16-35mm,
which is an amazing lens. I use that quite a lot for sport,
which normally surprises people but it’s nice to be able
to have a lens where you’ve got the classic 35mm story-telling
street photography-type range and then you can go straight
to a 16mm for landscapes as well. And now with the 400mm 2.8
and the teleconverters, I don’t see any gaps
in the lens line-up at all. Working with the teams,
I get to spend a lot of time with the riders in their quiet
space where they get to relax, and so the last thing I want
is to be there with a loud shutter. So being able to put the
camera into silent for that has revolutionised the way
I can shoot certain scenarios. I still don’t feel like
I’ve got that perfect image, so every time I go out, I’m always striving to get a
better picture than I did last time. That’s why I keep
going out and doing it. With the α9 and all
the features that it offers, they’ve literally allowed me to get shots that I’ve
not been able to get before and definitely allowed me
to get the kind of shots that I couldn’t get a few
years ago using my DSLR, so who knows what
features will be out next and what kind of shots
I’ll be getting in the future.

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