Mountain bike action captured with the Sony A9
Growing up in Canada, Steve Shannon developed an early love for the outdoors. In April 2017 Steve was invited to participate in the Crankworx Deep Summer Photo Challenge held in Whistler, British Columbia. In his camera bag: The new Sony A9 as well as the Batis lenses.
72 hours to shoot and edit a slideshow
My name is Steve Shannon, and I’m an adventure photographer based in Revelstoke, Canada. I shoot a variety of adventure sports, with my primary focus being on skiing/ snowboarding, and mountain biking. In April 2017 I was invited to participate in the Crankworx Deep Summer Photo Challenge held in Whistler. Six invited photographers are given 72 hours to shoot and edit a 3 to 5 minute slideshow based around mountain biking. 50% of the show must be shot within the Whistler bike park, and the rest within the geographical boundaries of the Whistler valley. It’s a hectic three days, putting in long hours to capture the essence of mountain biking in Whistler.
Decide on your visual concept
Being born and raised in the mountains, I wanted them to be the central theme of my slideshow. I wanted to show raw, rugged, natural terrain as much as possible avoiding most of the man-made features (berms, jumps, etc.) that are so common in photos of the bike park. This would involve asking my athletes to ride some technical, exposed lines with serious consequence. Having the gear to nail the shot on the first take was a must.
Nailing the shot on the first take
After years of shooting Canon, I bought a Sony A7 RII in 2016. I also purchased a ZEISS Batis 2/25 shortly after and have fallen in love with the light weight and excellent quality of this setup. When the Sony A9 was released I was one of the first on the pre-order list and it has now become my primary body for action sports. I love the no blackout EVF, fast autofocus and insane frame rate which allows me to nail the shot on the first take, instead of having my athletes re-hike features dozens of times. For the deep summer competition, I used the Batis lineup of the 2.8/18, 2/25 and 1.8/85, along with a few other Sony/ZEISS lenses. I use a mix of prime and zoom lenses, but for mountain biking I prefer prime lenses as they are sharper, faster and the fixed focal lengths make me think more carefully about my composition.
Being able to use available light
Day one of the competition brought sunshine and dust. British Columbia has had one of the hottest and driest summers on record, resulting in very dusty conditions. We were limited to only shooting the bike park during regular operating hours (10am to 8pm), which can lead to very challenging lighting in the forest. Using a leaf blower to add more dust to the air, we were able to soften the light, and with the weather sealing of the Batis lenses I was never worried about my equipment. To capture the action I prefer to use a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 sec or higher and with limited light in the forest having fast aperture lenses is a must. The Batis lineup is tack sharp even wide open, which let me use all of the available light and maintain sharp images when shooting between f/2 and f/2.8. Later in the day we were given access to the Top of the World alpine trail, which descends from Whistler peak. Approaching clouds hid the sunset, but their texture added drama to the shots and we were able to shoot late into the evening making use of all of the available light.
Perfect for sports photographers
Day two brought rain, clouds and mood. I was ecstatic as this was exactly what I was looking for to add some drama to the slideshow. Once again, weather sealed equipment kept me focused on the task at hand and not too worried about my gear. The low hanging clouds made it very dark in the forest, so again I was pushing my equipment shooting nearly wide open. The Sony A9 with Batis lenses is a deadly combination for sports. The autofocus is ridiculously fast and accurate, and with speeds up to 20fps and no blackout I know immediately if I have the shot, and then can move on to the next one. I can’t say enough about how fast and accurate the autofocus is using the Batis lenses. For sports photographers looking to use prime lenses, this is as good as it gets.
The final day brought a mix of sun and cloud. We started with an early morning shoot on some rock slabs across the valley from the resort, followed by some dust explosions in the park and then we climbed into the alpine for a sunset session. Once again, the Batis lenses performed flawlessly in all conditions. With shooting complete, all that was left to do was edit, make selections and build the slideshow. In the end, we used 40 photos, of which 20 were shot with Batis lenses. Everything went so smooth that we were finished 3 hours early! The slideshows were presented to a huge crowd at the Whistler Plaza, and when all was said and done we took home second place!
Watch the final slideshow
About Steve Shannon
Growing up in the West Kootenay, Steve Shannon developed an early love for the outdoors. He began skiing at age two and by high school was firmly addicted to exploring the mountains around home by a variety of means. From those early childhood past times, his appetite for adventure has only grown. His interests have led him around the globe, from racing his dirtbike in the International Six Days Enduro in Chile and Greece, to photographing races in Romania and Mexico. Recent adventures have taken him rafting the Grand Canyon, skiing in Iceland and Norway and mountain biking in the Nepalese Himalaya and Canary Islands. Steve currently makes his home in Revelstoke, British Columbia where he can usually be found outside on adventures, camera in hand.