Photography News Issue 70

Q A and

Russ Ellis Cycling’s three grand tour , which include the Tour de France, are three weeks of blood, sweat and tears for the cyclists – and it’s pretty intense for the photographers, too. Russ Ellis explains

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHER RUSS ELLIS

RE: I would have to say sport. I was always a keen sportsman as a youngster, I grew up playing football in the local parks with my friends from an early age, and then played rugby and football for my school and county teams along with athletics and cricket in the summer months. Cycling was a sport that I didn’t get into as such until I was much older, probably my thirties (I’m 42 now). PN: What has been your best or most satisfying assignment so far? RE: I’ve been lucky enough to work for some of the top teams and brands in the cycling world so far, and that has allowed me to shoot the three big grand tours for the last few seasons, so the Giro (Tour of Italy), the Tour de France, and the Vuelta (Tour of Spain). It’s amazing following these races around for 21 days, visiting new

towns and cities and experiencing the cultures of each place during the race. There is always something new and interesting to take pictures of, as well as the bike riders. PN: On the grand tours are you one of the people who shoots from the back of amotorbike to keep up with the racers? RE: No, not on the grand tours, they are usually staff photographers for the big agencies like Getty or AP, and the papers; there are only a certain number of motos to keep numbers down. I might be on a moto for one- day classic races like those in Belgium. For the grand tours I travel around in a car with a couple of other freelancers. There are perhaps ten or 11 of us who do what I do, who work for teams and magazines; I work for Specialized and Team Ineos ( formerly

Photography News: How long have you been a sports photographer? Russ Ellis: I’ve been shooting sport for around five years, the last three- and-a-half as a full-time pro. PN: How did you start? RE: I started by going along to local bike races in my area and just taking pictures of the racers and spectators at the events. I would then upload a small selection of my favourite images to my social media feeds for people to view. PN: What came first: photography or sport?

IMAGES It’s not always easy to be in the right place at the right time to get the shot

Team Sky ). We follow the race in cars and do our own thing. PN: So how do you work? RE: We meet in the morning and park the car a mile or so down the road from the stage start. I get pictures of the riders signing on, waving to the crowd, hanging around the team buses and getting their bikes ready. And then about ten to 15 minutes before the race starts, we get back to the car and drive on ahead. We’ve got a sticker on our car that allows us to drive on the course and we go along until we get to a nice location. We park up, the race comes through and we get some nice shots. We then have to go off the course

because we are not allowed to pass the race, so have to find alternative routes to get back in front of the race. We stop as many times as we can during the day and make sure that we then get to finish before the race. My general tour day is shoot at the start, drive, get one stop in, potentially go to another stop and then head to the finish. PN: Does that approach involve lots of planning and research? RE: It does for some photographers but some of us kind of wing it. The thing is the police block all roads leading onto the course, so it’s a bit of a lottery whether you get let back onto the course.

36 Photography News | Issue 70

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