Photography News Issue 70

Interview

IMAGES: Russ Ellis relishes the chance to visit different locations

“Bike races are long days, typically taking around four to five hours; we also shoot pre- andpost-race” and ‘them’ vibe like in other sports. Generally, they are approachable, likeable guys, really. PN: Sports photography is a very competitive field, so what do you do that is unique? RE: I guess that is one for my clients to answer rather than me. But what I would say is that I just try to tell stories from the races that I attend, I want viewers of my images to feel the emotion and atmosphere of the event from just viewing the pictures. I suppose I apply a more ‘photo journalism’ approach to my work than the more traditional sports photography, so whereas the actual race images are still important they are not the be-all and end-all for me, I will try to look for images that tell a story or have some kind of emotion, rather than just a straight action shot. PN: Have you had shoots where nothing has gone right? RE: Not really. Bike races are long days, typically taking around four to five hours; we also get to shoot pre- and post race, so I always manage to get something over that time. Not always great images, but usually a good handful each day that satisfy the brief and that I am happy with. RE: A few years ago, when I was first starting out, I had a brief to get a shot of some TeamGB cyclists for an advert to be used in a national newspaper. It had to be shot at a live event so I had no control over the riders or the environment, I had to just hang around hoping the riders would stay still long enough at some stage to allowme to get a shot. It doesn’t sound too bad, does it?! Well, except that the brief stated there had to be at least three riders in the picture to satisfy sponsorship image rights. I was also asked to shoot at a shallow PN: What has been your most difficult assignment?

In the morning over a coffee we look at the route and the surrounding roads, and we’ll work out a rough plan of where we want to be to get ahead of the race. Once the race has gone by, we basically try to get back on – if you get back on, fine, but if not we think on our feet and find an alternative route, so it depends on luck. It’s great fun. We complain sometimes. At the Giro, for example, I worked 23 to 24 days back-to-back, 12 hours a day, no days off – but you have to remember you are at a bike race where most people interested in cycling would give their right arm to even go and watch, let alone work and be so close to the riders. And even though it is work with a 7am start and not finishing editing until midnight,

it’s photography, which I love doing, and cycling, which I love doing, too. So doing this as a job and being out in the sunshine with the excitement of chasing a race around, it doesn’t feel like work, although it is. PN: What are riders like Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome like to deal with? RE: They are just great lads. I think the difference between cycling and, say, football, where the players are detached from the people, with cycling they are there in the morning, get off the team bus, the fans are round so they sign autographs. The fans can literally touch them and stop them for selfies. And during the race you can literally brush shoulders with them on mountain stages. There is no ‘us’

Issue 70 | Photography News 37

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