Canadian photographer John Rathwell is best known for his sports shooting. He’s the kind of artist who prefers capturing a kayak being piloted through rapids over a pitcher waiting for a signal, a surfer in frigid waters over a soccer match, or a closeup of a skateboard humming on blacktop over a golfer walking to the next tee. He recently was kind enough to explain how he got the below photo of mountain biker Felix Wilberg. Here’s Rathwell’s own account of how the shoot came together.
Here is a shot of downhill mountain bike sensation Felix Wilberg at Camp Fortune in Chelsea, Quebec. The goal going into this shoot was to come out with something really showing the speed and intensity these guys come into banked turns with. I find the sense of motion is left out in action sports photos way too often, and, with flash, it’s so easy to have motion and still keep your subject sharp. The flash duration will freeze your subject, but the ambient light will still continue to absorb into the sensor.
My first few attempts at the shot where at 1/50th of a second and the background was put into an abstract blur. I didn’t realize how fast these guys actually come into the corners. I ended up moving up to 1/100th of a second for the shot to get just the right amount of motion blur in the background.