Sports Photography With A Wide Angle Lens

Photographer Piotr Tomala shares some thoughts on wide-angle sports photography.

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Image by Maciej Niechwiadowicz, taken with the Irix 15mm f/2.4

Here, Piotr Tomala shares his top tips on photographing mountain biking events with wide-angle Irix lenses. 

Sand, dust, sweat and fatigue. In these four words, you can always photograph action, which undoubtedly belongs to one of the most demanding jobs in terms of technique. That moment we’re trying to immortalise forever may never, ever, happen again, so we only have the one attempt to capture THAT picture which, in the future, may end up being a flagship photo in our portfolio.

Races give an unprecedented opportunity to capture the dynamics of an object moving at high speed in an outdoor setting. So we should begin our preparations with a good understanding of the route and all its corners, straights and headlights, in order to explore the most potentially attractive places.

Now this next bit is IMPERATIVE - DO take care of your safety! When choosing places from where you want to take your photograph, do check if they have not been sectioned off or excluded from potential photographic locations, or if you need special permission to enter any given zone.

Irix Maciej

Image by Maciej Niechwiadowicz, taken with the Irix 15mm f/2.4

Now, having chosen a place – and after taking into account your safety and having obtained those possible permits – we can now start worrying about what we’re going to do with the equipment.

It is safe to use the S mode (the priority of the shutter speed) and set a shutter speed that will allow us to freeze the movement, e.g. 1/1250s. This should be enough to achieve a ‘safe’ image in terms of exposure and sharp pictures, but they may not have that "certain something", that something which would make our photo more than just a captured piece of documentation of the moment.

One of the easiest ways to get incredibly dynamic photos is to use wide-angle lenses which, having the appropriate reinforcements and seals, are not afraid of the most difficult working conditions, such as the Irix 11mm f/4.0 and the Irix 15mm f/2.4.


Image by Tomasz Dyniec, taken with the Irix 15mm f/2.4 lens

The main feature of wide-angle lenses is their ability to create a perspective in which the subject is very strongly emphasised while the background is slightly distorted. This is extremely beneficial - after all, we want to emphasise the subject.

However, in order to do this, one should approach the object that is being photographed very closely – here, remote camera triggering systems come in handy. We have a few ways of doing this: from simple infrared triggering systems (the cost of the remote is several dollars), or through Wi-Fi apps (all manufacturers also offer different smartphone applications) to radio systems using the 2.4GHz band (costing from 50 dollars).

Now we still need a small tripod. And I mean really small – the smaller the better. We want to place the camera as close as possible to the ground- be sure that it does not get in the way of the driver's tracks! With a setup like that, there’s a big chance to make the photos look more like those from commercials, such as those well-known energy drinks.

Irix maciej

Image by Maciej Niechwiadowicz, taken with the Irix 15mm f/2.4


Ten top tips on shooting sports photography with wide-angle lenses


1. Take care of your safety. Photographs are important, but health even more so. It should be remembered that even the tiniest of mistakes – on the side of the photographer, the participant of the sporting event, and even the fans – can cause permanent damage to ones’ health. Always obey the rules and recommendations. In any given situation where there is any element of uncertainty, we should always check with the organizers as regards the possibilities of setting up equipment in any given location.

2. Plan the best places. Why bring the best equipment when the stage is poor? Check those locations that can potentially be the most interesting - both from the subject's side (capturing the action) and the background.

3. Familiarise yourself with your equipment. Practice a little dry run with the equipment. Use your friend with a bicycle or car (remembering about safety, of course!), put together the entire setup and check if everything is as it should be. Practice makes perfect!

4. Take a fast and capacious memory card. Nothing is worse than a lack of available memory on your card in the middle of the competition, believe me! The same applies to the "clogging" of the image buffer camera, which in order to quickly clean the memory of the camera requires the use of high-speed memory cards. (I recommend checking the most optimal for your camera at

5. Control the depth of field. Being close to the subject, you can play with the depth of field so that the subject of the photo is in the depth of field and the background is softened by those areas out of focus.

6. Be ready! You must be prepared for the action! Expect everything, anticipate anything and do not let yourself be surprised. You are the master of the situation. You usually only get the one attempt – so don’t waste it!

7. Time, time, time. Remember to set a fast shutter speed; this is key to getting sharp pictures, and must be short enough to allow the movement to freeze. Of course, there are motion blur techniques for creating dynamic shots (panning); however, it is a rather difficult technique which involves using stabilized telephoto lenses.

8. Leave some space. The subject of the photo that fills the whole frame is not always a good way to show the action. Leave some space around the object to show the context of the whole scene. Important: the greater part of the free space within the frame should be in front of the object's movement direction in order to maintain the proper composition of the picture.

9. The lens! Bring with you one that you can always rely on and not be afraid of something that can damage it – you must always feel comfortable with the equipment. Remember that the wide-angle lens will allow you to generate images with an unusual perspective which will allow you to stand out from other photos from photographed sporting events.

10. Have fun! Photography and sport should go hand in hand and be great fun. Share your experiences with other photographers and share your friend's photos - it will allow you to learn quickly and create better photos every time.


More information about Irix lenses 

Photos by: Maciej Niechwiadowicz & Tomasz Dyniec 

With the participation of Gravity Revolt Team 

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