Ewald Sadie, adventure sports photographer extraordinaire, recently returned from his 3rd Cape Epic bike race which he describes as being the most brutal one by far. “The heat was something else” and those first four days were exceptionally tough for everyone, photographers included. Ewald even had a minor crash of his own and injured his ribs. This meant that every bumpy kilometre for the rest of the event was painfully tough.

Being out there with the riders for the entire route, during their highest highs and lowest lows “you forget about discomfort and just focus on documenting this amazing event”. He feels very privileged to have covered the UCI women’s category this year, adding that the quality of racing was higher than ever, which meant great photo opportunities.

Photograph of mountain biker going around a corner

Why adventure sports photography?

Ewald has always been attracted to the outdoors and the lifestyle associated with adventure sports photography, especially “the unseen energy you experience when walking/pedalling among tall mountain peaks or moody forests in the early mornings”. Ewald used to be a software developer during his first few working years, but since the job was making him unhappy it gave him that extra motivation to get away from everything associated with the office job environment. Doing what he loves, waking up before the crack of dawn, pedalling or walking up and over mountains with gear on his back doesn’t seem like a drag, but rather an “exciting opportunity to create some magic”.

He urges photographers eager to break into the industry to start photographing trail running or mountain biking events, which are taking place all over the country over the weekends. “This will allow you to practice on a smaller controlled level before taking on bigger adventures.”

Photograph of a trail runner going through the mountains

How to get a variety of portfolio-worthy shots?

Ewald tries to stay true to the sport and capture thrilling moments in action. He says that you have to ask yourself what it is that you are trying to convey, and what emotion you would like to invoke.
1. Set the scene
If it’s more about the setting and the majestic landscape, you must include as much of that as possible. For this purpose, he often tries to find an elevated position such as a boulder or some trees to get a top-down look. Then he’ll make use of a fisheye lens (the wider the better) to get as much of the view as possible.
2. Capture the energy
Sometimes you want to get up close to the subject and the action surrounding it. For this purpose, he’ll use a long lens such as a 70-200mm f/2.8, which enables him to isolate and emphasize his subject with shallow depth-of-field. It also gives the subject more authority as it fills a bigger part of the frame. This is also where understanding the particular sport or activity plays a huge role – it enables you to read body language and anticipate action even before it happens.
3. Check the light quality
The quality of light is, of course, an extremely important factor. Take care to only shoot during the first or last parts of the day as it adds much more quality to the shot. Keep in mind that when out on location, as opposed to being in the studio, you have to be able to adapt to the ever-changing lighting conditions.

A birds eye view of runners going through water

Ewald Sadie’s recommended gear:

Canon 5D Mk III

Canon 7D Mk II

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II lens

Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens

Canon 17-40mm f/4 lens

Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Series lens

PocketWizard radio triggers

Evoc CP26 backpack

Evoc Photo Scout backpack

BlackRapid camera straps

A close-up shot of mud splatting as the rider goes through mud

What are Ewald’s thoughts on Evoc?

“The quality of the whole bag is next level.” Every detail of the Evoc range of camera bags is really impressive, from the stitching to the zips and overall durability. Comfort is another important factor, especially when riding with it on your back – sometimes for 4 hours or more. Having specific padding on your lower back and spine means that the camera gear never digs into your back and the Velcro waist strap means that you can get the bag on and off your back very quickly in racing situations.

a beautiful shot of a runner. The skies are grey and her reflection shimmering in the water

GoPro on the bucket list

Ewald says that he’ll buy a GoPro very soon as it’s a great way to engage with more viewers and here are three reasons why it’s on his gear bucket list:

  1. The GoPro cameras stills capabilities have advanced quite a lot over the years.
  2. GoPro can be submerged underwater, which really comes in handy when wanting to extend your image variety.
  3. Short video clips are becoming the industry standard and you have to jump on the train or you’ll get left behind.

Ewald is working hard on Volume 2 of his Trail Daze photo book, which will be going to the printers soon. We wish him all the best on his many adventures and look forward to seeing his brilliant full-colour coffee table book on the shelves.

A mountain biker going down a hill
A photograph of campers outside their tent, sitting next to the fire, taken at night
Trail runners in mid-air
A mountain biker going through the woods
Racer running on the beach with a big ship wreck in the background
A Photograph of a couple at the end of a race