You might have seen him along the circuits, snapping furiously away as the action whirrs by in a blur. Timothy sees what some of us cannot, and shares the frozen snapshot to display the full beauty of the sports.
EOS Professional Timothy Tan
He’s in it for the adrenaline. Timothy spends his time in the heart of the action but also explores travel and landscape photography, and giving corporate training and seminars.
Can we find out a little on how you got into photography and your journey thus far?
I was exposed to photography in my younger days and during my university days, I got hold of a compact camera when I was actively involved in hiking, as it would meet my needs better with its portability. Some years after getting my first DSLR, I was fortunate to come across a Canon EOS-1D Mark II with a Canon EF 20mm f2.8 USM lens. This combination has allowed me to deliver some great workpieces.
Canon EOS-1D X | F/9 | 1/320s | ISO 100
I then started out with landscape photography and portraits for friends but a rare chance opportunity brought me into the race circuits, allowing me to hone the skills necessary for action photography. I became a professional motorsports photographer a few years after, covering events like Formula 1 Grand Prix, Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP) and the Asia Le Mans Series. In addition, I also shoot for the local sports scene, such as FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifiers, 2015 SEA Games and FINA Diving World Cup.
Afterwards, I founded TAKUMI Studio in 2016 to showcase some of my personal work, and I also hold my action photography portfolio at REWIND Images LLP, a Singapore based motorsport photography agency.
It’s been a long journey indeed, although it seems like everything just happened yesterday!
Could you share more about your action photography and covering the race events, including your learning process?
I was invited to a motorsport event in Sepang, Malaysia by a friend. Back then, I was very new to action photography. I didn’t have much knowledge about motorsports, so it was difficult to predict what were the key moments to capture in the circuit. However, I loved the adrenaline rush that you get from the tracks and decided to return for similar motorsports events to practice my skills and experiment with my equipment. As time went by, more opportunities came knocking.
What about action photography attracts you so much to it?
Action photography gives me an adrenaline rush; the mind-blowing maneuvers of motor sports can be all over in a flash! You get the live action view directly through your camera, and capturing these images at 1/8000 seconds draws one’s attention to the magnificence of slow-motion sequences. It’s fascinating.
What are some of the challenges you encounter when shooting for these racing events and how do you overcome them?
There are many challenges that we motorsport photographers face. Here are some of them:
Weight: We often deal with a lot of equipment during a field assignment. The key here is to plan ahead. Avoid unnecessary load and opt for zoom, rather than prime (fix focal) lenses.
Weather: Mother nature can get unpredictable at times. Always check the weather forecast while you’re on the go.
Physical exhaustion: Action photography, as the name suggests, requires quick movement from one location to another, and this can be hindered with the heavy equipment. It’s therefore important to get proper footwear with good support and stay hydrated at all times. It would also be useful to do some work out during non-assignment days to build up your stamina and tone your muscle. Not a bad deal actually.
Deadline: With every field assignment comes a submission deadline. A good tip would be to mark photos in your camera; this reduces selection time after exporting. Shooting with JPEG also reduces the file size during photo export.
New circuits: Always the tricky one. As part of race preparation, it is good to take reference from online stock photos or previous race media so that you can have a general idea of the circuit layout. If you can, arrive early and take a track walk to familiarise yourself. This will ease ground movement on race day and also give a heads up to spot the areas you want to shoot at.
What other genres are you into?
Cultural and travel, and landscape.
Can you share a little about your experience in these genres and their appeal to you?
For the former, they give me an opportunity to understand and experience the process of the work behind a good photograph. One can capture the fine details that are key to showcasing a culture, especially minority tribes, which may be facing an impending loss of their heritage due to globalisation. This also brings me to areas off the beaten path, such as deep jungles or big deserts.
For landscapes, I am a firm believer that every place has its own unique beauty. As a photographer, it is key that we create mesmerising pieces to express the beauty of Mother Nature. As the technology behind photography equipment advances, we are now able to capture scenes that are not typically visible to our naked eyes, including the Milky Way, star trails and long exposure images.
Moving forward, is there any genre or type of projects you would like to explore. If so, why?
Studio Fine Art. This genre helps to open up creativity but requires serious planning. A lot of personnel and effort is also needed – from makeup artists to models – and can essentially be a big challenge.
I am also inspired by a long-term project created by Jimmy Nelson titled “Before They Pass Away“. This focuses on traditional cultural heritage that will soon vanish due to modernisation.
Additionally, I would love to mentor or share knowledge with the younger generation to give back to the society.
What kind of gear do you primarily use right now?
For work, it’s the Canon EOS-1D X with Canon EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x, Canon EF600mm f/4L IS II USM, Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM or Canon EF24-70mm F/2.8L II USM and Canon EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM.
And lastly, for leisure, I like the Canon EOS M5 Kit (EF-M15-45 IS STM).
Could you highlight a little on why you chose these Canon gear, as well as how your experience has been using them in your field of work?
My current favourite gear is the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x. It’s lightweight specification at 3.62 kg allows for handheld technique without monopod support. This lightens my overall equipment weight during on-field assignments. It’s flexibility of zoom also allows more space for creative works and a chance of getting a better framing. Not to mention, it’s got a built-in tele-converter which helps a lot by reducing the number of equipment to carry on-field, and saves the hassle of removing camera body from the lens mount. Just with a switch on the slider, the multiplier of 1.4 on current focal length gives me a closeup view of the subject. It is particularly useful for action photography such as football or rugby, where players are running around the playing field.
As part of the newer generation of L lenses produced by Canon, this super telephoto lens has a better optical build and coating that prevents ghosting images over the photos taken.
If there any particular upgrade you are looking at, and if so why?
I am looking forward to getting an Canon EOS-1D X Mark II to replace my ageing Canon EOS-1D X, which has been well-utilised from my various assignments. The new Canon EOS-1D X Mark II has an upgraded focusing system to give a better ‘lock’ on subject as compared to its predecessor. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II also has a wider and better ISO noise control and dynamic range, which allows us to recover the fine details hidden in the captured frame.
We understand you’ll be at a critiquing session for #IGCPM2017 to assess entries as well as offer your thoughts on them. Can we have a preview of what you might be covering in that session?
I’ll be talking about the basic and fundamental judging criteria for a piece of work, how we assess and score a photo, a well as some of the points we look out for in a photo.
Canon EOS-1D X | F/8 | 1/60s | ISO 6400
As a professional photographer, what are some of the key things you personally look out for in a good picture?
‘A picture paints a thousand words’. Firstly, I’ll focus on the frame of the work as well as the general message of what the picture is trying to convey. Secondly, I’ll look into the more technical aspect such as the framing composition as well as the skills involved during the work production. Lastly, the post-processing work such as the colour tone, contrast, saturation and editing skills.
Canon EOS-1D X | F/8 | 1/40s | ISO 100
Given the rise and accessibility of photography these days, do you notice any trends and are there any things you like and dislike about it?
Cameras are getting more affordable these days and even the quality of pictures taken using a smartphone has improved. This is encouraging as it allows us to spot more hidden talent. It’s also easier to capture memories now, and photography has taken a big leap forward with the help of social media. New content is generated as we speak and this improves access to new information. It can also help to promote social awareness for product placement and business marketing. All this accessibility keeps things borderless and promotes photo tourism and encourages exploration of areas off the beaten track.
Repetitive photo, angle and framing is becoming common. Safety is an issue as well. I’ve come across some people who ignore personal safety in their attempt to get a good framing. This is worrying as safety should always come first.
Canon EOS-1D X | F/18 | 1/200s | ISO 100
For participants looking to join the CPM2017 competition, do you have any words of advice for them?
Be yourself. Never attempt to replicate past CPM winners’ techniques or perspectives. Use the contest as an opportunity to find new ways to make your photo unexpected.
When presented with a theme, make good choices and choose compelling subjects. Identify the type of images you expect everyone else to submit, and set out to do something that will ensure your photograph stands out from the crowd.
Canon EOS-1D X | F/8 | 1/250s | ISO 10000
Tips for a winning contest entry are similar to that of taking good pictures, so tell a moving story with a single image. With that in mind, choose your entry wisely and always submit your best work. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to learn from the process and keep at it!
Don’t miss your chance to sign up for the upcoming Canon PhotoMarathon here!
First published: Canon EOS World