Last Friday we announced the winner of the 2016 Photo of the Year as Steve Shannon. Steve's photo was pitted against some fierce competition throughout the contest, including Bartek Wolinski's in the face shot of Nicola Pescetto kicking up roost, an image that set the contest ablaze at nearly every round. Steve's shot was quite the opposite – a stunning setting with a nice composition and more tranquil feel, and it was enough to take out the competition.
We caught up with Steve Shannon over the weekend to learn more about his winning photo. Congratulations on your win, Steve! Coming into the competition, how confident were you that you had a winning photo on your hands?
Thanks! I knew from the moment I took the photo it was something special, but I didn’t really think I had a chance of winning. There was some tough competition this year and I didn’t know how mine would stack up. Where were you when you took it and what were you doing? Was it for an assignment?
I was on the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands
. I was there visiting some good friends of mine – Robi Stoeckel and Fleur Simons (in the picture) who work at a mountain bike tour company – Bikestation La Palma (www.bike-station.de). They live and work all over the world so if I can, I try to visit them somewhere exotic and fun. I was shooting some promo stuff for the Bike Station and working on some freelance editorial ideas. Was it a planned shot or spontaneous?
Pretty spontaneous. Light like that is impossible to plan for. Tell us about your photo – are there any interesting details to share?
This shot was one of the last of the trip. I had been on La Palma for two weeks and was flying out the next day. The weather had been a mixed bag for the entire trip. The island is very contrasting thanks to its volcanic origins and weather patterns. The west side, where we were staying, is in a rain shadow from the massive volcanic ridge (which tops out at 2400m) and stays quite dry. There’s pine forest up high and cactus down lower. The east side is a stark contrast of lush jungle, getting all the moisture as the clouds push up over the volcano. When it rains the east side is unrideable, becoming way too slick, so we had been limited to the western trails the entire trip.
On the last day the weather improved marginally, so Fleur and I decided to give the east a try. This trail was beautiful but very, very slippery. Living in Revelstoke I thought I was used to slippery conditions but the cobblestones there schooled me. The mess of branches was a photographer’s dream, but we were stuck in the clouds and it was quite dark. We were on a limited timeline so just as we were about to pack up, the sun suddenly popped through the clouds. We actually missed it but saw the potential so decided to wait a while and eventually another break in the clouds appeared and we lucked into this photo. How many attempts did it take to nail the shot?
The clouds were moving fast and changing the light very quickly. We shot it once before the light appeared, then nailed this one right when the sun shone through. I tried one more shot but the clouds moved back in and it was done. For the photography geeks out there, can you tell us about the camera, settings and lighting that you used?
I’ve been a Canon shooter my entire career but in the past year I’ve started shooting with the Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras. This was my first trip not bringing a Canon SLR with me. I love the smaller size and lighter weight of the Sony for adventure photography. I’m still building my Sony kit, so this was shot with the Sony A7RII and a Canon EF17-40 f4L lens with Metabones adapter. Settings were 1/800, f5.0 and ISO3200. Lighting was all natural. It was pretty dark in there so I had to bump up the ISO fairly high but luckily the new Sony cameras rock at higher ISO.
The scene has quite a bit of contrast so I tried to get as much detail in the shadows without blowing the highlights too much. The 17-40 is a little soft wide open so I usually try to stop it down a bit to keep things sharp. I had to compromise a little on my shutter speed due to the dark conditions, but with the trail being so slippery Fleur wasn’t going too fast and I could freeze the action. How does it feel during each voting round?
Pretty nerve-wracking, but I had quite a few friends giving me lots of positive feedback. Work is really busy right now too so I didn’t have too much time to dwell on things. Which of your competitors shots have stood out for you this year?
Paris Gore, Christophe Laue and Bruno Long. Paris’ aurora shot is beautiful, and he executed a very technically challenging shot perfectly. Christophe’s photo is simply stunning. The light, rider, etc. – it’s a shame it got knocked out so early as it’s much more deserving. Finally, Bruno is a friend of mine and someone I really look up to for his creative eye. I wish I had a quarter of the creativity that guy has and this one was just another example of how differently he thinks. All of those shots I’d be happy to have to hang on my wall. Any plans for the winnings yet? Some new camera equipment or an adventure to somewhere new and exciting?
I have a few ideas but nothing set in stone yet. I may continue building out my Sony kit, and I’m also looking at a few adventures both close to home in BC and further afield. My bike could use an upgrade too. First I need to finish up my contract for the rest of the ski season then I’ll start thinking about other things. I’ll definitely be meeting up with Robi and Fleur again somewhere in the world! Anything else to add?
I just want to thank everyone for all the support.
Steve takes home $5000, second place takes home $3000, while third and fourth will receive $1000 each, all thanks to SRAM