Interview: 2016 Photo of the Year Winner, Steve Shannon

Feb 20, 2017 at 13:39
by Pinkbike Staff  
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.


Jungle magic on La Palma.


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.



MENTIONS: @SramMedia / @SSPhoto26




36 Comments

  • + 44
 Congrats to a deserving POY winner. Its cool to hear about the technical aspects of shooting a photo like this. Similar to the three-riders-on-a-big-hip the other year, the spontaneous capture wins my vote everytime over the staged event on its 50th take.
  • + 16
 Until I saw this massive version I never saw that it was a woman riding. That makes this photo even cooler!
  • + 10
 I can respect this photo. I was hoping for the aurora one to win but I can respect this, especially when put up against the roost. Congrats to Steve Shannon on a deserving POY win.
  • + 11
 Do you have a website where we could see more of your photos? Maybe buy a print?
  • + 3
 ^THIS^
  • + 6
 @swamper1 @JBinKC: Just did a quick interweb search, pretty sure this is him:

www.steveshannonphoto.com
  • + 3
 @slayersxc17: You got it. That's the right website
  • + 6
 My website is www.steveshannonphoto.com. Please send me an email if you're looking for a print. Thanks!
  • + 5
 I have a Canon A7II and could not in my wildest dreams pull off a shot like that thus once again proving (duh) that its about the photographer. Inspirational shot
  • + 10
 Canon A7II?
  • + 7
 Prototype! Wink
  • + 1
 @ryanandrewrogers: ahhhhh brainfart. Sony A7ii with some Sony and adapter for Canon glass. The Sony lenses are $$
  • + 1
 Thanks Lee. The Sony mirrorless bodies just take a little patience but they're very capable cameras. The weight reduction sure is nice over my Canon equipment.
  • + 2
 I'm not a photographer or a camera guy. I'm a mountain biker who loves trail riding. I think that this is the main reason for winning the contest. It's less about the technical photography aspect and more rather the feeling generated when looking at the pic and wishing you were that person in the photo riding at that very moment. It motivates to keep doing what we love and dreaming about the next time we can get out on the trails. Congrats!
  • + 1
 A very good image considered he's shooting at such a high ISO. You run the risk of a grainy rendering at that sensitivity. Today's digital cameras have definitely improved in this regard. The ISO and somewhat open aperture may have actually added to the aesthetic here. I definitely kept voting for this one... the color and light rays kept grabbing my attention.
  • + 2
 So stoked Steve won. He's had a gaggle of killer shots that I've used as desktops for years. The one with the blue lake and silhouette is amazing.

www.pinkbike.com/photo/12384539
  • + 0
 Absolutely stunning picture..but why no mention of saturation levels? Id be interested to know how much and how green it actually looked in reality..if it is highly saturated then that would be the one thing I don't like about it!
  • + 1
 It's really green there. Didn't do much to the saturation.
  • + 1
 @SSPhoto26: Thats good to know Smile thanks for the reply
  • + 1
 Cool photo.. But the fake light beams ruin it for me. They make it look like the sun is right at the top of the trees which ruins the perspective.
  • + 2
 Nothing fake about those light beams. We were on the edge of a cloud with the sun just poking through. All natural light!
  • + 1
 It would be interesting to know about the post processing of the image as well!
  • + 2
 Processed in Adobe Lightroom and Color Efex Pro to bring out a bit more contrast. Pretty minor adjustments - the light was magic already!
  • + 1
 went to save the pic to use as my desktop background. file already exists. saved it last week. obvs.
  • + 1
 Is there anyway to buy these photos? I'd love to get the 1st and 2nd place pieces on my wall.
  • + 1
 Shoot me an email. Contact info is on my website - www.steveshannonphoto.com.
  • + 1
 Nice shot! I hoped this would be the one. I didn't know where it was taken but reminds me of Pisgah somehow.
  • + 1
 Great shot, and an interesting story behind it too. Congratulations.
  • + 1
 Rad shot, seems like everyone is moving over to Sony mirror less bodies.
  • + 1
 That photo is so last year...
  • + 1
 that is a very cool picture....
  • + 1
 Congrats, bad ass photo!!
  • + 1
 Awesome photo!
  • + 1
 Such a rad shot!
  • + 1
 Congratulations!
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