Whether he’s shooting Motocross, Enduro, or motorcycle track events, if there’s a single thing that marks out Philip Platzer’s photos, it’s their energy. Born and raised with a passion for outdoor sports, this frenetic motion seems to be in Philip’s blood. Riders and machines ascend boulder fields, leap into tight turns, and throw up huge arcs of mud and water as they roar past. Every frame seems to burst with activity. He grew up skiing, surfing, and snowboarding, and that verve is certainly transferred to his portfolio.
“Every shoot is a new challenge,” Philip laughs, “and I guess that’s what keeps me coming back. To get the most dramatic images on location you always need to adapt and find solutions. You never just arrive there and then push the button!”
A good place to start for adding impact is angles, says Philip. “Varying the shooting position can have a huge effect in turning something that looks quite static to a picture that’s full of drama,” he explains. “You’ll hardly ever see me shooting standing up! I’m always low down and trying to look up at the rider, which has a series of benefits. Low angles almost always make a subject more powerful, and with bikers, it literally elevates them in the frame, so any jump they’re pulling is exaggerated.”
“That low perspective also adds depth,” he continues, “so you see more of the background, like mountains and sky beyond – and you get more foreground in the shot, too. It all brings physicality to the image so it’s not a figure in the middle of nowhere, it’s an athlete doing something incredible in a real environment.”
The environment is certainly important in Philip’s images. “Water and dust are definitely our friends here” he laughs, “and the more of them the better, so long as the riders don’t have a problem. It can be tough to get the images you're looking for if there's no spray or dust. Sometimes we even put some loose gravel or sand in the corners deliberately, so there’s something there to kick up.”
This goes, he says, for foreground interest, too. “The thing is, without foreground, an image can look very flat, but if we have a little greenery or some rocks in between the camera and the rider, it gives that beautiful depth to the shot. Sometimes I’ll move rocks into the frame to get what I want, but equally sometimes it’s a case of removing obstructions or distractions. And of course,” he continues, “if you have foreground and you’re panning with the bike, at a speed like 1/80sec or 1/60sec, that foreground is going to blur even more than the background, which all adds to the sense of speed I’m trying to achieve.”
With all this going on, the last thing Philip wants to do is worry that his camera isn’t up to speed. Fortunately, as a Sony Alpha 1 user, that’s not a problem. “One of the biggest factors used to be making sure riders were in focus, but with the Sony Alpha 1’s amazing AF system, it’s not something I even need to think much about anymore,” he confirms. “Everything I want to be in focus is pin sharp, and 95% of the time, I just use the tracking mode. You target a bike, coming around the bend towards you, and it just follows it all the way.”
Working with commercial clients and brands that need lots of options, Philip is also thankful of the Alpha 1’s 50 Megapixel resolution. “The size of the images is brilliant for me,” he says, “because it makes them versatile. Clients can use the pictures as shot, crop the shape to fit their layouts, or even punch right in to pick out details in the rider’s kit, or focus on parts of a bike. It’s like a whole new picture!”
Finally, there’s the physicality of the camera. Flying grit, dust and water are all potentially harmful to cameras that aren’t up to the job, but Philip feels totally secure with his durable and weather sealed Alpha 1. “I was a little bit afraid in the beginning,” he admits, “as to whether the camera could handle it, because some of these situations are pretty tough. We're not talking about shooting a wedding with a little bit of rain here. It’s laying next to a puddle, where if the rider is doing it right, you’re going to get splashed, or other times covered in dust. But with the Sony Alpha 1, you just give it a little clean and it keeps on going. So I guess it’s got a lot of energy, too!"
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