An orange and black clad mountain biker speeds across the frame, the forest swirls and blurs behind him. Or at least that’s how it appears. What you’re looking at is an illusion, produced by sports photographer Samo Vidic, using some creative ingenuity and some cutting-edge Canon kit. In fact Nino, the biker, is travelling a few kilometres an hour at most and, what’s more, he isn’t actually pedalling the bike – he can’t, because he’s paralysed.
“I met Nino when he was still able to walk, about 10 years ago, at this event where some rollerbladers were racing down an Olympic bobsled track,” says Vidic. “Nino was one of the competitors – he was into extreme sports.” Some time later Nino was playing football with friends by a lake when the ball fell in. He dived in to fetch it and hit a submerged tree in a near-fatal accident that left him in a wheelchair, no longer able to take part in the sports he loved.
When Vidic decided he wanted to shoot a mountain biker from a camera fixed to the frame, Nino was the first person he called. “Before I’d even explained what I was planning he said, ‘Yes, let’s do it,’” Vidic recalls. For Nino, it was an opportunity to again experience the kind of physical activity he loved but had been unable to attempt since his accident."
The first challenge was to adapt a bike so Nino could ride it. Some friends in a bike shop helped out, fitting side wheels that Vidic had ordered from the UK and switching the seat and handlebars for wider versions.
“Because he has no control, he could just slip down from the bike, so we had two guys on the side ready to catch him just in case,” says Vidic.
The assistants helped lift Nino onto the bike, strapping his feet to the pedals with duct tape and pushing the bike off, before leaping out of shot. With the path at a slight incline, the bike moved forward by itself.
Vidic experimented with attaching the camera onto the frame at different angles until he nailed one that worked. “I used the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV because it’s full-frame but lightweight – perfect for remote working,” says Vidic.
The process was made easier through Canon Connect. “It was my first time using the app and I was so excited. You can control all the camera settings using your iPad – it was unbelievable.”
“I went for a Canon EF 16-35 mm f/2.8L III USM wide-angle lens to get everything in the frame, with an 8 stop ND filter. That lens is so sharp and the colours are even better than on the previous one. I didn’t want any distortion, which you could get from a 14mm or the fisheye lens, so this was the best choice. The exposure was 1/8 sec on f/9, ISO 200, so without the ND filter I would have be at least on f/22 and I didn’t want to do that in case the sensor wasn’t super clean – then you get all the spots there,” he explains.
“Once everything was set up the photo was really quick – I think we got about 15 good pictures in 20 minutes.” Vidic was happy with the pictures he’d achieved but even happier with Nino’s reaction. “After the accident, this was the first time he had been on a bike,” says Vidic. “When he saw the shots he cried – it was very emotional. Friends I showed the video to after told me that they had goosebumps. This wasn’t just about photography – it was about humanity.”