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When I think of cycling photography I think of Graham Watson and his iconic picture of the Tour de France peloton passing the yellow sunflowers on a summer’s day in France. When I think of esports cycling photography, I think of Tammy Brimner.  She has photographed multiple esports World Championships, and I have had the pleasure of working with her on multiple occasions, once for the Elite Pro Series and later for my Mountain Massif events.

I caught up with Tammy to find out where her journey began and how she came to photograph the UCI Esports World Championships.  They say, “every journey starts with a single step,” in Tammy’s case, she could replace “step” with the word “photograph” and her journey has been nothing short of fascinating.

The journey begins

It was Tammy’s husband Bill that is ultimately responsible for her involvement in cycling back in 2014.  “My husband got “bit by the cycling bug” and so he bought me a bike, but after an accident with my clip-in pedals on the first ride, I decided it was not for me at that time. However, my husband would enter these races and be gone for several hours so I decided to go along and take photographs of him.”

Tammy explained that her original goal was to take photos of her husband and she discovered she had a natural talent for sports photography and continued to refine her skills, setting personal goals to keep herself motivated.  After completing her challenge of taking dynamic photos of her husband in action on the bike, she decided to capture action shots of each of his teammates.  With her confidence growing, she attended a criterium race at Maple Ridge in British Columbia, Canada where she photographed the peloton in full flow.  “The lighting was beautiful, and I took photographs and posted them on @tlbvelo on Instagram, tagging people who I could identify using their bid numbers.” That was 2014 and by 2015 she had her first paid contract.

Paid professional 

Tammy had the unenviable task of juggling her full-time career, where she worked at the University of British Columbia, with her emerging photography profession.  She was hired by the organisers of the RBC Gran Fondo Whistler in Canada to capture imagines of the event which has a field of 5000 participants as well as the RBC Gran Fondo Silicon Valley in the US and their X Fondo, a gravel race in Canada.  She photographed, the Canadian Masters National Championships as well as the Ride Malibu Gran Fondo in the US where she found herself in the lead car. As she noted “I captured some beautiful photos of the riders beside the ocean and the Pacific coast.” Tammy is being slightly modest, her photos were so spectacular that the organisers put out two collections of photographs from the event, one dedicated to her work.  

Despite all the paid work, Tammy still managed to take photos of her husband, this time the backdrop were the Pyrenees, as he tackled the Haute route, as well as the Dolomites for the Maratona dles Dolomites.

As Tammy’s reputation grew, so did her acceptance within the cycling community, and other photography opportunities presented themselves.  As a result, Tammy diversified into other aspects such as capturing golf, events, music bands, and brands, taking family photographs and portraits. 

COVID and a new direction

“COVID hit and the cycling community went silent.” Tammy remembers.  “Contract after contract was cancelled.  However, it also represented an opportunity to do something different.”  That something different was esports cycling photography.

“In BC during COVID, we could exercise outside, but only in your family groups.  My husband and I played golf and did a bit of cycling, but then he started using Zwift, so I decided to take photos.” Tammy told me that she did not have instant success with it.  “I used my phone to take photos, it was a disaster.  It didn’t work, I then started taking screenshots and I would turn up at races as TLBVelo and try and capture the different characters and I started improving.”

It was here that Tammy got involved with esports racing.  Members of her local teams started racing in events hosted by Project Echelon in the US, like the Joe Martin Stage Race.  “I contacted the event organiser and pitched the idea of capturing local riders. I ended up supporting them for 3 years, first on Zwift and then when they moved to Wahoo’s RGT.”

Tammy’s work caught the eye of Josh Peacock, Director of Marketing and Events Cycling Canada and she was invited to photograph Team Canada in the 2020 UCI Esports World Championships.

Esports photographer 

Tammy, who has since left her role with the University of British Columbia, found herself alongside Team Canada’s Director Sportif in the team car as the 2020 race started. However, Tammy found herself taking more than just photographs as she explained “The Director Sportif had technical problems and got dropped from the event and could not rejoin.  This resulted in having to share my screen so he could see the event.”

Since that eventful day, Tammy has covered some major events including:

In addition to major championships, she has continued to work with the Echelon racing series as well as covering ad hoc events such as the Mountain Massif.

Photography process

I thought it would be interesting to ask Tammy if she could share her secrets of capturing the perfect image which she duly did.  “My process is quite simple.  I take screenshots of the action, upload them into my photo editing software (Lightroom) and then edit as I would any other image. This includes my “secret sauce” – a filter which is applied to almost all action shots.”  I can testify that the photographs captured for my Mountain Massif event, which has the filter applied, sets them apart.

However, the key to taking a good photograph is being in the right position, so I quizzed Tammy about this. “It is helpful to know the course in advance to find the best spots or to have someone tell you.  The action is what catches my attention against the most enticing backdrop. I always look for something unique on that route but love mountains and flowers. I also pay attention to the position of the rider on the bike and look to capture different perspectives.”  In the case of Zwift, this is using their different viewing positions.  Tammy went on to state “I miss RGT’s platform where I had greater access, and I could move through the rider list with the arrow keys.”

I asked about the challenges of capturing good images and Tammy explained that the “funny thing about virtual platforms is they keep things that drive me crazy, such as shadows but they add other elements which are unique to the virtual world — glitches in the Matrix so to speak. A close-up of a rider from behind can provide for some interesting perspectives.”  She went on to note that “probably the trickiest aspect is capturing the finish.  I must find the rider in the lead and stay with them. I also can’t see the entire finish line from the front view as it is too narrow, so I try to capture the finish from behind. It’s a little boring though as riders don’t celebrate like they do in real life. Even if they do the Zwift wave, it happens so fast it is hard to capture.” 

Summing up

Tammy has a busy schedule, and it’s not hard to see why, the photographs and images captured are art and showcase events to their fullest.  What I find fascinating about Tammy’s story is that the underlying theme is persistence and hard work.  I am sure when Tammy set out on her journey as a Sports Photographer, she didn’t envision the paths she would take and it’s clear that along the way, she has conquered her own “Mountain Massif” and is now a recognised name in cycling community, with an impressive palmarès to match.  Chapeau!

You can find Tammy on Instagram @tammy_brimner and her website and signup for her newsletter