female gymnast jumping through parallel bars

Legendary Sports Pictures

Thomas Lovelock

My name is Thomas Lovelock and I have been photographing the world of sports for a little over 20 years. I specialise in sports photography and portraiture for some of the world’s top sports brands and events, for magazines and advertising all over the world and at home in London. I shoot some of the best athletes in the world; the dedication and training it’s taken them to become faster and better at what they do is incredible. It’s a privilege to be able to photograph them, but it’s a challenge too – every time they get faster and better, I must up my game.

You were one of the first professional photographer to test the Sony Alpha 1 – what were your first impressions and stand-out features for you?  

The Sony Alpha 1 is a step up from any camera I have previously used. In my work, the speed of the autofocus and continuous shooting capabilities really count; this camera is a step up and delivers on both.  The new processor coupled with the CF express Type A cards turns it into the most responsive Sony camera I have ever used. I love that Sony have kept the camera body and ergonomics very similar to the Alpha 9 II. When I’m working at high speed in incredibly tough conditions, being familiar with your camera is key.  The detail in the electronic viewfinder is incredible – I didn’t even notice it is electronic and not optical. With great technology – when the pieces work properly together – it becomes so much more than the sum of its parts and that could not be truer than with the Alpha 1.

mountain biker pops a wheelie in the forest

© Thomas Lovelock | Sony α1 + FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM | 1/2000s @ f/3.2, ISO 2500

How do you think these technological improvements help your workflow and creativity?

The autofocus is a step up on anything I’ve used before and with 30 fps it enables me to capture any of the split seconds that make a great sport picture. On top of that – with the 50MP sensor – you have latitude to crop the image more and keep a good final quality which is good for sport photography. The Alpha 1 is a unique tool for Sport photography in that sense and will help me capture these specific expressions and movements.

male gymnast hopping over parallel bars

© Thomas Lovelock | Sony α1 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/2000s @ f/2.8, ISO 800

What other features stand out for you and in which scenario?

I was blown away with the improvements to the Eye detection in the Real-time autofocus system. While I was shooting the gymnast on the uneven bars, in the movement where she flips between the bars, there is a split second where you can see her face in camera and the Alpha 1 picked up her eye every time – so amazing!

female gymnast hanging on to parallel bars

© Thomas Lovelock | Sony α1 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/2000s @ f/2.8, ISO 1250

Lenses/accessories are another core component of photography and filmmaking  – What lenses and accessories did you use for your initial test and why ?

For the gymnastics shoot – I used the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM and the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. I chose these to ensure I could capture each finely controlled movement happening but from a distance safe enough to give them space to execute flawlessly. The combination of these 2 lenses covered all the focal lengths I needed whilst leaving room to finesse the composition.  I also used these 2 lenses for the mountain biking with the addition of the FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM to give me some super wide perspective.

lady on a mountain bike in the forest

© Thomas Lovelock | Sony α1 + FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM | 1/2500s @ f/4.0, ISO 4000

What advice would you give aspiring photographers that want to follow your steps?  

For me – I would always advise aspiring photographers to experiment and try different things. The pictures that stand out to me are the ones where you know the photographer has tried something different. The ones that manage to capture a different mood, movement, the essence of a moment from an unexpected angle or dimension. Nobody ever got anywhere doing the same thing as everyone else.

female gymnast upside down on parallel bars

© Thomas Lovelock | Sony α1 + FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS | 1/2500s @ f/2.8, ISO 1250

Any last words – thank you or last advice for our readers

Keep it interesting!

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