Tom Olesnevich: Bike NYC

The Image

Tom Olesnevich

New York, New York

Time / Date:
5:08 PM / 3/13/2012

The Technical

Camera Body: Nikon D40
Lens: Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC OS HSM
Support: Joby Gorillapod Focus w/ Ballhead X

Camera Settings:

Shutter Speed: 1/60s
Aperture: f/11
ISO: 400
Focal Length: 24mm

The Story


I’m an editorial sports photographer. My job is to tell the story of ‘race day’ – typically bike races. In addition to telling the story of the race, I always try and capture those ‘hero moments’ where the athlete is totally in the zone, just crushing their respective discipline, be it on a mountain bike or a road bike, etc. And I’m particularly fond of panning shots and motion blur.

One evening I was surfing through my instagram feed and came across a shot of a mountain biker who had hooked up his GoPro to his rear swingarm and had a great shot of him cruising through the woods. And then it hit me. I live in NYC. Instead of the woods, I have one of the most visually iconic cities in the world that I could use as a backdrop. And that’s when/how this personal project was born.

The Scene: 

Like I mentioned before, I love motion blur. And I love New York. I also love bicycles. Always have. And so my goal with this shot was to combine all of those things into one image. NYC, bikes and motion. I affectionately refer to the series as ‘my love letter to NYC’ – which is particularly apt as I’ve recently moved to Denver, CO.

To the shot itself, I’d just come out of the southern-most exit of Central Park on 59th st. It dumps you onto 7th ave headed south. It’s 6pm. It’s rush hour. It’s Times Square. So I bombed down 7th ave, straight into Times Square and started shooting. And because it was rush hour there were lots of cabs that made it into the frame, which I think really helps place the viewer ‘in’ NYC.


I’m sure everyone’s heard this a thousand times over, but it bears repeating. The gear played a pivotal role in creating this image. But the gear didn’t ‘make’ the image. The gear didn’t conceptualize the image. I did. This stuff just happened to be the right gear for the job.

I needed the D40 for its light weight, manual settings and ability to be triggered remotely (when was the last time someone said they ‘needed’ a D40? Ha! I do love that little camera). The Sigma 17-70 was great because it’s designed for crop-sensored cameras and would give me the focal length I was after. I needed the Gorillapod and upgraded mount to securely get the camera as low as I wanted.

I would have loved to use a camera that had better IQ, but to do so I would have had to deal with more weight, which was already an issue. I could have used a GoPro, which would have been even lighter, but I wouldn’t have been able to achieve the motion blur that I was after because of the lack of manual settings.

And that’s my gear philosophy. Cameras are tools. These tools just happened to be the right set for this particular job.

Making the Shot:

As to how I actually executed the image? I wanted to mount the camera as low as possible to the ground. That perspective, I think, is visually striking and helps give context to the speed of the shot. Speaking of speed, I also knew I wanted something around 1/60th as a shutter speed to get that motion blur.

Because this was my ‘love letter’ to NYC, I wanted to be the subject. And I wanted to execute this solo. To do so meant that I’d have to securely mount a camera a few inches off the ground as I rode around NYC. That was definitely a challenge. So I grabbed the lightest camera I owned that I could trigger remotely (D40). I looked into a lot of different clamping systems, but in the end, I found that literally taping a Gorillapod to the chainstay and seatstay was the best way to accomplish my goal. And their Ballhead X was a lifesaver. I broke the first original mount and sent a camera tumbling down Broadway during one of my test shoots. After upgrading the mount, I was able to get that security and rigidity that I was looking for. After that, I just rode around NYC, hitting up some of my favorite spots and taking photos. It was a ton of fun.

Editing & Processing:

I don’t shoot a lot of images in RAW as I’m usually working under a time constraint, but for this, because I was shooting w/ a low-end camera, I did shoot RAW to give me some extra flexibility in post. From there, I added contrast and saturation to get the ‘look’ I was after – gritty, fast, in your face, etc.

Looking Back:

I chose this image because I think it best captures what I’d envisioned, and what riding my bike in NYC looks like. Lots of motion, lots of contrast, over saturated – all things that are analogous to ‘my’ NYC.


Advice? If you like this image, take the concept and run with it. Read this blog post by Chase Jarvis and watch the video w/ Austin Kleon if you’re not sure what that means.


What inspires me? My wife. My wife inspires me. I’m very new to this profession and she’s stood behind me, believed in me and pushed me from day one.

Other photographers inspire me. Every day I turn my phone on I’m blown away by an image I come across. Literally, every single day. That’s fantastic.

What drives me to makes images? I love life. I’m fortunate (and shocked, to be quite honest) that people enjoy my photography. If I can express how much I love life via photos, then that’s what I want to do.


About the Photographer

Denver & NYC-based editorial sports photographer. Aspiring Denver & NYC-based commercial sports and lifestyle photographer.
Problem solver.
(I can also throw a mean curveball)

Twitter: @tomolesnevich
Instagram: @tomolesnevich

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