Candid Conversations: Vladimir Rys and Jiří Durdík

What does standout split-second storytelling look like? Canon Ambassador and experienced action photographer Vladimir Rys speaks with the 2022 Canon Redline Challenge winner Jiří Durdík about their photography journeys, approaches and kit.
A motocross rider is caught mid race, with mud flying up into the air and other bikes blurred in action either side.

Canon Redline Challenge 2022 winner Jiří Durdik had photographed this motocross championship in the Czech Republic before so he had a good idea of where to stand to get the frame he wanted – even so, there was a figure to the right of the shot that he removed by cropping to achieve a more streamlined composition. Taken on a Canon EOS 7D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 90D) with a 150-500mm lens at 1/80 sec, f/16 and ISO400. © Jiří Durdik

For action photographer and Canon Ambassador Vladimir Rys, split-second storytelling in a single shot is where the power of still photography lies, especially when it comes to the victories and tragedies of high-speed sports such as motor racing. "The 'decisive moment' is what makes a photograph special," he explains. "It could be the expression on someone's face, a beautiful composition, a light formation or all of these together."

Capturing that special moment was the task set by Canon's second annual Redline Challenge and enthusiast photographers from around the world shared their standout split-second imagery. The 2022 winner is Jiří Durdík, who will receive a Canon EOS R5 and a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L USM lens, as well as mentoring from photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Laura El-Tantawy.

Vladimir caught up with Jiří, who is also from the Czech Republic, to discuss the background to his winning shot, creative techniques for capturing sports action and their photographic journeys.

Vladimir: First of all, Jiří, well done for winning the Canon Redline Challenge 2022. Your shot has a nice composition. I'd describe it as organised chaos. The jury said they could spend hours looking at it – there's so much going on. Do you shoot a lot of motocross?

Jiří: This was maybe the sixth time. I shot this on a rainy August day and I wanted to include as many riders as possible in the frame – it's messier but more dramatic that way. The challenge with shooting motocross is deciding where to stand, because after the first lap it spreads out so it's hard to get interesting photos.

The Canon Redline Challenge logo.

The Redline Challenge

See the images that made the Split Second Story shortlist.

Vladimir: I know! And as well as capturing photographs, you're trying to stay clean because there is mud flying everywhere.

Jiří: Exactly. As soon as you take a picture, you have to put away your camera quickly. It's the same with shooting sled racing. You're two metres away from the athletes, so you have to keep the camera under your coat, otherwise the lens could be damaged. I shoot with a Canon EOS 7D Mark II. I'm very happy with it – it's fast and reliable. I have a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens and a Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, as well as a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens that I use for nature photography.

A car drives along a racing track, the surroundings blurred in motion.

"It's difficult to describe a great photograph because a great photograph speaks for itself," says Vladimir. "It makes you stop for a moment and look twice and it captures emotions. Photography, in my opinion, is purely about feelings." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM lens at 1/10 sec, f/2 and ISO50. © Vladimir Rys

Vladimir: My favourite lens is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM. I've been shooting Canon since 2000, over 20 years, and never had problems in the rain. I don't even use protective casing. You've won a Canon EOS R5. Are you excited? It'll really help you improve.

Jiří: Yes, I think it will be a leap forward. It's got much higher resolution – I've never had full-frame in digital, so I'm looking forward to that, and it will better replicate colours, highlights and shadows. Also, the focusing system is perfect for sports and nature subjects such as birds in flight and it has better stabilisation, which helps with slow shutter speeds.

Vladimir: It's awesome, the EOS R5. The resolution is incredible and the quality of the colours, like you said. These features allow you to broaden your horizons and start to shoot totally different things than you did before. In my experience, buying new kit does that. If I get a new lens, suddenly a subject I've photographed hundreds of times looks completely different. How long have you been shooting for?

Jiří: I started aged 46, so that's 24 years. It's my 70th birthday this year, so this is a nice birthday present! I taught myself everything I know about photography, but now that I'm retired, I'm actually doing a course in photography. We've just finished the theory and now we're studying art photography, learning shooting unfocused to create a blurring effect – even in sports. If you capture the athlete pin sharp, the rest of the frame should be kind of blurry to get that dynamic feeling.

Vladimir: So do you mainly shoot action in sports? What are your favourite subjects?

Jiří:Not so much action. I shoot a lot of hiking, so landscapes and nature. But apart from that, mainly sports. I like the facial expressions of athletes when they're performing, so I prefer sports like rugby or basketball.

A top-down image showing groups of people standing in a square. A long exposure has blurred the figures who cast long shadows on the ground.

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Vladimir: That's what I love about sports photography, too. You get a whole story in one shot. I've been taking pictures since I was 12 or 13. My grandfather was a photographer and I started playing around with his old cameras. At first I wanted to be a cameraman, but then the challenge of telling a story with a single shot won my heart.

Jiří: To do this, it has to capture human emotion. And you need great light, too.

There were over 14,000 entries entries in the 2022 Redline Challenge, making choosing the winner rather difficult for the judges. Watch as they deliberate, and share the exciting news with Jiří.

Vladimir: When light, composition and the right moment merge, that is the perfect capture for me. You need to follow your gut to catch it. You took your winning photo with a slow shutter speed, right?

Jiří: Yes, 1/80 sec. I had my camera set to Shutter priority (Tv) mode. I was photographing gymnastics recently and shot that at 1/6 sec, and the images came out really well. And basketball, shooting in a range that went from 1/5 sec to 1/125 sec.

Vladimir: I used to shoot longer shutter speeds, but in the past two or three years I have switched to shooting faster. As a photographer, you have to keep evolving. Blurred or sharp can work, it depends, and over the years you develop an intuition for it. Why did you decide to enter this shot? What stood out?

Jiří: I was originally going to enter a different one, from a fire show, but then I entered another contest and printed the image, which is when I discovered how nice it was. It looked completely different than on the screen. When I started out in photography, I was developing my own prints in the darkroom.

Red and orange smoke billows above the crowd at a sporting event.

"I get inspired by anything around me – music videos, movies, books, but mainly people," says Vladimir. "Along with sports, I love shooting portraits, landscape, reportage and travel, all this is a lot of fun and I really enjoy shooting almost any kind of photography." Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/4000 sec, f/1.4 and ISO200. © Vladimir Rys

Vladimir: Yes, me too. I remember I used to enlarge pictures and keep them on display somewhere for maybe a fortnight or three weeks, and if I still liked them after that, I'd put them away. If I didn't, I'd tear them up and throw them in the bin. I found this incredibly helpful, printing out the pictures and seeing them in my hands. So, do you mostly shoot in colour?

Jiří: I always shoot in colour but I convert maybe 15-20% of my shots to black and white. Especially with indoor sports, where the advertising can be distracting, black and white is cleaner. This shot, though, wouldn't work in black and white, you'd lose the colour in those smudges. I am happy with this shot. I was happy when I took it, when I saw it on the computer and that is the most important thing. I'm doing this for my own enjoyment, not for anyone else.

Vladimir: Your satisfaction is the most important thing. Congratulations again, Jiří.

Rachel Segal Hamilton

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