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https://alphauniverseglobal.media.zestyio.com/Alpha-Universe-Profile-Spotlight-Chris-Van-Riel-1.be110857376e1c1dc5afaa178864837f.jpg
Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/2500-sec., f/1.8, ISO 1600

Alpha Profile Spotlight: Dog-Disc Sport Action With A Fast Camera and A Short, Sharp Telephoto

"Photographing running dogs is surprisingly difficult," says photographer Chris Van Riel. "I had found my challenge. I wanted to create beautiful images in the most difficult circumstances – with a combination of extreme sharpness and also a small depth of field." When we saw his incredible disc dog images, we just had to learn more.

Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/8000-sec., f/1.8, ISO 100

Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master.

Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/4000-sec., f/1.8, ISO 125

Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/2500-sec., f/1.8, ISO 125

"My mom's dog, the instigator of my action photo addiction." Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/1250-sec., f/1.8, ISO 1250

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Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master.

Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/2500-sec., f/1.8, ISO 1600

On his Alpha Universe Profile, Van Riel describes himself as a photographer who spends his life covered in dog hair. “Recently I started a series photographing the dog-disc sport where the dogs intend to catch frisbees while soaring through the sky like superheroes! It's fast, awesome to look at, and the results are often very surprising – showing hilarious and very focused expressions.” We connected with Chris to learn more about him, his dog-disc sport photography and why he chooses the Sony α9 and Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master combination. Read more about him below and visit his profile for more. Create your own Alpha Universe Profile HERE for a chance to be featured.

"It's fast, awesome to look at, and the results are often very surprising." See how this sports photographer catches lighting quick action with a hilarious twist. 

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Chris Van Riel’s Alpha Universe Profile. See more HERE

Career Snapshot

It's been almost two years since I started photography, but my whole life has consisted of creating and putting things together to create the whole of the image in my head. It started with the smaller things, like fixing cars, motorcycles and such. My interest and hobby turned out to be my professional work in this moment of my life, for I am a fulltime engineer. I needed to relieve my ideas in other hobbies.  

When I looked outside at the beauty of nature with the thick mist and colors of the sunrise, the idea of photography popped up in my head. It started out as a small idea in my head to create a challenge for myself. The first subject to live out my idea was my mom's dog. Photographing running dogs was surprisingly difficult, I had found my challenge. I wanted to create beautiful images in the most difficult circumstances – with a combination of extreme sharpness and also a small depth of field.

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"My mom's dog, the instigator of my action photo addiction." Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/1250-sec., f/1.8, ISO 1250

Fast forward one year to now, you will find me capturing images of dogs putting all their efforts into catching the frisbee. The combination of the joy, the love and the focus is what you can find in my photos. Capturing moments that don't even last for the blink of an eye is what makes me the professional photographer I am today. Specializing in workshops, I hope to invite more photographers to try this genre of photography.

The Dog-Disc Sport Photography Process

The process of photographing disc-dog photography is quite easy. Anyone can capture these dogs mid-air, but making these dogs look like flying superheroes isn't quite as easy. The secret lies within perfect timing, and setting up properly. 

It's all about catching the special expression of the dog as he slams the frisbee between his teeth. Aiming for just the right measure of time to catch that perfect moment. In that unique second the dog shows a combination of emotions: speed, ferocity, the tension of the muscles, focus, and the joy of grasping the frisbee.

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Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/4000-sec., f/1.8, ISO 125

The perfect timing of capturing that special image lasts for approximately 0.03s, making it all the more difficult to capture. Next to the technical aspect of shooting a dog in full speed, nature also needs to be taken in account. The wind, the incidence of light, the background... even the worst conditions like harsh sunlight or rain can turn out into amazing results if used for the image properly.

The main subject of my photo is still the dog. Which you cannot fully predict due to the trajectory of the dog's jumps. In my photos I'm combining the aspects of nature with those of my main subject to create the most fitting image according to what I have in mind. The resulting shots that captured a nice pose, great expression and with the frisbee in the place are really treasures. These dogs soaring through the sky catching a frisbee is poetry in motion.

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Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/8000-sec., f/1.8, ISO 100

Why I Shoot With Sony

When I made the jump to get into photographing I knew I was going to need something that sets the standard very high, yet intuitive to use. The "what you see is what you get'' style of shooting that the Live View features offer made mirrorless cameras very appealing to me as a beginner. With Sony being the pioneer in mirrorless cameras it was an obvious choice.  

Later on choosing Sony turned out to be one of the best choices I have made in my photography career. The camera helped me become a better photographer every time I went out to shoot with. Up to the point where I'm at today. Still the α9 really plays into my needs as a photographer. I like the focus speed and incredible framerates. Innovative features and rich editing potential of the files make it even better. All in a compact, sturdy, and easy to use package.

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Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master.

My Go-To Sony Gear

After owning various lenses and bodies, I've now settled on the Sony α9 and 135mm f/1.8 G Master. Both of them offer attributes which have become vital to my images. To create pinsharp action photos with the smallest depth of field possible I need a high fps camera with very accurate and sticky focus abilities, and a lens that's able to keep up.

The Sony 135mm f/1.8 GM is unique in this regard. Like most modern primes it offers amazing sharpness at wide open apertures, but its focus speed puts this 135mm into a class of its own. No other 135mm f/1.8 GM lens does what the G Master does.

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Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master.

When paired up with an α9, it's a combo that plays together very well. Even at a paper thin depth field I rarely miss critical focus. Together with the α9 's high frame rate I can confidently hit those special moments where the dog is just about to wrap his jaws around the frisbee. 
 
Seeing upcoming models arrive on the market with powerful features like even better focus, 30fps, higher resolutions all excite me a lot, these technological advancements are going to be game changers to me and photographers alike.

What Photography Means To Me

The past two years have been a great adventure and photography was the vessel that carried me along. Like any adventure I've encountered lots of exciting moments, met new friends and learned from experience. Being a very high energy person sitting still for even short periods of time can be quite hard unless given something to focus on. Photography gives me a chance to relax, slow down and take my time to create something beautiful. It's very soothing for the mind. Other times at unexpected moments it surprises me with new opportunities, thrills me with challenges to beat and it keeps me coming back for more. 

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Photo by Chris Van Riel. Sony α9. Sony 135mm f/1.8 G Master. 1/2500-sec., f/1.8, ISO 125

When a group of photographers are given the same subject, the same tools, and the same circumstances the result will be all different images. Some may look more alike than others, but none of them are the same. The difference lies within the photographers as they literally put something of themselves within the image, causing every photo to become as unique as the person who took it. It's this way photography taught me the importance of being true to myself and my work, to create something unique. Encouraging me to go out, to be fearless in the pursuit of what sets my soul on fire.

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