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Dermott Sweeney: Life Through A Lens

Posted on November 20, 2014 @ 1:37 PM in Mountainbiking

Donegal man Dermott Sweeney is a staple ingredient of the Irish DH circuit these days and has built up a renowned reputation as arguably one of Ireland’s best mountain bike photographers.

Dermott Sweeney

Dermott’s photos not only capture the true intensity of racing but also expose the commitment and determination of Ireland’s best riders. Of course jaw-dropping photos like these don’t just happen, rather it’s down to Dermott’s own commitment and determination which has allowed us mere mortals to sit back and gaze in awe of his incredible images from this year’s racing calendar.

Dermott Sweeney Photography

As the weather closes in and everyone knows photographers batten down their hatches for winter (don't they?) we thought we’d catch up with Dermott to find out a bit more about the man behind the lens!

It seems like you've been specialising in MTB photography for years now but how did it all start?
It all started through work back in 2010. A good friend and colleague shared two passions with me, mountain bikes and photography. So inevitably we ended up combining them. Neither of us were much use on a bike so the photos weren’t that impressive but I became pretty hooked on the possibilities MTB photography posed. In the winter of that year a chance encounter with the lads from Biking Dirty at the Winter DH Series in Bigwood revealed that my photos were pretty decent and this spurred me on.  I will always remember how dark that day was, the flash units were pretty much an essential piece of kit.

Dermott Sweeney Photography

Can you tell us a little bit about the kit you use and why you like it?
The last few years the kit had been pretty much set in stone.  A race weekend or a promo shoot was a Canon 7D, 3 lenses to cover 10mm to 200mm, 2 flash units, remote triggers, tripod, GorillaPod, spare batteries, cards and graduated filters should the sun decide to appear.  However forests’ being as dark as they are has meant a fairly recent upgrade to the full frame 5D MkIII. Its low light capabilities are quite amazing. If I was gifted some nice natural light, I’d happily shoot away with just it and the 24-105mm lens.  Granted I’d probably miss the flashes and the possibilities they pose with regards to slow shutter speeds and lighting up the intense eyes of a committed rider.

Dermott Sweeney Photography

What’s your top tip for capturing that perfect MTB shot?
Top tip…just one? As obvious at it may seem it’s as simple as plan it. You should know pretty much what you’re going to shoot before you take it. Planning is everything from scouting a location for the best time of day for light to choosing your shutter speed and composing the shot.  Alternatively you can just ride your luck to be in the right place and improvise.

Dermott Sweeney Photography

We’ve heard Rosco’s making you jump out of a plane, how did he rope you into that one?
Yeah I’ll be jumping on the 29th of this month for Friends of the Cancer Centre/Team 338. You know Rosco’s a gas man, he texted me wondering would I help raise a few bob for them. Thinking nothing of it I said sure no bother. It was only after I said yes that he cared to tell me it was a parachute jump. Not a bother though as it’s been on the bucket list, and it’s all for a great cause. For anyone that would like to donate please check out

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What advice would you give to any aspiring MTB photographers looking to start out?
Know your camera and learn how to use the different shooting modes (Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual). You need to be able to control the shutter speed and aperture to take artistic control over the sense of speed and the depth of field in your photos. Develop your own style that separates you from everyone else. Watermark your images so you get the credit you deserve and don’t be afraid to charge otherwise you could end up a busy fool who’s stuck behind a monitor while everyone else is out shredding.

Dermott Sweeney Photography

Inspired? Check out Dermott Sweeney Photography for more incredible images from Dermott’s portfolio!  

Chris Armstrong
Chris Armstrong  Mountain Bike Officer

Chris looks after all things mountain biking in Northern Ireland's a tough job but someone's gotta do it!

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