For those who don’t know Craig Kolesky, he is one of SA’s top action sport photographers and part of a very select group photographers that work for Red Bull International. He also happens to be from the Eastern Cape. Born in Uitenhage, whereafter his family moved to Jbay before he zoomed in on a professional career in photography while staying in Cape Town. I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop he presented in PE as part of the Nikon Road Show and this is what I learnt from him.

Being a photographer is tough work! 

Photo’s can be deceiving. There’s a common believe that photographers just happen to be at the right place, at the right time. Craig will tell you differently. On one of the projects he was involved in, it took an accumulation of two years to prepare before a single shot was taken! That’s a long time to get yourself at the right place, at the right time…

Experience is key

Red Bull has truly set the benchmark when it comes to creating action media content. They are continually setting the bar sky high with insane tricks and even more insane footage thereof. When you need to capture death defying stunts on camera it’s very unlikely the mountain biker doing the front flip over a 72 foot canyon gap will be thrilled if you asked him to try it one more time because you were out of focus…

Being a hobbyist photographer myself, it was sobering to hear that Craig can’t just go out and shoot like he wishes, he always has to have the client in mind, be it Red Bull, Oakley or any other high profile company he does work for. If they don’t like his shot, they won’t use it. This was a lesson he learnt early on after he approached magazines editors asking why they hadn’t use any of his shots. He went back and made some changes and immediately started getting his pics featured in mags.



Tell a story

A photo has the ability to capture a moment in time. If you capture that one insane moment as the sun glares over the mountain biker’s helmet just as he is cresting the hilltop you’ve nailed it, right? Not quite. That picture on its own doesn’t offer a lot of context for the viewer.

What’s the story behind the shot? Why was the person there in the first place? If you are able to capture the key moments throughout the story you’ll be able to not only paint a picture of one moment but actually tell a complete story which people will find more intriguing.

In action sport, there’s always a story. A person doesn’t just get up one day and run 100km, winning the race. Preparation, determination, triumph, failure – these are all key moments in the story. Capture them and you’ve nailed it.


Back flip sequence

It was great having the opportunity to listen in on some the trade secrets of action photography. Hope this gives you more appreciation of the shots you drool over on the net.

If Craig isn’t pushing the boundaries of action photography, he very actively pushes his smartphone’s keyboard on Twitter, so if you’d like to keep in touch with his latest work follow him @craigkolesky.


Craig is also getting into videography, and with DSLR camera theses days being able to capture high quality videos as well, the equipment has been right there, in his hands all the time. Here’s a short reel he did of actions sports in and around Cape Town, also featuring the Pinner, aka Oliver Munnik. Enjoy!