Gabriel Diaz

Sports | Last Updated: April 13, 2023

After a few years of growing my business and growing as a sports photographer, I figured it was time to update this feature.

I’ve learned a lot about what works for me out on the track and trails when covering cycling. The camera gear is so different now, and I have also discovered the utility of the backpack, and I gave up on Nikon flashes.

Every year, I make an effort to improve some aspects of my work. A couple of years ago, it was my focusing technique, and I happened to have a new-to-me Nikon D4 to help with that. This camera is a beast in so many good ways.

After a bit of time reading the manual and articles on better understanding Nikon’s AF system, my image sharpness improved by a good percentage, which meant more keepers and more sellable photos. Win-win!

I added a Really Right Stuff L-bracket to the Nikon D4 for better handling and ease of use on a tripod which I sometimes use. I also switched out one of my DSLRs for a mirrorless body, the Nikon Z6.

I was interested in the newer tech and a slightly lighter camera. While not an AF slouch as it is sometimes reputed to be, the Nikon Z6 is used as a secondary body to the Nikon D4. It does just fine for cycling, but I may have a different opinion of it if I went to shoot motorsports.

The EVF is a treat, not so much for its exposure preview function but for chimping. Better than any hood loupe, seeing your photo directly in the viewfinder is a great way to see that you’ve got your shot.

For the Z body to work with F-mount lenses, I use the FTZ II adapter from Nikon. 

Tokina Opera 16-38mm f/2.8 – I replaced the signature wide-angle lens a few times, finally settling on this one. It’s the newer version, and it beats the Nikon ultra wides I have tried out when it comes to controlling distortion and sharpness. The flare can get a bit dodgy, but I have had to learn to work with that.

Nikon 70-200mm f/4 AF-S G VR –  I purchased this lens after years of resisting in an effort to maintain a different perspective with my images. Yes, and it is on one of the cameras almost all of the time. I think about getting the f/2.8 version sometimes, but I mostly shoot in bright sunlight, and I just don’t need the extra heft.

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 – I use this lens for sports but also for wildlife, and I find it to be fantastic. When paired with my Nikon TC IIE 1.4x Converter, I get 700mm of reach. The focusing works great, and the results are sharp with the teleconverter on.

Using this big lens has given me a reason to use a gimbal, and for that, I have the Oben GH-30 Gimbal Head, attached to a 3-Legged Thing Punks Travis Magnesium Alloy Tripod.

Nikon Z 40mm f/2 Prime – I couple this lens with the lighter Nikon Z6 body for a walkabout session, and I will admit that I don’t use it that much, but when I do, it produces some terrific colors and bokeh.

Godox TT685N – I gave up on using Nikon flashes as they kept on breaking down on me and started to use the Godox, which was initially a cheaper backup.

When connected to my Flashpoint BP-960 Battery Pack via a twin-power cord meant for Canon (the connection on the Nikon-dedicated Godox “N” model is actually for a Canon cord), it almost keeps up with the D4’s frame rate using high-speed sync.

I also have a mini monolight that has a high-speed sync function, the Flashpoint eVolv 200 Pro. It’s great for a second light or an off-camera flash on a tripod. I added an Arca-style baseplate to it as well. This can all be controlled by a Flashpoint R2 transmitter.

To round out the flash gear, I have a pair of Pocket Wizard Plus III transceivers which I sometimes use to trigger one of the cameras remotely, especially when covering gravel or mountain bike racing.

Peak Design Slide Camera Straps – still using these, one for each body. The adjustability on the fly is just tough to beat, especially when carrying two cameras in a cross-body style.

GoPro 7 Hero Black – I keep meaning to shoot more action videos, so I have this older model and crazy-long selfie stick. I am resisting buying a drone as the paperwork for them gets expensive when used commercially. So I will just be playing with the GoPro and nine feet of stick for some bird’s-eye views soon.

I have also returned to shooting film, which is a medium that I learned back in the nineties. I have been using a Mamiya 645 Pro and a couple of lenses to shoot a portrait series which I hope to get published in the near future.

This camera slows down the process and allows for interaction between myself and the portrait subject. I had wanted this particular camera for many years, ever since seeing ads for it in all the magazines back in the nineties.

In regards to getting more of my work published, I have been working hard on pitching photo stories to cycling and outdoor magazine editors. I aim to push further into the editorial market while maintaining my event-coverage business, VeloPista Photo.

f-stop Gear’s Loka 37L – I am still using my Domke shoulder bags to carry my gear around, and as much as I love them, I did eventually try out some backpacks. A shoulder bag is good for some courses where I may be running back and forth a lot to cover the different corners and straightaways, but hiking out to a mountain bike trail makes carrying a bag a chore.

So that’s why I have trialed a variety of backpacks. The f-stop Gear’s Loka 37L has been with me for a couple of years now, and it holds everything that I need in comfort and with room for adaptability. Mine has a Nasturtium colorway kit, and I added an f-stop Gear Medium Welded Accessory Pouch for bits and bobs.

Think Tank Rotation 360 22L – this one is used for lighter but longer hiking adventures. It’s a clever design, with a fanny pack that pulls out with the waist belt. This makes for excellent access to your gear, and I wish I had taken it hiking the trails of Sedona, Arizona, last year with my wife.

Just a few extras that are not pictured I have a couple of Nalgene water bottles that are undeniably essential when working under the Florida sun, a GPS tracker from Tracki (a subscription-based device) that helps me locate the leading riders in sportives out on the road. These rides go on for a hundred miles, and I have to drive ahead of the peloton to photograph them at various scenic spots on their designated course.

Not to forget my little cartoonish lion on a keychain hanging from my backpack. This is the mascot for Credit Lyonnais, a longtime partner of the Tour de France.

I have it there to remind me of the determination of the riders in the Tour; I must always push past my limits, keep out of my comfort zone, and work to make a better picture.

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  1. Evie Hernandez on June 14, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Awesome pic by Gabriel Diaz of VeloPistaPhoto. He is a great cycling race photographer.

  2. Gabriel Diaz on June 14, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Thank you to the ShotKit team for publishing my feature! It is a humbling experience to be here alongside so many amazing photographers.

    By the way, I added the Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II backpack to my bag collection, and it is worth checking out for those of us on the move!

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