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A lesson in adaptability: How this photographer shifted from shooting outdoor events to capturing Zwift races

Tammy Brimner quit her full-time job in December to photograph races. When the pandemic hit she followed the cyclists to Zwift and brought her photographic skills with her

Photo by: Tammy Brimner/@tlbvelo

Tammy Brimner and her husband used to play golf together, but when her husband switched from golf to bike racing, the B.C. based leadership consultant found herself with nothing to do on the weekends. She figured she should work on another hobby.

“I always enjoyed photography,” she says. “I started small—you need to learn how to shoot action. I would be happy if I got one good shot of my husband at a race. Once I could do that, I started thinking ‘If I get one of everyone on his team I’ll be happy’. Next thing I know I was shooting the entire race!”

Brimner started giving her images away, and as she shot more races cyclists started to recognize her. “That’s @tlbvelo!” Teens would say to each other as she walked by with her camera.

Eventually organizers started inviting her to events and paying Brimner to photograph races. The opportunities continued to grow. “Because of this I’ve traveled to the States and Europe for events, and I’ve gotten to shoot races in beautiful scenery.” she says. “It’s been such an honour to be accepted into the cycling community—community is the most important part of it for me.”

This year, Brimner decided to take the plunge and commit herself to photography. She left her full-time job at Christmas, and had event contracts lined up for the entire year.

Then COVID hit, and all those events were cancelled.

“I just watched everyone’s motivations sink around me,” she says. “How do you stay motivated to keep training?”

The Zwift solution

Brimner’s husband took to Zwifting throughout the winter. One day, missing her craft, she tried capturing his on screen avatar with her camera. “I was so disappointed with the quality,” she says, so she went looking for a better way to capture the digital image.

“I got a Zwift account and started to play with screenshots,” says Brimner. “I edited them to make it look like a photo and capture the best beauty and action going on.”

Although there was no outdoor racing, a local team, Escape Velocity, was racing together virtually on Zwift and Brimner decided to surprise them with some of her Zwift photos.

The team loved the shots, and started accessorizing uniquely in order to stand out in the peloton for photos.

Brimner got involved with Zwift racing in the same way she built up her presence at physical races. She started small, with just her husband, then grew to capturing the local teams and quickly built up to international competition.

She was able to get in contact with Eric Hill of Project Echelon and, “He wrote back in half an hour,” says Brimner. “Next thing I know he gave me access to the whole Tour of the Gila and the Virtual Joe Martin race.” She has also photographed the Tour de Boudicca.

Zwifting without racing

“It’s a unique experience,” says Brimner. “I’m sitting in my den and I’ve got the live feed on the monitor in front of me while I’m doing my best to track what’s going on in the race.” Meanwhile the event is in full swing and the racers are giving it their all.

“It’s weird for me watching and knowing that there are real racers powering their avatars through actual efforts —knowing that when they’re climbing it’s hurting.”

“Watching all these races you start to recognize the riders, it got to the point where I was like ‘that’s my friend Haley!’”

Much like when she was taking photos at outdoor races, Brimner, who describes herself as “not shy”, says she’s made friends from all over the world photographing the Zwift races. “I’ve met people I would have never met otherwise because of this,” she says.

Surprising similarities

There are obvious differences between photographing an outdoor race and a Zwift race, but Brimner was surprised at the similarities she found.

“Capturing the group formations in Zwift is very similar to capturing a peloton in real life,” she says “I got used to picking out the different team jerseys.”

Even the scenery is just as important in Zwift races. As she would in an outdoor race, Brimner looks for the most scenic perspectives on the course when she chooses where she’ll capture the riders.

As she has to be registered in the race as a rider, Brimner can also see the pre-race chatbox dialogue, which she says is exactly like the startline of an outdoor race. “I have to chuckle,” she says, “watching the banter in the comments on the startline, they’re really going after each other—you still get that activity.”


Despite the major setback in her plans for the year, Brimner was able to find the beauty in a virtual world and grasp the opportunity to make meaningful human connections with people from around the world.

“When the epidemic hit, we all thought about all the things we couldn’t do,” says Brimner. “When you flip it to ‘what CAN we do,’ all of a sudden all the opportunities come out.”