The Basement Tapes: Luigi Sestili from Issue 104 Interview by Tim Schamber with images from Luigi Sestili

In issue 104, our 10th annual Photo Annual, we showcased 12 photographers and 1 collector that are at the top of their game in cycling photography. Here’s the extended interview from Peloton magazine: The Photo Annual.

Luigi Sestili with full game-face on!


Tell us a little bit about where you grew up as a child. I grew up in a small village north of Rome, Tolfa. This village is located on the hills of the Maremma, in Lazio, surrounded by nature.

I understand that your father turned you on to cycling. What was it about cycling that you loved? Yes, my father Mario was the first to put me on a bike when I was 8. What I have always liked about the bike is the big feeling of freedom it gives me.

Then you started racing and winning and achieving great things, I believe. I started racing in the G3 category until I became a pro. I won a lot in the under-23 category and was on the Italian national team several times. Then, after I became a pro, I couldn’t find a good team for cycling and I quit; I had the feeling I was wasting my time.

Image: Luigi Sestili.

Were you thinking about photography as a bike racer, or did it come later? I’ve always liked photography. When I was a pro in 2007, I already had my website where I was posting and writing on my training and competitions with both photos and videos. At that time, I had a 2-megapixel Nikon camera and one of the first Oregon Scientific-action cameras. I have always enjoyed communicating with images.

When you went to school to study photography and lighting, how did that change the way you look at the world and how you take photographs? I started to go deeper into photography because I liked it a lot and I could do it quite well. first as self-taught and then at school. In the mornings, I was working at the newspaper and in the evening, I was studying photography. I have always been struck by the use of light while taking photos. I worked for two years as an assistant for a photographer who shoots magazine covers for Playboy; I tried to learn as much as possible and then I tried to mix glamorous photography with sports photography. I like to experiment a lot in my job.

Image: Luigi Sestili.

At what point did you realize your dream and realize that you could make photography a career? I worked for seven years in the office of a well-known cycling magazine. Then, one day, I decided to leave and do a more “action job.” So, I quit and here I am now. The competitive spirit and notion of a challenge are still in me.

Tell us about the perfect setup for you in terms of camera equipment. I have always used Nikon cameras. Today, I have three cameras: D6, D4s, and D850. As for lenses, I generally use the 14–24, the 24–70, and the 70–200 F2.8; then I have a 300 F2.8 telephoto lens and a 105 F2.8 macro lens. Nikon’s 200 F2 is my favorite lens; I’ve recently bought it and I am using it a lot. I also use Elinchrom Elb 400 flashes.

Image: Luigi Sestili.

Tell us how you captured the image above and how you went about it. I was doing a photoshoot for a Sidi catalog and I was thinking of an impactful image. I wanted to emphasize the MTB riding action. Water is an element that I like a lot while photographing—its movement always creates unnatural shapes. So, I identified a pool of water, covered the camera, and placed a small tripod on the ground. I took several shots with a remote-control until I found the image that satisfied me. The place where I took the photo was in the hills above my village of Tolfa.

Instagram: @6stili
Facebook: @6stili

From issue 104. Buy it here.