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Friday, 21 September 2012

Tough at the TOB

The Tour of Britain came through my local town of Kendal, up here on the edge of the Lake District, just a few weeks ago. I knew it was coming of course. Cycling has been "flavour of the month" in the wake of the Olympics.
I don't get much opportunity to shoot road racing, which is a pity because I love watching it on telly. Shooting it live is challenging and quite a buzz. These guys don't hang about and you have to be right on your game to catch the moments and create something worthwhile.

Unfortunately, the peloton would be whizzing past on a day that I was really busy, even though I would be in Kendal and I was desperately juggling stuff to try and grab some free time. As luck would have it the timings had a bunch sprint through Kendal at 12.40pm - lunch time! I had a slim window of opportunity.

Naturally the weather was rubbish! Last year, I actually had a press pass for the Kendal-to-Blackpool stage and you know what happened? A hurricane happened, that's what! Stage called off, too windy, parade lap around Kendal and that was that. I managed a reasonable portrait of Cav but nothing much else - I could have spat!...

So this year, we got c**p weather but at least they were riding. I legged it out the meeting I was in, jogged up to the sprint finish line (along with everyone else) and huddled against the rain. With no chance to plan much and no second bite at this I knew I would have to decide on the shot I was going to do and stick with it. The whole peloton is past you in about 3 minutes flat so you don't get much chance to shoot angles and no chance to change location.

I couldn't decide what lens to shoot with. Do I go with a wide angle and try and get close or stick with the telephoto and isolate a front rider? I don't know - what would you do? I went with telephoto in the end and chose to concentrate on the front rider because it was I standing at one of the many sprint lines on the tour. Maybe there would be a scrap for the line and the points. So maybe I'd get some action rather than just a bunch of riders huddled together against the rain in their jackets. Naturally I bolted on a flash.
So, there I was, with a D700, a 28-300VRll and an SB800 hoping the sprint would happen on my side of the road. I dialled in 1/500th at f5.6, high speed sync, flash at -2/3rds fec, low speed continuous shooting (no point in high speed - the flash won't keep up), and matrix metering - and here they come round the corner.

S**t - they're not on my side!
There's a couple of riders clear but they're not really sprinting.
And now there's loads of marshals on the other side all wearing reflective jackets with day-glo stripes that will flare in the flash - great - it's all going wrong! The lens is struggling to keep up with focus - too slow - I get one shot and it's all over the place.

You want to see what I got? Here it is...

I mean look at that background! What was I thinking. The only way to rescue this is to go arty monotone. And that was that.

What have I learned?
I'm still thinking about that - I'll let you know when I've calmed down and had time to err...reflect!