Photographing a Cycling Event – My Way
Most of you know that for the last three days I have been photographing the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic. It has been fun, but also very tiring, especially yesterday when it was so hot. Thankfully it wasn’t today, with the temperature expected to reach 41C (105.8F). The photos I am going to use were mostly taken yesterday at Williamstown.
One of the type of shots that you want to get is the cyclists coming or going around corners. I have shown you lots of them over the past few days. They can be hard to get and you have to have nerve to get them. Sitting on a corner while cyclists go past can be scary. They get close. Most accidents happen on corners, so you may be putting your life in danger as well, so you need to be very careful. You also need to be careful that you don’t go out too far and cause an accident, it could be an expense experience for you. I have public liability insurance in case something like that happens.
At an event like this,unless you have accreditation getting on the corners can be almost impossible.
You can see the photographers here, they are wearing navy blue media bibs. I had one of these as well. To get accreditation you need to apply, and you usually need to be someone who has experience at photographing events like this. I know that when the event is on next year that there is a good chance that I will get accreditation again because I have done it for the last few years and there hasn’t been a problem. To get accreditation you need to start with club racing and work your way up. The more experience you get the more likely it is that you may get accreditation. There will always be events that you can’t get accreditation for unless you work for a paper or some other media organisation.
In the image above they were getting ready for the finish. When that happens they all huddle in a group inside those barriers and photograph them as they finish. Only those with bibs are allowed to do that.
To get an image of people going past like this you have to move the camera with them. They are moving so fast, around 40 to 50 kph, so if you don’t pan, then you will just get blur. I have plenty of those.
It would be easy to put it on a fast shutter speed, but I use a flash to take these photos. It isn’t as silly as it sounds, the flash helps to cut through the shadows. I have the flash set on the strongest setting. Unlike most sports flash is perfectly fine for cycling. Apparently the cyclists don’t even notice it. You can see how much the flash has helped in stopping the shadows from being so harsh.
The flash has helped a lot here. The sun was so bright yesterday, and shadows were always going to be a problem. I have found that you have to change the metering on your camera. You can’t take matrix metering images, it just doesn’t work. You will often find that the cyclist will become a silhouette with too much light behind. I use spot metering and spot focusing. I decide where I want to focus and what I want metered. That way you can get a well exposed cyclist and the background doesn’t matter so much.
When photographing cycling I always use shutter priority. I set what shutter speed I want and then let the camera work out aperture. It isn’t usually a problem. There are things I have found, you can slow the shutter speed down to 1/60 or 1/100 of a second and you will get that blurred background, but you have to be able to pan with the cyclists. I don’t know about other photographers, but I like to be able to see a clear face. I want the face to be in focus. I don’t mind if nothing else is, but I like to see the face.
When they are coming towards you, you need a faster shutter speed. Because I always have the flash on my camera it means that I can’t get a faster shutter speed than 1/250 of a second. So the above image would have been shot using that shutter speed.
I want to give Mitchelton Wines a plug here. They were the main sponsors for the Bay Cycling Classic, and you can see their name everywhere in the above image. They also do a VIP area, where the VIP’s and the media are allowed. I got to sample their wines and they were very nice. It was also good because there was food there as well and much needed water. I drank so much water over the days when I was photographing this event. So I would like to thank Mitchelton Wines for their support.
This is the women who have just come around another corner into the front straight. I just put this in because I get the impression you like the images of the cyclists going around corners. I have so other great ones and if you want to see them I might do another post with them in a week or so, but you have to tell me if you want to see them.
At the end of the day there are presentations. As this was the last day it was presenting the winners with their prizes and trophies. They all get champagne, or sparkling white wine, which is what we are supposed to call it. They open it up and spray it everywhere. The winner of the Elite Women’s, Melissa Hoskins, decided to spray her podium pals instead of the crowd.
Many will tell you that you need a fast camera to shoot sports, and for most sports that is true. I purchased the D300s because it took 7 frames a second. I don’t use that many frames a second for cycling. I do if I am shooting other sports, like netball, but not for cycling. They move out of the frame too quickly and you get too many blurred images. I pan and take one, then get ready for the next the one, picking my next target. I find I get a much higher success rate that way.
Someone came up to me at an event recently and asked what camera I had and did I have a problem with shutter lag. That is the time it takes for the camera to actually take the image once you have pressed the shutter-release button. This person did cycling photography with a film camera many years ago and wanted to get back into it. He had a camera that was a few models down from mine. That is something you need to consider if you are going to photograph sports.
I think that is enough. It isn’t everything, but gives you a look at how I photograph races like criteriums. I hope you have enjoyed seeing the criterium racing here in Victoria. It is becoming a bit of a tradition.