We have another Photo Premium tutorial exclusively available to Premium members today. In this tutorial, we’ll take a look into photographing a 200-mile bike race. Learn more after the jump!
With the Tour de France ending this Sunday, we’ll take an in-depth look at cycling photography. I recently photographed a 200-mile, one day bike race through rural Ohio in the United States. While its prestige wasn’t quite on the level of “Le Tour,” it was still intense and fun.
1. Pack for the Race
The first thing you need to do is pack for the race. I wanted to be high mobile. So along with my Nikon D700, I packed a small kit of three lenses: a 24mm f/2.8, a 50mm f/1.8 and a 70-210mm f/4. Honestly, I could have used my 70-210mm for almost all my photos.
I also packed a lot of water, almost a gallon. I was stationed about 5-10 miles away from any modern conveniences, and with all the work I would be doing on the heat, I didn’t want to get dehydrated.
I also packed my smart phone with GPS, so I could identify where I was on the route if I got lost. It really came in handy.
Finally, you’ll need a mode of transportation unless you really just want to shoot one part of the race. Because I knew the main pack of riders would be spread out and the race was out in the country, I just used my car to get around. But a bicycle or motor scooter would have worked, too. You don’t necessarily need to go faster than the cyclists. On most courses, there will be short cuts to get from one part of the route to another.
2. Map the Course
Unlike most of the Tour de France, most lower profile bike races will have a series of loops scheduled in the course. At the very least, they will likely end where they began. Due to the 200-mile distance of this race, every rider was required to do three 16-mile loops at the end of race.
You can see a map of this loop in the photo above. As you can see there are several roads that cut through the loop making it easier to “cut off” riders and get several pictures of them during one trip around the loop instead of waiting in one spot.
It’s important to remember that most long distance cycling racers will average between 15 and 25 miles per hour. Obviously, hills can affect this speed, and at big races, the pace will quicken to almost 50 miles per hour near the finish.
3. Look for the Light
Looking at the map and noticing what time of day your cyclists will be coming through will further allow you to plan your day. This race finished up in the evening. The sun sets in the west. By looking at the map, you can see the top stretch of the loop might not be the best place for pictures because the sun will be at the rider’s backs.
The rest of the course offered be relatively nice side light with the exception of the section at the bottom of the map. At that point the cyclists were biking straight towards the sun.
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