Thursday, 22 January 2009

How to Shoot Men in Lycra ( Tips for Shooting a Bike Race)

I have been spending my time over the last week covering the Tour Down Under. It is an amazing event and has been superbly organised. Everything has gone like clock work so far and we're talking about one of those Swiss Precision time pieces here. Covering the event is gruelling and I'm just taking photos, don't know how hard it must be for those actually in the race!

In the past I have I have done my fair share of Mountain Biking photography but this is my first time coving a road race and boy is it different. I have learnt a lot since Sunday and I thought I would share a few tips with those of you who are in Adelaide and are thinking of heading out to capture the event or lookinag at trying you hand at shooting some road racing.

  1. Drive the course before hand and do it in the reverse direction. This is so you can scout any good locations looking in the direction you will be shooting
  2. Use multiple bodies if you can. I have been using 3 bodies every day. One remote , one on a long lens and one intermediate or wide lens. This is crucial has you will not have time to change lenses as the wizz past. And bot do they fly, even up hill!
  3. Use the longest lens you have. This is great for creating out of focus backgrounds to make your subject pop and for compressing perspective to make the peloton bunch up. I have been using the 200-400 and took the 600 for a spin today.
  4. Use a wide lens to incorporate the scenery it can also draw the viewer into the frame if you can get close enough to the riders.
  5. Check, Check and Check again, all your settings on the camera as you don't have time to chimp you images.
  6. Have the sun on your back. The race is held either side of noon for most events, the worst possible light for us photogs. Having the sun at you back will mean the rides faces are in the sun avoiding back lit images.
  7. Use fast shutter speeds. I have been shooting aperture priority around f4 at 400ISO to get nice fast shutter speeds around 1/1000 of a second. Freezes the sweat falling from their brow (I love that shot!)
  8. Try some slow shutter speeds too. I have had sucess (and a load of duds) with shutter speeds as low as 1/80 of a second. With good panning technique you get some graet images showing loads of movement giving a different feel to the mornormal 'static' shots.
  9. Use a little fill flash. Don't fire your flash at full ppower into the eyes of a rider going into a corner at 60kph but a little judicious flash use can work wonders
  10. Wear a hat and carry a drink but don't drink too much as there is no time to stop for a pee!

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