Cycling is growing in popularity and taking great photos during competitions is a real challenge.
During cycling competition, you’re either on a motorcycle behind the driver, or you’re in a car and make stops or you’re stationary along the side of the competition route. In every case, safety is your number one concern, so you don’t bother the cyclists and respect the right of spectators too. So if you need to park on the roadside, do it properly. At an event, you’re rarely alone, and all the hustle and bustle might make you forget you’re amidst spectators and fellow photographers positioned in front of you and behind you and all around you too.
Choosing equipment and dealing with atmospheric conditions
During mountain stages, the weather can change very quickly, and at large events, if you don’t have a special pass, you’ll need to stay in the same position certainly for more than 5 hours, and you’ll need to get there really early too. So, you’ll want to keep an eye on the weather and of course you’ll need to plan for rain, for cold, the sun’s intensity, and of course proper hydration.
Being able to anticipate
If you’ve got to cover a competition, even for a local event, you need proper planning to address event-long issues as well as sudden changes. For event-long planning: find out the hours the event will take place, check on when the roads will close, study a route map and a regular map so you can plan perhaps to make one or two stops during a particular leg of the race without bothering the racers. To be ready at a moment’s notice, make sure you have the right bag or backpack and pack your material correctly so your camera is ready for you (with the lens cap off) and right within reach. Before the cyclists pass by, there are always lots of interesting things happening: advertising caravan, spectators, landscapes, VIPs, etc.
Light and action
Once you’re in place, take time for reflection. Ask yourself some questions: where will the cyclists pass, at the right, left, or center of the route? Do you want to include the scenery in your shot or should you focus on the racer in a tight shot? Where will the sun be when the cyclists pass? Will conditions be the same in an hour’s time?
Do I have the time to set up a camera with remote control?
Sometimes curves in the route make for excellent photos, using a wide angle (and a flash). Spectators in the background can add to the intensity of the photo, but you should try to avoid shots with cars or camper vans, which can be rather non-photogenic.
Another category of photo I like to take is the descent or the round-about. You can try to position yourself below the racers and take a shot head-on with a central and unique focal point. A monopod can be a real plus for trying a shot like that.
Go ahead and try things out for yourself, and then share your experiences and your photos with others!