The weather was really ugly last week, so when Joolze dropped me an email whether I would be interested in covering the first round of the Midlands XC races, I said yes, but I was praying for decent weather.
The weather turned out to be great and so did the race. I took a train to Rugby and arrived there around 10am. Since the race course was quite close to the railway station, by 10.20, I was saying hi to James, the organizers or the race. He was really nice as he provided me with a map of the course, highlighting interesting points for me. I decided to wait for the first start and then head off to the course.
The first interesting point was amongst the woods. I set up the tripod
for the flash on the right side of the camera, it leveled with the head
of the riders. I wasn`t sure at the beginning which lens should I use,
but after a few frames it turned out that the 24-70 lens might not be
wide enough, so I attached the 17-40 and it got better indeed.
Canon EOS 5D | EF 17-40 f/4@20mm | f/5 | 1/250 | ISO 400
After taking a few pictures, I moved on, finding another spot, where the cyclists were to go around a big tree. The turn was a bit tricky, as the inside of it was quite muddy, so everybody chose the upper part of the curve. The flash went to the right side of the camera again, but this time it was just a fill light, the key light came from above.
Canon EOS 5D | EF 24-70 f/2.8L@70mm | f/3.5 | 1/250 | ISO 100
This part of the course didn`t offer much more, thus I headed towards the part, where there course went through a motocross track which seemed to be a good spot. On the way there I caught Rosara Joseph, the New Zealander, law student rider on a short ascent. It seemed a pretty good spot as the background should have offered riders going both up and down, but Rosara was so ahead of the pack, that nobody was in the background.
Canon EOS 1D Mk II | EF 70-200 f/2.8L@200mm | f/3.2 | 1/1250 | ISO 100
By the time I got to the motocross section, most of the riders had already finished, so I didn`t have much chance to shoot something decent there, so I headed back to the finish line to see what`s going on there. This veteran racer just finished his race, when his kids rushed to him and looked at him with endless admiration in their eyes.
Canon EOS 5D | EF 17-40 f/4@17mm | f/8 | 1/125 | ISO 100
There was a bit paue after the morning races, but before the little kids started to gather for their race, I spotted this beautiful Klein bike from the early nineties. It showed all the characteristics of those years: the crazy colors, the rigid fork, cantilever brakes, oversized head tube and first generation Grip Shift shifters.
The guy, who owned this bike, had a daughter, who was to participate in the under-10s race. She wasn`t overly excited about the race, however, she got really excited when I asked her to take her picture.
Canon EOS 5D | EF 17-40 f/4@17mm | f/8 | 1/200 | ISO 100
The under-10s race started a little bit after 1:30 and didn`t last long, but this didd`t mean that the young riders didn`t take it seriously.
Canon EOS 1D Mk II | EF 70-200 f/2.8L@140mm | f/4 | 1/400 | ISO 100
The afternoon races started at 2:30. First the Elite Men rushed off, then the Expert Men and afterwards came the biggest crowd: the Sport Men. I waited for them right after the start, on the first ascent, right after the feeding zone.
Canon EOS 1D Mk II | EF 70-200 f/2.8L@200mm | f/2.8 | 1/1250 | ISO 100
After the start I headed back to the motocross section, hoping that I might be able to catch something that resembles to 4X. I put the flash a bit further up fill-in the face of the riders. These shots are never easy to catch, as they approach with relatively high speed and panning and framing the shot at the same time can be tricky. However, as the leader, Lee Williamson came, I managed to snap this shot, which was exactly what I wanted, so I was quite happy and soon went off to other parts of the course.
Canon EOS 5D | EF 24-70 f/2.8L@27mm | f/9 | 1/250 | ISO 100
I`ve found this spot as I was coming back from the motocross section. I lied down on the ground and apart from from some thorny things, I really liked this vantage point with the shallow depth-of-field and the the dandelions also in the frame.
Canon EOS 1D Mk II | EF 70-200 f/2.8L@170mm | f/4.5 | 1/1600 | ISO 100
I went back to the curvy part of the track in the woods, where I set up the flash a around 20-25 feet in front of me. It wasn`t intentional, but I soon realized, that this was a very good spot as I focused on a point where the riders had to make efforts to get over some roots and it made the pictures a bit more interesting as they were getting through this section.
Canon EOS 1D Mk II | EF 70-200 f/2.8L@145mm | f/2.8 | 1/250 | ISO 100
I didn`t manage to count the laps accurately but I knew that the race should be soon over. But before I headed back to the finish area, I found this little ditch, which promised a few interesting shots. I sat down in the mud (bringing waterproof trouses turned out to be a good idea afterall) and waited for them riders. I took a picture of Lee Williamson, who was still leading the race. I was lucky again, it was my first picture and it came out exactly the way I wanted. Sometimes it`s like that, sometimes I can`t quite reproduce the image I have in my mind, I guess you have to accept when pieces fall into their places – and do so when they just don`t.
Canon EOS 5D | EF 17-40 f/4L@17mm | f/4 | 1/160 | ISO 400
I went back to the finish area just in time to see him arrive. It was rather pity, that as the majority of racers had finished already, it was a bit deserted, having only Elite Men families around. There was a bit of hesitation before the medal presentations, but then they handed them out and we all called it a day.
It was really great day, the track was rather fast than challenging technically, but everybody seemed to enjoy the race and the brilliant weather. Good work James!