Time to Grind USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Vail, Colorado. 2011 saw the inaugural running of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge- arguably the state’s greatest professional road race ever! For photographers, shooting pro cycling events has to be one of the best opportunities to capture images that are usually only available to the élite sports photographers and picture warehouses, i.e. Getty Images, etc. A figurative comparison would be an enthusiast photographer being allowed to set up and shoot on the 50 yard line of a NFL football or NBA Basketball game. Their simply is no other professional sport where you, as a photographer, can be inches away from the subject superstar athletes as with pro cycling- and we all know getting in close makes for great pics!
This amazing opportunity, to get up close to your subject (and I mean really close), lends itself to discussing the above image. Notwithstanding the image’s reversed colors, which is something I truly enjoy playing with until I get a desired effect, I could literally reach out and touch these guys as they raced by. It is my experience and something I struggle with often, that photographers want to use their big glass. I captured this image with my Nikkor 300mm/2.8 VRII lens (big/expensive glass) and although I was fairly successful at creating the desired effect, compressing the peloton while focusing in on a single rider (somewhere in the middle) with the foreground and backgrounds blurred (without manipulating for a shallow depth of field; this pic was shot at an aperture of f/8; 1/1000 sec.; and, ISO 400), the image could just as easily been shot using a 85mm prime/telephoto set to a larger aperture, i.e. using a lens that’s 1/10 the cost of what’s been used here.
The point to be considered here is this, despite seeing every professional photographer lugging around two huge lenses at nearly every professional sporting event, the enthusiast photographer with any decent mid telephoto prime or zoom with a large aperture f/1.4 – f/2.8 can create the above effect- because with pro cycling, they can get close to their subject (unlike other/similar compression techniques used in landscape photography where subjects are often shot at great distances). What you do with your images’ color, well that’s another matter altogether!