The Tour of Britain 2017 a cycling photographer's viewpoint

Being a very keen cyclist & fan of cycle racing, when the Tour of Britain route was announced with two stages close to home I began planning a couple of days following the action. Cycle races offer endless opportunities for different & unique images, speed, emotion, detail, colour and with a little planning it's relatively easy to find different perspectives to capture the real story of the occasion.

On September 5th the Tour commenced at Normanby Hall & finished in Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire. Despite the pouring rain we set off early on our bikes with a plan to see the race in three separate locations, crossing Keadby Bridge, at the intermediate sprint in Bottesford and at the finish line. Travelling light my camera of choice on the 5th was my iPhone 6s.

Whilst the iPhone is a great, convenient travel camera it has it's limitations. Like all cameraphones & compact cameras it works best in good light. Although it has the ability to adjust exposure it's not great for multiple shots and is quite fiddly to adjust.

At Keadby Bridge the rain was unrelenting and other than the five breakaway riders, the peloton were just seeing out the wet early phase of the race.

Team Sky had by far the greatest support roadside and were highly visible at the head of the peloton. The very popular Geraint Thomas putting in the majority of the work pulling the peloton along.

Team Sky were protecting race Leader Elia Viviana

Team Sky rider Elia Viviani wearing the race leaders Green Jersey.

The peloton rolling through

Slightly disappointed with my photos at Keadby Bridge I thought the intermediate sprint at Bottesford would be a great opportunity to use the iPhones video capability. Grabbing a spot right on the sprint line I knew things were were going to be fast & furious, the addition of hundreds of school children opposite was also going to crank up the decibels.

We moved on to the stage finish in Scunthorpe and finally the sun came out, even if only for a short period of time. Compare the great job the iPhone has done now it has better light to work with, suddenly the colours are alive and the detail is rendered accurately.

We had a great view of the sprint finish as the leaders came round a sweeping left hand bend and across the line. The crowds were three & four deep along the finish route, a fantastic turnout.

Again however the limitations of the iPhone became apparent, despite it having a generally fast lens the high speed photos (taken in burst mode) were disappointing with a lot of motion blur.

Cycle races are so much more than just photographing cyclists shooting past and a little pre-panning and research can open up opportunities to get closer to the cyclists & the atmosphere of the race day. See below for more photos from the Team Buses in Newark but for now here I am with sprint ace Mark Cavendish post race.

On to Wednesday 6th and the race passing through Nottinghamshire to finish in Newark. The excitement in Southwell was building long before the race arrived with some residents making the most of the elusive sunshine to get their (cycling) washing done!

Local children were enjoying their first day at school, hope they don't think everyday is like this.

Once again a break away group had built a significant lead as it blasted through Southwell

and they weren't holding back as they came down the slight downhill past the Minster

The peloton were in hot pursuit and had little time to enjoy the scenery

Today Team Sky's Elia Viviana was wearing the jersey of the points race leader

The route of the race allowed us to quickly jump into the car and drive down to the stage finish in Newark town centre.

As a big cycling fan as well as a photographer I decided to stand and watch the stage finish rather than photograph it. I'm so often aware of how we feel the need to photograph these events resulting in our view being that presented by our cameras.

Do we really experience the moment? Does our camera create a barrier between the photographer and the event? Are our resulting memories just a series of photographs rather than the experience of being present at that time?

The break away was caught just outside Newark and the teams with specialist sprinters fought to set up the finish for their riders. Stood on the inside of a slight bend, fifty metres from the finish line the experience of the sprinters rushing past literally inches from us and at speeds of 50-60 mph was extraordinary and one I've experienced a number of times before. I know that watching this spectacle through the viewfinder of my camera diminishes the experience and takes away some of the enjoyment, on this occasion I was happy with my decision.

Once again I'd researched the location of the Team buses but today, armed with my main camera, Canon 5d mkIII, I wanted to capture some of the emotion of the race and planned to get close to the riders as they made their way from finish line to their buses. I waited at a bend I knew the riders would have to come around and took up a low position so I could shoot up into the face of the riders as they passed. Where I possible I called to the riders as they passed, hoping to make eye contact and hopefully extracting some emotion.

Finding the team buses and being there when the riders arrive post finish is a great opportunity for detail and close up shots. You need to work quickly though and be prepared to fight for your position, the teams pack up quickly and there are usually lots of people hoping for selfies & autographs.

It's a great chance to get close to some of the high profile riders as they give their press interviews and warm down.

Look out for unusual, interesting angles and details that can tell a story of the race or the individuals within it.

The bikes racked up on the support cars or lined up on turbo trainers provide geometric interest, repeating patterns and eye catching colours.

There are so many sports events which make great photography subjects, football matches, marathons, cycle races. With lots of people taking photos it's easy to fall into the trap of taking the same (standard) photos as everyone else. The key is to add personality, search for the story &/or the emotion and be unique. Do your research and plan your locations, try and locate where you can get close to the action or the participants and prepare your kit. If you do get close be polite but confident to get into the action, knowing some of the names of the athletes and how they're doing will help you anticipate how happy they might be to being approached and the ability to call their name might just get you some eye contact. Get in close and enjoy the event.

Photos taken with iPhone 6s & Canon 5dmkIII, video by iPhone 6s.

Adam Winfield is lead photographer with Through the Lens Photography and lead tutor with Lincolnshire Photo Training

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