10 Spot / Olympics July 28

Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 200iso, f2.8, 1/4000th, Aperture Priority

One of my favorite parts about covering the Olympics is the opportunity to cover sports I never get the chance to shoot back home. Road Cycling would be added to the list of new sports for me to cover during the London Games.

A few days earlier I took the ridiculously expensive cab ride out to Box Hill to research shooting spots for road cycling. Other than checking out two turns of the empty course, I would put zero preparations into researching the sport. Some may view that as me being lazy or half assing it but with how I shoot I think it benefits me to go in with no preconceived idea of what shots are important or typical to shoot. By knowing how you’re supposed to cover a sport you end up doing what everyone else does. Who wants to be like every other photographer out there? Certainly not me!

The previous evening I had shot the Opening Ceremony and didn’t get back to hotel until after 4 am. I had a driver coming to pick me up at 7am to make the hour plus drive out to Box Hill. When my alarm went off at 6:30am I was surprisingly not near as tired as I figured to be.

I would get dropped off about a mile from my shooting location due to the roads being closed as thousands of fans walked down the road to their viewing locations. I’m not gonna lie, that one mile walk kicked my ass! It was uphill the entire way.

Here is zoomed in view of the course layout where I was shooting.

When I got to Butterfly Bend, the spot where I wanted to shoot, I started hiking up the huge hill overlooking the turn. (It was more of a mountain than a hill in my opinion) I was a short way up the hill when a woman started yelling and waving at me. Turns out the reason its called Butterfly Bend is because there are endangered butterflies that breed on the hillside. The woman who had yelled at me was a conservationist working with several Park Rangers to keep people off the grass. I was instructed with where I was allowed to shoot. Pretty much all the good spots I was unable to go to because if it wasn’t on a trail I wasn’t allowed to walk on it. Glorious!

After killing three hours writing a blog and listening to music it was finally time for the peloton of riders to reach my location for the first of their nine laps around the Box Hill portion of the course.

Below, A capacity crowd of spectators look on as the peloton of riders race around Butterfly Bend at Box Hill during the men’s cycling race.

Nikon D800, 400mm, 400iso, f5.6, 1/1600th, Manual

As the field raced up the hill I would switch lens and shoot a wide view showing the beautiful scenery the peloton was racing through.

Nikon D4, 24-70mm, 640iso, f8, 1/1250th, Aperture Priority

With the field gone I would have just over 20 minutes until they’d return for the next lap. I used that time to hike even further up the hill (on the trail!) to the road on top where a massive crowd I was not expecting were all set up.

Spectators look on as Christopher Froome (GBR) leads a pack of riders up Box Hill during the mens cycling race.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, 640iso, f6.3, 1/5000th, Aperture Priority

Using the purple flowers as my foreground I set the camera up for a slow shutter speed shot to see what I could come up with as Sylvain Chavanel lead Andriy Grivko (UKR). I wanted to shoot a slower shutter speed but it was too bright to really adjust it anymore. Damn me for forgetting my 4 stop neutral density filter!

Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 25iso, f8, 1/60th, Manual

Holding my camera up above my head (we call it a hail mary in the biz), I shot the below photo of a long line of riders making their way up to the next turn.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, 500iso, f5.6, 1/2500th, Aperture Priority

Where I had been shooting had several other photographers moving around getting different angles. I noticed they all slowly continued up the course from where I was shooting so I had to be different. I headed down. It would be a great example of being rewarded for not researching and going to the spot all the others were heading to which was a crowded area with a big valley behind.

I would find a 200 yard portion of the track with trees wrapping over the road essentially making a green tunnel. When the riders would come out of the shade into the light it made for a nice looking shot.

Michael Schar (SUI) leads a pack of riders at Box Hill during the mens cycling race.

Nikon D800, 400mm, 400iso, f2.8, 1/1000th, Aperture Priority

By changing to a real slow shutter speed I was able to take the covering of trees and turn it into a streaking world of green like this shot of Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (ARG) leading a pack of riders. Before anyone tells me how cool of a shot this is let me be honest and tell you there are probably about 100 attempts at this shot which are complete garbage. Super slow shutter speed shooting of  moving objects is like marriage, if you try it enough you will eventually make it work!

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, 320iso, f8, 1/30th, Aperture Priority

With the cliche slow shutter speed shot now checked off my list it was time to take advantage of a nice light pocket through the forest with American rider Tejay Van Garderen.

Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 800iso, f5, 1/2000th, Manual

Walking a little further down the hill I would set up in a tight hairpin turn up a dirt embankment into some trees to frame the peloton as they cleanly went through the turn.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, 320iso, f4, 1/2000th, Manual

And here is my final shot of the race as the field heads away from me on their way back to London.

Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 500iso, f3.5, 1/1000th, Manual

That wraps up a wonderful day of shooting cycling at the Olympics.

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