London 2012: Women’s Road Race

1/4000sec, f/3.5, ISO 2500, 18mm

It’s Day 2 of the London Olympics. Yesterday, the men’s cycling road race ended with Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov winning gold and disappointment for the Team GB hopefuls who had high hopes for medals (last year’s test event was won by a Brit; sadly not this year).

Today it was the turn of the women to take to the London 2012 road race route. It’s essentially the same, but with less laps of Box Hill. Now a virtual veteran of shooting this circuit, my wife and I headed out to Twickenham to shoot the women riders. And cheer them on, of course.

Whilst snapping yesterday, it occurred to me that on both the men’s road race and last year’s test event that I always picked the outside of a corner to position myself and get my shots. The logic is reasonably sound; by being on the outside you are able to get a wider shot of the cyclists as they go past, and also often can get a chance to photograph them as they approach. It worked pretty well yesterday, as I managed to get some pretty decent images.

The downside of the outside of the corner is that the cyclists are further away, as the racing line will usually follow the inside of the corner. So yesterday whilst shooting the men, I decided that I would try the insides of corners for the women’s race; I revisited both corners I was at yesterday but positioned myself on the other side of the road.

As I set up in Twickenham, I chose to use my macro lens, working on the theory that I wouldn’t have issues of the riders getting too close to actually be able to focus on them (there was also the thought in the back of my head that I’ve used my other three lenses on cycle racing, but not that one).

Although the idea was reasonably sound, by the time the racers hit Twickenham (which is a relatively early point on the race) they were all still very bunched together, meaning they were gone in a few seconds and riding half a dozen riders deep. Picking individuals out was tricky and the images ended up looking a bit messy – but colourful, at least.

1/1600sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000, exposure bias +0.33, 100mm

Like last time, I was also very keen on photographing some of the locals. Including the grumpy ones.

1/2000sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000, exposure bias +0.67, 100mm

After the race passed through, we jumped on our bikes and cycled towards Kingston. One of the best things about cycling the journey, as opposed to walking it which is what we’ve done in the past, is you get to cycle the race route for a little while, which was nice. As we left Twickenham, it began to rain.

After we arrived in Kingston we quickly camped out the spot I’d scouted yesterday, when we’d been on the other side of the road. Annoyingly, they’d blocked off the spot with banners and barriers which hadn’t been there the day before. I decided to stop there anyway, and quickly discovered a gap on the underside of the barrier. As I’d intended on getting a low angle on the inside of the corner, I decided to use it.

1/2500sec, f/9, ISO 1000, exposure bias +0.67, 18mm

We had a couple of hours to kill. It was obvious that, because of the position I needed to put my camera in to get the shots, I’d not be able to use the viewfinder. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, my camera has a fold-out LCD screen to facilitate awkward shooting like this. This time, however, it would be an issue; when using the LCD screen, the camera uses a slower, less effective autofocus system compared to when using the viewfinder. It wouldn’t be quick enough. So I planned to use the viewfinder to frame the shot, and then switch to the viewfinder AF and shoot blind. As some support vehicles came past, I realised even that would be problematic, so I switched to manual focus and focussed to infinity.

Whilst we were waiting, we had a few spots of rain. As the race pack got closer, it became apparent that they were bring quite a thunderstorm with them as the skies darkened. I had to push the ISO up higher in the hope of getting some sharper shots. A minute or two before they arrived, we were treated to a massive flash of forked lightning and a clap of thunder that shook the ground. As the primary support vehicles started coming past, the skies got really dark and a torrential downpour started.

I stuck with my position, getting soaked through as the riders rode past. I couldn’t see what the hell I was doing, partly because the camera was at an odd position but mostly because of the rain in my eyes. Shoot shoot shoot!

1/5000sec, f/3.5, ISO 2500, exposure bias +0.33, 18mm

As soon as the main pack went past, most of the spectators turned and ran for cover. Including me. I was soaked, my camera soaked, the outside of my bag drenched. Fortunately my camera was okay, and my camera bag has already proven its prowess when it comes to resisting water. I grabbed a few shots of the soaked spectators from the dry of the entrance to a department store.

1/640sec, f/5.6, ISO 2500, 135mm (cropped to portrait)

We dove into the department store for a hot chocolate and to dry off a bit. It turned out to be a bit pointless, because on the cycle home we got caught in the rain again and well and truly soaked through again. Still, I managed to get a few food porn shots, which will come along in another post.

That’s it for the true cycling races of the Olympics. Later this week however, we’ll have the time trials, both the men’s and women’s events on the same day, which follow a different route to the road races. I’m intending to attend those as well.

Still no EXIF data on the gallery, I’m afraid. No idea what the problem is. 

5 thoughts on “London 2012: Women’s Road Race

  1. How exciting that you are there! Love the pics.


    1. Thank you. It’s great to be a part of the Games, especially as they are coming so very close!


  2. Huge amount of work to post on this scale – tells the story of the day and will be a great memory in the future


    1. Thanks Scott – I set myself the challenge of getting my Olympic posts out on the day they were shot. It’s meant a couple of slightly late nights and busy evenings, but it’s going well so far (as long as you consider 2am Sunday morning to be Saturday night, that is…).


  3. We watched the race on television. As much as I’m sure it was hard riding in the rain, it made for an exciting race.


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