This weekend was the UCI World Cup Track Cycling at the Olympic Velodrome, the latest in the series of test events.
Now I like to ride my bike – a road bike to be sure. There’s nothing quite like coming down a decent hill, the wind ripping away at your face, senses keenly aware of every bump, and more especially every pot hole on the English country roads where I ride. But when my bike computer shows around 30 mph I must admit that I begin to lose my nerve and the fingers begin to twitch on the brakes. This weekend I realised that the weakest of the girls on the track had far more guts than I do, on a bike with a fixed gear, and no brakes to slow them even if they wanted to. These guys belt around the ramped track at speeds sometimes touching on 43 mph and do so within inches of each other.
Nikon D3, AF-S Zoom Nikkor 200-400mm f4 at 380mm, 1/640th @ f4, ISO 1600, hand held
One of the great things about photographing track cycling is that you get a wide variety of disciplines, from a single rider in the sprints going hell for leather against nothing but the clock, the cat and mouse tactics of the sprint finals, the massed riders of the scratch and elimination races and the spectacle of the riders being paced at ever increasing speed by a cute little motorcycle, the Kierin, until the last few laps when it’s an all out race to the finish.
Nikon D3, AF-S VR Nikkor 500 mm f4, 1/640th @ f4, ISO 1250, Gitzo Monopod
Of course the Kierin has become a British speciality, this being one of Sir Chris Hoy’s gold medals in Beijing, as well as world champion no less than three times. Chris has announced he wants to add to this tally at the Games, and his win in the event yesterday puts him well on the road.
Nikon D3, AF-S VRÂ Nikkor 500 mm f4, 1/640th @ f4, ISO 1250, Gitzo Monopod
If you get a chance to go to a track meet take it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spend time experimenting and honing your techniques at photographing high speed sport. This sport lends itself to panning techniques and I spent a fare bit of time experimenting with different shutter speeds, and lens combinations.
Nikon D3s, AF-S zoom Nikkor Nikkor 24-70 mm at f2.8 set to 66mm, 1/30th @ f11, ISO 640, hand held
In a shot like the above it’s important to pick a point to focus on, in this case the rider’s head and try and keep the active focus point on your camera exactly on the same spot throughout the pan. Here I also decided to make a strong crop of the original image to create almost a panorama effect.
Nikon D3s, AF-S zoom Nikkor Nikkor 24-70 mm at f2.8 set to 50mm, 1/60th @ f11, ISO 640, hand held
Here’s another shot with the same lens, this time a little wider than the first and shot with the riders still well away from me. Note how by doing this you have a dual effect, first the rider you are focusing on remains relatively sharp, but, due to the out of focus riders behind, attention is always drawn back to that leading rider.
Nikon D3s, AF-S zoom Nikkor Nikkor 80-200 mm at f2.8 set to 200mm, 1/800th @ f2.8, ISO 800, hand held
Finally, don’t forget to get in for some close-ups of the way out gear these riders wear. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I’d go faster if I had a helmet like that!
To see a selection of my images from the World Cup click on the Search tab and enter the key word velodrome