My Giro d'Italia experience
My husband and I are both avid cyclists (mostly with trekking/touring bikes) and we enjoy following professional bike racing. This year we started our vacation to southern Italy (we drove down with our bikes on the car) a day early so we could catch a stage of the Giro that went through Bologna, a convenient halfway point for us. We arrived in Bologna with a hour to spare and made our way to a point where we could ge a good view of the race. As it happens this stage was the longest and flattest and Bologna was about halfway through the race. When they reached us their speed was about 60-70kmh.
All taken with my Panasonic G81 with a 14-140 (28-280) zoom. This was my first experience being so close to a bike race. The results weren't exactly what I had hoped for but at least I have memories of the race. As I'd expected, it was over in seconds. What I hadn't been prepared for was the sound of all those whirring chains as they sped by. Cool!
So here's how it played out: we arrived about 45 minutes in advance and got a good viewing spot.
1) About 20 minutes before the riders came through we started seeing the parade of police cars and motorcycles, vans selling Giro merchandise (I got a cap and t-shirt for 10€ ) and the equipment cars. And I mean LOTS of equipment cars.
2 & 3) after what seemed like a never-ending stream of cars, we finally saw the riders. At this point there were two with a 30 second lead followed by the entire peleton. (These two got swallowed in to the peleton a few km later.)
4 & 5) the peleton approaches!
6) for some reason my camera got pointed too low for a second...
7, 8 & 9) the peleton whirred by, inches from us.
10) and quicker than you could blink they had passed us and the excitement over
We walked back to our hotel and watch the end of the race on TV, getting a much better view of things than we had at the sidelines. In spite of that, I'd do it again in a flash, but the next time at the summit of one of the climbing stage, where the tempo is slower.
Nicely done documentary of the start of the first lap of the race!
No need for apologies on number 6; it's simply a unique perspective of the hardware, sans riders and background.
I appreciate the "break-away" capture in number 3, the impressive "Gallery" of riders in 4 and 5, and the "framed recessional" view of number 10, framing provided courtesy the two, flanking support vehicles.
Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
Sara, I like #6 a lot. Mistake or not, it is the intricacies of races and riders such as these that make up the whole. Glad you decided to show that one and it might be one of your best shots. Graham Watson, very famous race photographer always added minutia and the "little bits" of racing to round out his work. I learned a lot from his photography. Look him up -- he's even on Smugmug! https://school.smugmug.com/Success-Stories/Cycling-Sports-Graham-Watson and his shots: https://photos.grahamwatson.com/ I deeply appreciate your take on the Giro. I raced both road and track at a much much younger age than I am now and wish that my knees, hips and feet could do even a fraction of what I was once able to ride. As such, I now delight in photographing bike races as I have a somewhat unique perspective of what goes on in the peloton and break-away groups and can set up for those shots in advance. Super weird having my mind on/in an event and also with my camera equipment simultaneously -- it serves me well when I'm behind the camera. And even then, it is exhausting running around an event always setting up for the next shots, but I love it. I really can't shoot sports worth a darn, except for bike racing.
You mentioned the sounds. Yes, that is what takes spectators off guard. That, and the wind from the group at those speeds. Nobody expects that their fist time. 50++ years later, it still gives me the chills! In a criterium race, it goes on and on, and that sound can feed my soul for a good long while. So very glad for you two being able to experience the sport in that way, and at that level.
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
@ziggy53 , @David_S85
Thank you both for your taking the time to comment! It was a learning and extremely humbling experience - I took a couple hundred pictures and these were some of the few usable. I am completely in awe of anyone who gets good race shots. Hat's off to you, Dave! And the photographers that ride around on motorcycles get an extra amount of awe from me. Dave, thanks for the tip about Graham Watson - I checked out the links - great shots!
Ziggy, those two of the peleton were somewhat unusual because the street was so wide that many riders were at the same level, something you don't always see. And because the pack was so wide, they passed us even more quickly than on a narrow street. I must remember to search out a narrow street the next chance I get to see one of these races live. Next year we may try to see one of the mountain stages of the Giro as the Dolomites are only about 4-5 hours away from us.
Thanks, Sara, for taking me along on another great excursion. I always feel like I get a perspective from your work and comments that are, of course, unique to you but make me feel like I'm there with you. And that's regardless of the trip involved. Kudos.
That #6 shot is pure dynamite. So, too, for the brood views of the peleton. That motorcycle in #4 with the dual front wheels is something you don't see a lot of.
I agree with David that 6 is the best. It provides a unique perspective and sense of motion.
@black mamba @Juano
Tom, Cristóbal - thanks for taking the time to comment. Your words are much appreciated!
I agree that I like #6 quite a bit. The pattern of the shoes and the wheels works for me, without the confusion of all the heads overlapping each other, outside of the frame. Many of the shoes are the same brands,
The dual front wheeled tricycle in #4 probably is a more stable platform - any motorcycle rider who ferries passengers who won't sit still, will understand what I am talking about, I am always amazed at the motorcycles with the pro videographers on the back seat twisting, leaning from side to side, and turning in their seat, to get the framings they want - while shifting the center of gravity of the bike hither and yon for the rider in command of the steering. I can see that two front wheels might be more secure.
Sara, did you try to get back in your car and race ahead of the peloton to shoot the field some more? Probably not possible in urban areas, but I have chased trains like that now and again, from a motorcycle, stopping and shooting and then racing ahead of the train to capture it again at another crossing. But this was always done in open country in the western US, not in towns.
I like the 14-140 lens on m4/3 bodies, like the G8, for light, fast shooting, too.
Many open country races consist of long waits at trackside by the spectators, for the racers - bicycles, cars, horses, or motorcycles - to appear very briefly, and then they are gone up the track, leaving the spectators wishing for more.
Thanks for the write up of your experience, it is great story.
Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
Jim, thanks so much for your extensive comments!
We briefly considered this option but quickly decided against it for several reasons, the principal opne being that we'd never visited the Bologna area before so we had no idea how long it would take us to get in and out of town and what the traffic would be like. Added to that was the fact that we'd gotten out of bed at 4:30am to drive the 6 1/2 hours to Bologna to arrive in time to see the race. It turned out to be a wise decision - we had a lovely evening in Bologna and hit the road early the next day for the rest of the drive to southern Italy.
I have the newest version of the lens which lives on my G81. It's an incredibly practical combination for bike touring - light enough to carry in my handlebar bag. I can stop and have the camera out and ready to shoot in a manner of seconds. There may be lots of better camera/lens combinations out there but this combi fits the requirements of my situation perfectly.
This is why we have decided that the next time we go to see a Giro d'Italia or Tour de France stage it will be in the mountains on a narrow road where the riders are moving a bit slower and the pack is more stretched out.