Photographing “Le Tour”

By the time you read this, it’s likely that Bradley Wiggins will have become the first Brit ever to win the Tour de France.

With this year’s success of the British riders, the press has been full of amazing action photos from the Tour. And it’s hard not to admire the technique required to capture pin sharp images of Cavendish crossing the line at high speed.

From the side of the road, the chaotic speed and closeness of the riders makes good photography difficult. This may account for the many cycling images taken “head-on” with a long lens.

Spectators and roadside clutter are two other hurdles to overcome. But some of the most powerful images make good use of the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Tour, particularly on the mountain stages where riders are going slower and spectators nudge ever closer to them.

I’ve watched a few of the Tour stages over the years, but my own images compare  poorly to the professional photos above.

More by luck than anything else, I captured this image of Lance Armstrong in his Leader’s yellow jersey in 2003.

And more recently, the power of the approaching Pelaton in the 2009 Tour.

My amateur efforts remind me that successful photography is often more about choosing the right location and being there at the right time, than it is about camera and other technique.

The roadside atmosphere of “Le Tour” is a unique experience – as much a chaotic carnival than a pure sporting event. I made this short AV of our experience at the roadside, grabbing a (very) brief glimpse of a Stage of the 2007 Tour. It lasts about 4 minutes – 2 minutes longer than our view of the actual event!

Photographing any major sporting event can be a special challenge. If you have tried this for yourself why not tell us about it and show some of the resulting images?                                                                                                   Gary                                                              

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