I received an email a few weeks back from a race promoter, asking if I would partner with the race and shoot the photos for it. While this doesn’t sound like an unusual request, in MI cycling it is. Most races don’t have a “go-to” photographer. There are photographers who you know will be there, and you hope they get a picture of you, but there aren’t really race photographers. I was glad that he thought of me and gave me one of the biggest complements I’ve ever received as a cycling photographer, he said “There are a lot of race photographers around, but you are the most professional and take the best pictures.” To receive that sort of complement from someone who’s been around cycling and triathlons was a huge deal for me, especially since this race was put on by a team that has a few photographers in it’s midst.
On top of asking me to be the photographer for the race, he also sent me the contact of a man from Specialized. This man was flying out to meet up with a team that they sponsor. Since most of the team was going to be together he wanted me to take some photos of the team for specialized to use for marketing purposes. I was excited and scared by the offer. I sent him my rates and he accepted… While being the “best” in Michigan is a huge deal, being able to shoot for a global company was a way bigger deal.
So I figured out some new lighting techniques I had wanted to try and called up a friend to help me out, I needed eyes up the road to call out when the specialized group was coming. This race was a time trial. Easy to shoot, but still having an extra pair of eyes is best. Time trials if you don’t know, are where the racers go alone 30 seconds apart and the fastest time wins. My friend Blaine was the best assistant I could ask for, some would say too good. He was using short codes to tell me who was coming, it took me a few riders to figure out his code, that’s how good he was.
It was a really sunny day, the weather was perfect. The sun made the flashes I was using look pretty neat. I was happy with the results of shooting the race. I used some new techniques and some good standard fall back techniques. I managed to get to 2 different locations, but shooting from both sides of the road, you would assume I was in 4.
I had as much fun as you can have at a Time Trial. Blaine ended up picking up a camera and shooting some too. At some point he said “this is way harder than it looks” which is true. Photographing races are so tricky, you have to deal with the weather, lack or abundance of sun light, nature all around you – wether it’s dead tree’s or someone mowing the lawn. So many factors end up making or breaking your photos. Not to mention the speed of racers, your placement vs where they ride, and the color of the kits they are wearing. Shooting someone wearing hot pink vs shooting someone wearing black changes the over all color and brightness of your picture. All of which you have to think about while taking photos at rapid speed. It’s not for the lazy, that’s for sure.
But, on with the story. Time Trial was fun to shoot, fun to hangout with Blaine, he’s normally my right hand man when it comes to bike races and things, so having him here kept everything rolling smooth. Plus guys love to talk to guys about cycling, so where I falter, Blaine picks it up. After the race, we headed back to the Specialized Team tent and waited to see what was going to happen next.
While the kids ate their lunch their coach talked to them about racing in Time Trials and some other things, then he handed it over to Scott from Specialized. Scott told the team about the bike they were riding, the Allez, the history of aluminum bikes and some history of Specialized. The team seemed really interested in it, they asked some really good questions.
The best part of the whole day… Was right after Scott finished talking about bike the coach of the team asked him how the kids can promote Specialized. Scott talked about how these kids are the face of cycling today. So when they see people riding bikes, any sort of bike, just to stop and talk to them. Not that they had to talk about the bike, not that they had to convince them they needed to race. Just that cycling was fun and more people should do it. Answer questions, even the silly ones, like “why do you wear spandex?”
It was nice to be around someone who saw what cycling should be in the future. Not to be bogged down by the past (and some of the current). He was making these kids ambassadors for the sport. If 1/2 of the adults I know talked about cycling like this, talked to bike riders like this, I think America would see a side of cycling that it doesn’t really know.
It made the shoot, for me, mean more than just taking pictures, more than some kids on bikes, more than a bike company. It was about how people will see the future. And I was a little part of that.
After that talk, we went and found a scenic bridge and I took some group photos of the team. It was fun directing them to be a team, but it turns out that Scott wanted some different pictures, which the team and I were happy to help with. Overall, Scott wanted to show that while these kids are the future of cycling, they are also having a ton of fun… And boy, was he right.