I really liked Spencer Murphy‘s winning picture in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize of the jockey Katie Walsh, taken immediately after a race. It was part of a series of similar portraits of sportsmen and women taken after competing their event. They were powerful images that showed the commitment that the subject had given to their efforts and the condition it left them in.
It brought to mind a similar set by Timm Kölln. His were taken of the professional cycling peloton at the end of races and also showed the scars of battle, the mud, sweat and the toll that the effort had taken.
Cycling is MY sport and so I’m a little biased perhaps, but I believe cycling, in all of its many forms, is a most photogenic of sports. Best of all though is cyclocross. This involves riding a bike better suited to tarmac off-road, usually on muddy, off-camber courses with obstacles and/or short climbs that mean shouldering the bike and running. In Belgium, it is the national sport. Huge crowds attend races there and its riders are household names.
In the UK, races are around sports fields, occasionally country parks and in Leicestershire, around the back of Tescos. It is a most unglamorous spectacle but always fun for both riders and spectators. On Sunday, I went along to the Leicestershire round of the West Midlands Cyclocross League, with the idea of trying get some similar pictures. I didn’t have a lighting rig and back-drops like the two photographers I mentioned above. Nor did I have the elite athletes at the peak of their fitness…
Instead, I had a cheap flash and the riders of Leicester Forest Cycling Club. I wanted to catch the pain of their efforts. It had been a cold, muddy race under leaden skies and I hoped to catch some of that atmosphere, enhanced a little with some contrast and de-saturation. Not quite Murphy or Kölln but I like the set.
You can see more of the portraits on my Flickr stream.
And my more general pictures of the races on the LFCC Flickr page.