Leicester Forest Road Race

Snaps from today’s Leicester Forest Cycling Club road race. The racing pictures are not my usual thing, and for me at least, less interesting than the shots taken before and after the race, of the riders preparing and recovering.

It was fun to use a digital camera again after mainly shooting film this year, and I got to waste frames that wouldn’t have been taken on film. That said, I wish I could see these on some lovely Neopan, shot through Summicron glass… Continue reading

Assignment 5: Narrative and Illustration – Subject Choice

At the weekend I took photographs of the Leicester Forest Cycling Club’s road race. Rather than just shoot pictures of the race itself, I asked people that were riding if they’d mind me following them for the day, the idea being that the set would have a more narrative feel and tell the story of ‘a day in the life of a bike racer’.

Fortunately, one of the riders didn’t say ‘no’ quickly enough and I arranged to go to his house on the morning of the race. Simon is diabetic and so seeing the additional preparation that he needed to do added a further dimension to the story. Si needs to keep blood sugars under control while racing at very high heart rate for almost two and a half hours. To do this he makes flapjack to his own recipe and packs it in small, bite-sized packages that will be easy to eat during the race.

Next I met with a group of clubmen who would be the race marshals later in the day. They were riding to the event and had stopped for breakfast at a café en route. At race HQ I photographed racers signing on and preparing themselves – each with their own routines and superstitions. After rider and marshal briefings, the race got underway. During the 9 laps, I moved around the circuit before positioning myself at the finish line for the last couple of circuits.

I shot the day on both digital and film (using my favourite Fujifilm Neopan, processing and scanning at home) and thought I’d decide if this material would be suitable for my final assignment in the Art of Photography module (Illustration and Narrative) once I’d seen the results. I’ve decided against it because while they do tell a story, it is simply a collection of photographs of the event. It feels like at this stage of the course we should be offering more than straight-forward documentary. This is our first real opportunity to bring some deeper conceptual ideas and personal comment on a subject.

So instead, I’m going to go with a project that I’m working on to do with the loss of sense of community in small villages. As it looks like I won’t be able to progress further on the course, I can take my time submitting this final assignment, and so can spend the winter collecting images for the set.

 

The versions presented below and those in the Flickr slideshow further down are heavily processed and certainly not suitable for submission in this form.

Personal Work – Pit Crews

Today I went along to the National Cyclocross Championships in Derby. I’ve written before about what a photogenic sport cyclocross is and today didn’t disappoint. With the wet weather of the last week and two days of racing already, the course was fantastically muddy. In cyclocross, riders can change bikes, once or twice per lap as they pass through the pit area. The bikes are then taken by the rider’s helpers to be washed, oiled and checked over before the rider comes back around and repeats the cycle.

Most pit crews have small, petrol driven jet washes that proved pretty much essential in today’s conditions. What the organisers may not have considered, is that by corralling the pit crews in to a dedicated area for bike washing, the water used added to the already sodden ground and it became an ankle deep swamp. The jet wash area was 150m from the pit and the spectacle of the helpers, covered head to toe in waterproofs and mud, running with expensive racing machines through the clag was too good to miss.

I had had the idea to try to shoot all of the pictures I needed for my second assignment – Elements of Design – but was having too much fun wandering around the pits. In fact, I ended up with very few pictures of the riders. I’ll save them for a post elsewhere…

What was encouraging for my studies, was that I asked a few of my subjects if I could take their pictures. I usually struggle with asking to photograph strangers, but the ridiculousness of adults messing about in the mud meant that people were having fun and happy enough for me to take their picture.

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Personal Work – Cyclocross

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.

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You can see more of the portraits on my Flickr stream.

And my more general pictures of the races on the LFCC Flickr page.

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