Stuck in a cycle
Ken England is an old-school photographer – except when it comes to his bike race shots
Having used film cameras, I can’t shake off the discipline of composing photographs via the viewfinder to get it right first time. I am a novice user of Photoshop, so I don’t have the luxury of relying on editing my images to correct any issues – whether it’s with framing or with anything else. I keep trying to improve my editing skills, but I’d always prefer to get things right in camera.
I try to think – and look – outside the box and present a subject from a different perspective, as a number of my cycling images hopefully show. What the eye sees in 3D can’t always be replicated in a 2D photo, however, so I’m not always capable of capturing what I’ve visualised.
I wanted to capture a sense of speed in my cycling images, and having tried panning shots and failed, I remembered an article in N-Photo on using the zoom while shooting. On my first attempt at this technique, which I found quite challenging to master, five out of the eight images I took worked out really well .
On other occasions I’ve tried shots similar to some I took when I photographed Formula 1 races in the late 1960s, using a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens to capture a number of cyclists at the moment they hit the finish line .
It’s great to see a photographer use creative techniques to go above and beyond the norm, Ken – and you’ve certainly progressed from your self-confessed traditional style to some fantastically creative shots. You’ve got plenty of images covering an array of subjects, but your cycling shots stand out as being particularly well executed.
The finishing line shot is excellent, but I’d be willing to push the shutter speed even slower to capture the cyclists as coloured streaks rather than just slightly blurred – this will make for a much more creative effect, as just slight blurring can appear unintentional.
Panning shots are a great way of conveying the impression of speed in cycling, as you’ve mentioned, so it’s worth persevering to master the technique. Try to place yourself on the inside of a turn and, using a shutter speed of 1/60 sec, follow the cyclist. A flashgun, set to rear curtain sync so it fires at the end of the shot, and with a diffuser attached so you don’t startle the cyclist, will ensure the subject is sharp at the end of the shot without ruining the blur effect.
If you’re going to take sports photography more seriously you might also want to consider buying a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. The constant, wide maximum aperture means the focus speed is fast throughout the range, enabling you to act quickly to take advantage of any opportunities that arise during an event.