Stuck in a cy­cle

Ken Eng­land is an old-school pho­tog­ra­pher – ex­cept when it comes to his bike race shots

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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 [03].

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 [02].


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.

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