Returning to cycling photography

I fired off an email to Michael, the organiser of The Race Around the Netherlands back in February asking if I could help out as a photographer after seeing his appeal for volunteers on the website. I didn’t really know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the challenge given me, to get an image of every rider. I figured the easiest way to begin would be to photograph each rider as they registered for the event at the HQ, De Proloog in Amerongen.

This turned out to be harder work than I’d expected, as the registration lasted from noon right up until the ‘pasta party’ at 8pm, without any real break in-between. I was taking the pictures outdoors and the weather was pretty cold so by the finish I was glad to sit down and enjoy the evening meal.

Our goal for these events is to get at least a picture of every rider during the event…
The issue is that just after one day the riders will be separated already by a day which makes it impossible to get a picture from everyone.

– Michael Wacker

To say I was a little nervous would be an understatement, as it had been many years since I’d last covered a cycling event seriously and I no longer had the professional kit I used back then. But if there’s one thing I’m known for, it’s giving everything I have to achieve my goals and I finished the day rather pleased with the images I’d taken of the riders. Then it was back to the hostel for a batch of image editing before catching some sleep and preparing for the off the next morning.

Breakfast at De Proloog

The breakfast and then pre-race briefing was an opportunity to capture a few more images before the riders were sent off at 08:00 hrs. For me, this was a pretty low key affair as I saw other members of the team taking both video and still images, giving me the opportunity to choose my moments when to step up and take additional pictures. As soon as the riders had left I said my goodbyes and set off on the return journey to Groningen, where I would arrange the second half of my photography and this time, capture the riders in action.

Michael giving the pre-race briefing

After having done a recce of potential spots to take pictures the previous weekend, we (my family and I) had chosen the village of Pieterburen to use as the headquarters for our camping holiday. As a volunteer I also had to share my time with the girls and Hilke, but in reality this didn’t work out very well and I owe them another proper holiday! However, because of the restrictions imposed on me by my serious immobility issues, it turned out to be a nice location from which to obtain the images I needed.

Simon – the Ninja Warrior

The four days I spent in Pieterburen waiting for the riders to come through were tough, not just because of the waiting (often the riders were so spread out I sat on the roadside for lengthy periods of time) but mostly because of the weather. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all those taking part, because it was more like middle of winter than springtime.

My abiding memory was the arrival of Simon Tang (from Hong Kong) kitted out just like a ninja warrior. On the original photo it was so dark you could not see his face and the picture was taken in extremely cold conditions. This is why I shoot in RAW format, so I’m able to edit the images later to get a decent picture.

But I don’t just remember Simon for his brave cycling – he’s got a wicked sense of humour as I found out later that night when he joined us (along with a few other RATN riders) on the campsite. Sat trying to get warm in the communal caravan, the chatter turned to how crazy they all were and he began singing from Monty Python!

Always look on the bright side of life.
Always look on the right side of life,

Life’s a piece of shit,
When you look at it.

– Simon Tang
It was good to see so many ladies taking part

I never caught all the riders coming through my section and I’m more than a little disappointed by that. Yet in reality that’s an extremely big ask for a volunteer photographer who is restricted to just the single location. If I’m asked to return again, I hope to be much more mobile and therefore able to follow or leapfrog the riders, allowing me to capture them in different locations. This makes photographing the whole field much more doable.

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2 thoughts on “Returning to cycling photography”

  1. I am extremely happy with the beautiful picture made at signup. Hopefully the other pictures made on the first riding day will also show up. Sad that I had to leave the RATN the second day because of a broken handlebar. The picture makes this a little more better.
    See you Hopefully next year also

    Cap 67, Ed Bos

    1. derekboocock

      I’ve been working on optimizing the images Ed, so hopefully they’ll all load correctly now. Thanks.

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