Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tour of California Prologue

It is a little known fact that I was into bicycling when I was in high school. I never did any racing, but I was a bit of a fanatic and completed a century around Cayuga Lake when I was in my teens. In college, I did a little bit of mountain biking, but sadly my knee got funky so I haven't been doing much biking anymore (other than transportation).

Anyway, there's no real point of the story above, except I don't follow cycling at all now. But when the Amgen Tour of California rolled through Stanford (or, more precisely, began with the Palo Alto-Stanford Prologue), I figured I might as well go take some pictures. Especially since the lab (where I've been spending a ton of time lately working on two papers) is two blocks away from the finish line.

When I got there, there were a ton of people around the oval. As always, click to see the images larger.

Since my goal was just to get a work break and exercise my shutter finger I didn't bother elbowing my way to the railing around the course. I got a few decent shots of the riders but quickly got bored. If I followed racing, I'm sure I'd be a lot more interested in shooting each rider as they came through.

I definitely have a lot of respect for sports shooters. A ton of waiting, and then only a few moments to get the shot you want. The prologue wasn't too bad because each rider comes at you all alone and it is easy to get a clean shot. But they move fast. A little slow on the shutter and you'll miss it. I was definitely glad I had 5 fps on my 20D.

The one below is notable because it is a 100% crop from an image with my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM. I've been using the Sigma 600mm f/8 so much I've forgotten how sharp a good lens is. Awesome deal, and the lens can make a pile of sh...eep look like a pile of sheep with amazing contrast, sharpness, and color.

Of course, I got bored pretty quick. Only so many "rider speeds around a turn with fans watching" pictures I can take before I need to move on. I did see a VTU (Very Tall Unicycle) though:

And then I decided to do some motion panning on the riders. I like how these came out, although there is a lot of luck involved in timing the rider to be framed in the gaps in spectators. I found an area where the far side of the course was in shadow and the near side spectators were facing the sun which helped.

Of course, I wasn't the only one shooting the race. I've NEVER seen so many expensive lenses in one place before, with everyone and their grandma toting around L-glass (or the Nikon equivalent). I saw monopods, tripods, rifle-grips, monster lenses, fill flash, you name it, and that's just the amateurs. You could spot the pros (at least the ones who got official clearance) by their vests:

That's it, I need to get back to finishing this $^%^&^* paper.

Here's the finish line (or maybe, more appropriately, some spectators looking in the general direction of the finish line):

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