kramon blog

cycling between video and photography with an HDSLR at hand

Posts Tagged ‘xcross

photographing cyclocross: let there be mud!

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Bart Wellens in action

former Cyclocross World Champion Bart Wellens in action

Cycling. When you live in my part of the world you hardly have a choice; there’s no escaping it! The northren part of Belgium (Flanders) is simply cycle-mad. EVERY event that involves cycling is BIG. There’s no ‘small’ in cycling here.

A pro-rider is the hardest working athlete in the world. If he’s not racing he’s getting those miles in by training, getting massaged, recovering, dieting or sleeping. As a portrait photographer (and video-director) I’m fascinated by this. Fascinated by these individuals who compell themselves to do this. And I, in turn, am compelled to get closer to them. Close enough to try and make an interesting picture anyway… 10 seconds max and then leave them be; to do what they have to do; race.

Mikhail Ignatiev

Mikhail Ignatiev at the start of Gent-Wevelgem 2009

My main focus is on road-racing. The peleton kicks off early march here and hardly stops riding untill early october. And then there’s this other kind of cycling-madness that kicks in; cyclocross! This year I decided that I’d get a little closer to these mud-loving-cyclists as well. I discovered a world that my camera simply couldn’t resist.

The first cyclocross-race I attended this season was the one in Overijse. I approached it the same way I did roadraces. I mounted my favorite location softbox (the Westcott Apollo 28″x28″) on my Manfrotto679B-monopod (via an 026 umbrella swivel) and went on my way with my assistant to go make some portraits before the race started. Strobist style.

assitant Anselm showing the softbox-monopod setup

Once the race started I didn’t need soft light for the action-shots, so I decided to use the hard light of my nikon-speedlights and got rid of the softbox. With the flashes still on a monopod my assistant was easely able to light/follow the fast passing riders. Crowds stand very close to the circuit in cyclocross and by using the monopod (as a boom) we were also easely able to let the flashes go over the crowds’ heads and closer to the riders where necessary.

I knew that for the next races I wanted to freeze the action of cyclocross with 2 flashes (1 main light + 1 backlight = crosslighting… sorry for the intended pun / couldn’t help myself), but then I would need 2 assistants to hold them up… Also I wanted to try and do this as a one-man-operation. Inspiration on how to do this came a little later.

Klaas Vantornout attacking the steps

Klaas Vantornout attacking the steps

At the WorldCup race in Hoogerheide (Netherlands) I met up with fellow cycling-photographer Balint Hamvas. His action pictures of cyclocross are family to what I was doing at the time and he also uses strobist-techniques to achieve this. He had a very ingenious, yet simple, way of positioning his 2 flashes around the circuit with Gorrilapods. After that I started lighting my action shots with my flashes mounted on Manfrotto-clamps that were equiped with ballheads and flashshoes. These clamps allowed me to hang/stand/attatch the flashes to almost anything around the circuit while I could still position them accurately (and relatively safely too, although riders do get pretty close to the barriers at times…).

Life can be simple.

sb800 on springclamb 175F (with shoeflash)

sb800 on springclamb with shoeflash + DIY raincover.

Free tip: when shooting in rain/snow/mud; simply cover your flash with a (see thru) plastic bag. Cheap and effective; because it let’s you use (your) IR triggering system whilst protecting your gear.

Here you can see the entire Cyclocross Project.

Note: this blogpost (my first ever) is also used on the Manfrotto School of Xcellence website: go see it there.

Enjoy.

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Written by kristoframon

March 12, 2010 at 09:14

Posted in photography

Tagged with , , , ,