Tour of California – Bike Race Coverage

The Amgen Tour of California is one of America’s greatest bike races and has been hosted in the state’s most popular cities and over the most iconic places in the past 8 years. Each year, the course gets more challenging and summons the best riders in the world to compete in this 8 day, 750 mile brutal test of endurance.

Fans gather at the summit of at category 4, 12% climb up  Balcom Canyon during stage 6 of the 2007 Tour of California.

Fans gather at the summit of at category 4, 12% climb up Balcom Canyon during stage 6 of the 2007 Tour of California.

Since the tours inception, I have been covering the race from the inaugural prologue when Levi Leipheimer reached the top of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco in record time to yesterday’s sprint through downtown Ojai. The first few years, I covered the event for Getty Images and now I photograph the race simply for inspiration.

Five image composite of Levi Leipheimer riding to his victory during the prologue stage of the 2006 Tour of California in San Francisco, California.

Five image composite of Levi Leipheimer riding to his victory during the prologue of the 2006 Tour of California in San Francisco, California.

Covering a professional road race is not easy, in fact its down right difficult. My general approach is to scout my spots using Google Earth looking for topographical features and classic viewpoints on a hill climb and the finish. Half of the entertainment is the crowd, however they pose challenges like kicking your tripod or obstructing your view. I arrive a few hours before the forecast appearance and stake my claim on a high vantage point. Even then, you can never predict the kid that’s uses your tripod as a climbing handhold or a brawl in the crowd.

Levi Leipheimer cycling to his victory up Lombard Street during the prologue stage of the 2006 Tour of California in San Francisco, California.

Levi Leipheimer cycling to his victory up Lombard Street during the prologue of the 2006 Tour of California in San Francisco.

My objectives are always the same; get great still images and a dynamic time-lapse with only one chance in a “very” short time window. The still images are pretty straight forward but you need the subject with background and the right lens. Wide stitched panoramas incorporating the scenery to tight panning telephoto shot of a time trail are techniques I employed to add value to a static still image.

George Hincapie wins stage 5 of the 2006 Amgen Tour of California in Santa Barbara, California.

George Hincapie wins stage 5 of the 2006  Tour of California in Santa Barbara, California.

The time-lapses require a much more methodical approach and luck….yes luck. When you are trying to predict something in the future, it doesn’t always happen as planned. In most cases, I set my intervals to 3 seconds at least 15 to 20 minutes before the riders appear and then change to a 1 second interval while the peloton passes and then back to 3 seconds. Sometime, I will set my motor drive on multiple images and fire at least a dozen images while they are passing. The above technique will create a “ramped” time-lapse that starts fast, slows in the middle and finishes fast. This can also be done in post, however its much better to have the data (images) when the action happens. I refer to this technique as “stop-time-lapse” and the results can be pleasantly unpredictable.

To learn more about time-lapse photography, please visit my website for the next available workshop.

Here are a few favorite still images from the race…..

The peloton during stage 3 of the 2013 Tour of California bike race passing through Ojai, California.

The peloton during stage 3 of the 2013 Tour of California bike race passing through Ojai, California.

Ivan Basso riding the time trial during stage 5 of the 2007 Tour of California in Solvang, California.

Ivan Basso riding the time trial during stage 5 of the 2007 Tour of California in Solvang, California.

Thomas Danielson,  Levi Leipheimer,  Floyd Landis and George Hincapie during stage 6 of the Tour of California in Ojai, California.

Thomas Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis & George Hincapie during stage 6 of the Tour of California in Ojai, California.

Paolo Bettini, Gerald Ciolek and Juan Jose Haedo sprinting across the finish line of stage 5 of the 2007 Tour of California in San Luis Obispo, California.

Paolo Bettini, Gerald Ciolek and Juan Jose Haedo sprinting across the finish line of stage 5 of the 2007 Tour of California in San Luis Obispo, California.

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Categories: Adventure, Photography Techniques, Time-lapse Techniques, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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