01.15.17: Faces of competition

Faces of competitors, 2009 Tour de Grandview bicycle race, Grandview Heights, Ohio. 


Technical information

June 28, 2009,
3:51 p.m.

39°58’44” N,
83°2'50" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 40D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L   


1/500th second


When shooting a colorful action sport like bicycle racing it pays to know the course and plan your shots.

I photographed the Tour de Grandview Cycling Classic each June before they changed it to a one-day evening event — not the best time of day for action sports photography — a few years ago. I knew the hilly, curvy course very well. 

I’ve used a variety of lenses — from wide-angles to get the bikes whizzing past me on a turn to telephoto zooms for longer-range shots. But for a really tight shot of riders that compresses the foreground and background elements while dropping the background into a blur of colors I need to use a very long lens like my Canon EF 600mm f/4L.

I wanted to get a tight shot showing the riders’ faces with a lot of color so I positioned myself at the end of a straightaway heading into a sharp left turn. I assumed that position could provide the best chance for an uncluttered shot as riders peeled to the right of the frame to make the turn. I focused on riders near the edge of the peloton and grabbed a few shots.

Several of the photos from this position achieved my goal but this was my favorite. The two riders in the foreground are already looking to their left, preparing to make the turn. The positions of the three faces provide a flow to the photo and illustrate the crowdedness of the peloton. The colorful cycling jerseys in the background are reduced to a blur.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.