Capturing the Action – HSBC National Downhill Series Round 4

So Round 4 of this years HSBC National Downhill Series was at Rhyd-Y-Felin which is just down the road from Revolution Bike Park. Ideal for me as I could just walk down the road and to get there.

The Rhyd-Y-Felin track (also known as the Bala Track) that was going to be raced was very similar to the Pearce race that was held there at the end of June so I sort of knew the track as I covered the Sunday race day. After walking 1 mile down the road to the race venue I found the media people signed in and collected a media Jersey that was all mine for the weekend.

Saturday was practice day and by the time I had walked down, got my jersey and then made my way up the hill it was on it’s way to 11 o’clock. I set up in my first spot and got shooting, I was just above the first fire road and the sun was out. This proved to be a great spot and I was here for about an hour and got some really awesome photos.

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Ems from Rideio sending it in style

After this spot I ventured further up the hill a nice rooty/stummpy section. There were a few lines through these and one epic fly or fail route over one of the stumps in the middle of the track.

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Joe Breeden riding for Intense Racing

After I spent some time in the stumps section I headed back down the hill a bit. There is quite a cool stump that almost everyone was sending it over. I had photographed there when I was shooting at the Pearce race so knew it would work.

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Becci Skelton sending it

I was here for a while before making my way down into the woods section. I spotted a good place to photograph from on my way up the hill earlier in the day that I wanted to visit so headed there for a bit.

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Eyes on the prize – Gareth Brewin nailing the wood section at Rhyd-Y-Felin

I had to leave about 4 so I could walk back to Rev’s and get my lift home with Tim. This proved a good time to leave and it rained quite heavily afterwards!

Day 2 – Race Day

So on to day 2. It rained during the night, not a little bit of rain, A LOT of rain. On my walk down to the track on Sunday I bumped into George and Richard of Making up the Numbers Race Team and they were plastered in mud, head to toe. George said that it was carnage in the field and he was right. The field is the first part of the track you get to see and its a steep grass slope out of the woods. When I passed it looked to be a 90% fail rate, literally everyone was sliding off this way and that.

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Wales is natures slip and slide!

I headed up the track to the first fire road as I had a spot in mind from the day before. I set up on the fire road and shot up at the stump jump, it also had a well placed tree that I could shelter under!

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Rider 335 sending it in the slop

I stayed in the same place for the end of the practice runs and then headed up the hill for seeding. It had got much brighter and the track seemed to be drying out much to the riders delight.

I headed to my spot in the stumps from the day before but had a different angle on it as there were less people around. I was shooting further up the track and getting some nice results.

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Local shredder Danny Batemen negotiating his way through the mud and roots

During seeding the heavens opened and it smashed it down, proper welsh sideways rain! Fortunately I had brought my new umbrella with me yay! (I have upgraded my umbrella on a stick to a full on fishing umbrella!) with myself and my gear safely stowed away I was joined by one of the younger riders who was checking the track out after his seeding run – its a big umbrella!

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Meg Whyte taking on the track in the downpour!

I moved up the hill to the highest point media was allowed to go to. I set up all my gear and just as the race runs had got started there was an accident on the track. The lad that had fallen off had dislocated his shoulder and we would have to wait for an ambulance to get him and the first aiders to be back in position before racing could continue. The track was closed for an hour and a half! This meant that I didn’t get to see any race runs as I had to get back to Revs for 4.30 and it was now 3.45pm.

I did managed to capture some images of the elite men and women winners from their seeding runs.

In the elite women National Champion Katy Curd won with a 3:51.891

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Katy Curd taking the win in the Elite Women

In the elite men local rider Joe Breeden won with a blazing time of  2:57.110, Joe also got the fastest time of the day by 5.2 seconds!

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Local legend Joe Breeden taking the win in elite men

I had an absolutely amazing time at Rhyd-Y-Felin despite the rain and that I didn’t get to see any actual race runs!

Using flash when shooting sports

Just wanted to go into why I sometimes use a flash when I am photographing mountain bikers.

So as some of you may know there are many many trees at Revolution Bike Park – it being a wood and all! This is great for beautiful back drops but it does somewhat reduce the amount of light that gets to the tracks. The photos can be left looking a bit flat with the camera settings required to capture the fast action so I sometimes us a flash gun off camera to fill in some of the shadows and create a more dynamic image.

I place the flash gun so it is off to the side of the track and will not flash straight into the riders faces and then can change the settings in camera to add or lessen the light from the flash. I use a Sigma EF630 which is capable of High Speed Sync (HSS) so I am able to use the fast shutter speeds to keep the riders frozen as well as adding in some extra light.

Flash BlogThe 2 images above show the same rider on the same section of track (taken about 20-30 minuets apart). As you can see on the image on the right the rider stands out more than in the image on the left.

 

So that is why I use a flash when photographing some of the action 🙂

Rain and Racing

So I got to photograph race day at round 4 of the Borderline Events Downhill Race at Revolution Bike Park this weekend.

Unfortunately the weather for Sunday’s race day was less than ideal! Literally rain all day, everything was so wet and muddy and the rain was relentless (in hindsight I probably should have swapped my work days and spent the nice sunny practice day on the hill instead of the minging rainy day and I would have been nice and dry in my workshop, oh well).

So the day started early and dressed head to toe in waterproofs I managed to get in the uplift with the marshals and was in position at my first shooting spot around 9am. My plan for the day was to stay in the woods as much as possible and work my way down the hill throughout the day. I started near the top of the hill was in the spruce trees which have great rain cover! And also a thick bed of old needles which was nice an comfy, though as I was so near the top I was also in the fog, but I think this worked out fine as it gave my photos a bit of a moody feel.

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This section was so muddy and I got to see a lot of low speed crashes as people slid pass me. I felt so sorry for the racers as Saturday’s practice was pretty much perfect conditions, great weather and a dry fast running track.

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Throughout the day I made my way done the track and got wetter and wetter as I went into the larch and less rain cover. I set up on a hip jump on Main Line when the race runs started and got some shots I’m quite happy with (given the conditions I was using a high ISO and slower shutter speed to get an image that wasn’t totally dark).

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Just after 3pm when people were doing their second race run I decided to call it a day on the hill and work my way down in search of a hot drink. My new waterproof coat had got soaked though (really was not impressed by that) and even my camera bag was now soaked though to the inside! (and it was under a rain cover!!). I had spent 6 hours on the hill at that point also and needed some shelter!

All in all though I did have a fun day and learnt a lot about low light sports photography (totally buying a flash to help with that) and that I am totally not prepared for winter and need better waterproofing for myself and camera!

Panning for blur

So I have been wanting to learn how to add the effect of speed and movement into action photography for a while and wasn’t 100% sure the best way to do this, fortunately I brought a camera magazine last week and there was an article all about capturing different types of movement woo!

My partner owns a mountain bike park and I am one of the uplift drivers so I have the perfect opportunity to try out what I had learnt. Basically a slower shutter speed and then pan the camera either on a tri/monopod or handheld, I went with the latter option. I finished first on the uplift so was able to grab the camera and get some shots of the people left riding.

I use aperture priority mode when shooting so set this to f8 and an ISO of 100 to decrease my shutter speed, then all I needed to do was wait for the riders to zoom past me at my chosen spot. This was on one of the big berms at the bottom of the hill. I got some good shots and it was great to practise a new technique.

I used continuous high burst mode so I could capture multiple exposures of each of the riders and it allowed me to pan more! The best images were shot at about 1/250 of a second.

After a while Skylar and I decided it was too hot so we went to the stream so she could cool off! All in all a great weekend.