Went to watch the bike racing the Velodrome in Manchester for the first time last Saturday and it was great. The Revolution series of races happens every winter but this is the first I could make. The final is on Saturday 15th Jan and well worth a night out; even if cycling isn’t your passion it’s a great spectacle.
It does present a challenge photographically! Firstly, although the lighting looks incredibly bright, it’s actually quite dark inside (around 1/15 sec at f/8 Iso 800) and secondly the bikes are doing around 40 mph so it’s a real test of your panning skills.
I don’t like using flash for this kind of shot as I think it looks artificial and a bit static (although all the pros. were using it, but then they need sharp shots for the magazines etc.)
I decided to work the other way and go for some more abstract shots to give an impression of speed. I took my Canon f/2.8 15mm semi fish-eye as I’d seen some wide shots of the track which looked good, together with my Canon 24-105 f/4 L zoom which has image stabilisation and a useful range. Again the pros were using the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS zoom, I’d love one but they’re around £1,600 and I don’t think Santa will be up for that this year.
Anyway I had a great time wandering about trying to get some good shots. I set my camera to record JPEG’s rather than my usual RAW format as this maximises the continuous shooting speed, set focus tracking mode and bumped the ISO 800. The Velodrome wasn’t full so I could move seats, the ends of the track are free standing and you could get into the track centre so there was plenty of choice.
Here’s a general view showing the track taken with the 15mm from the top of the stands.
Switching to the 24-105 I went down to the track centre. This a a real challenge as you’re only about 3m from the action. The technique is to pan with the rider, those of you who’ve been on my Say No to Auto workshop at the Brindley will know how hard this can be!
I took loads of shots but only got a few that I like, here’s a couple.
The banking at the ends is incredibly steep (around 42 degrees) and I wanted to try to show this so the next viewpoint was at the track top edge looking down. Unfortunately this doesn’t really show how steep it is as the bikes are near the botton (the fastest line) and you’re looking down at them, still it gives a good view (but be careful about leaning over the rail, riders at the top of the track are VERY near!).
I also tried some longer range shots across the velodrome zoomed to around 90mm. You can see on this one the difference in lighting on the track compared with the in field and spectators. These guys are just sprinting for the line.
And finally I did some experiments where I didn’t track the bikes, just held the camera still and let them create a colourful blur. This needs a bit of trial and error as too slow a shutter speed means they almost disappear. This was taken at 1/45 sec f/4 400 ISO using the wide end of the 24-105 zoom.
Click here for more pictures from the Velodrome .