Category: Blog

Late last summer I covered a week’s events on the Ride & Seek cycle tour through Europe on the trail of the Roman general, Hannibal.

The stage I had the pleasure of began in the French Alps, crossed them Alps into Italy, then descended at quite a rate into Italy as the countryside became more lush and the classic Italian vineyards materialized, and we made our way into Emilia Romagna, and ending for me near Milan.


One of the first things that hit me appart from the cold morning in Les Chalps, “the View” apparently – and there’s more than one of these about, trust me, we tried another one first – was altitiude sickness. I had a trerrible headache I couldn’t shift and felt exhausted, going straight up to 3000m is not easy for those of us without the red blood cell count of an athlete.


First things first, I’d say have a chat with the group beforehand, set them at ease that you do not want to ruin their experience, you are on their side, let them know who you are, tell them roughly the shots you intend to get, and tell them ever so nicely not to look into the camera and wave every time they see it! That’s the temptation, but we’re not shooting a holiday video, we want to see real emotions, and yes if they’re in pain, show it, but don’t worry we’re not about to stitch them up and make them look like a bunch of wimps.


Types of Shot

There were two distinct types of shots, make that three. Maybe four then. The extra two are your standard GVS and the cyclists enjoying lunch or coffee or some Euro-style hospitality, eating, sipping, smiling, nice food etc. So there are two ways to get to grips with our cycling subjects: out of the van window, or from the side of the road.

My main recommendation is get a dedicated car / bike / van to shoot from. I used the support vehicle, so I did at least have a driver, but you need the ability to go back and forth, jumping ahead of the pack, and stopping and starting, setting up on the edge of the road. The support vehicle is so tied to the needs of the cyclists, that your wishes will always be frustrated.

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Next time… The Noble Art of Shooting Out of the Car Window:

Late last summer I had the pleasure of covering a week’s events on the Ride & Seek cycle tour through Europe on the trail of the Roman general, Hannibal. Here’s a little of what I learnt…

Pt 2: Shooting – Out of the Car Window

This ended up my stock trade in generating high lycra content footage, but I feel I spent way to much time doing this.

If you’re shooting out of the side window with a shallow depth of field, with the cyclist in profile, each shot starts to get a bit samey: same framing, some differing backgrounds, not bad, but once you have a few good ones, it’s time to move on, with these a sequence you cannot make.


Then there’s shooting out the front, though the windscreen. You end up with shots like this:


You can probably get a bit more scenery in the shot, but without the cyclist’s face they get even more repetitive, and these are in my book bottom of the pile. When I took them I remember saying “oh yes great stuff, lovely”. And lovely each one might look, but put em all together and you have one very tedious sequence.

My main point here is CLEAN YOUR WINDSCREEN before you set off. By focusing a few metres through the glass you can easily forgive the smudges and dirt on the small viewfinder, but get it in the edit suite and the ghostly smudging turns ghastly and will render all your babies useless.

Then you have your resistance piece, or pièce de résistance as the French like to call it, which is hanging out the window with a sturdy camera and using a deep depth of field. In my case I had the Sony Z1 warhorse, zoom it all the way out wide, infinity focus  – so everything is in focus, hang the thing down as low as possible, bending up the viewfinder and get those front on shots of faces. Gold dust, these are the ones that really count.

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On my wish list for next time would be to ride pillion on a motorbike or moped,  a la Tour de France, and you could then get a load of these devils. It could just be that you hire the bike for a day, but it’s be worth it. Oh, and you need a driver!

What the ultimate shot here? In my opinion it’s going round a bend so the camera moves with the cyclist, so they stay in centre frame and the background moves past, in the shot below we see the alps moving past behind Pete:


One more tip for the car. Turn the radio off when you’re shooting, 95% of what you use won’t need the audio, or just uses atmos, but you never know when the other 5% will hit, and you just have to be ready.

Next time… The Gritty Reality of Setting Up Shots on the Roadside

Late last summer I had the pleasure of covering a week’s events on the Ride & Seek cycle tour through Europe on the trail of the Roman general, Hannibal. Here’s a little of what I learnt…

Pt 3: Shooting – Setting Up on the Roadside & Using the Go-Pro

Last but by no means least. In fact, this is pretty much your number one shot, if you want to show the scenery and get a sense of space properly, these are the key.


To get these you have to constantly leapfrog the pack, so my advice – get that dedicated vehicle at your beck, whim and call. End of.

I used the support van, which, wonderful as it was, was at the beck and whim of each and every cyclist on the tour, as it’s meant to be, and hey they’ve paid for it.


Beware! This mode of transport means you will never (or rarely) get to the right spot at the right time. You need your own (motorised) wheels, so you’ll need a crew of two, and in an ideal world you’ll have a moped and get some reverse pillion travelling shots a la Tour de France, with your bags carried in the support van.

So what constitutes the best roadside shots?

The journey. Get as much of the road travelled or the road ahead into the frame:


The most important point here is to get the scenery in…


Those mountain bends do it beautifully.

Something I didn’t exploit as much as I’d have liked, was the shot looking down onto a snaking series of S-Bends:


And if you don’t have a series of S-bends, look out for those beautiful singles. They give a great perspective: you’ll get the relevant detail of the road in the foreground, and the road naturally leads the eye round to the cyclists:

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Finally, take care to set-up your framing both for the approach and the resulting pass-by shots (and good luck keeping them in frame!)

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But without these roadside shots your piece will get claustrophobic, however wonderful everything else you shoot is. Wide-angle lens it, polarize it, whatever you please, but whatever you do… keep on getting’ ‘em.

The Go Pro

A quick word on this. Attach it to the bike, of course:

– Rear facing off the crossbar at the cyclist’s face
– Front facing off the crossbar at the cyclists in front
– Rear facing off the underside of the seat
– I find helmet and chest cams often give too much wobble to bother with
– I use an articulated Ram mount off the offside front fork to get the camera low to the ground, facing either forwards or backwards

But invest in something like the Big Ushot 2 XSories mounting arm (~£35). Put your camera on a pole, stick it out the window as high as it’ll go and you get a great birdseye, high angled shot:

So what’s the jolly old thing look like, anyway?