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…
We’re covering the best ways and best shots to show off a fantastic cycling tour in fantastic scenery, in this case for a range of rider types and abilities. Last time we saw how to shoot from the van window, this time we get to the rarified earth of shooting from the roadside. Bear in mind that unless you’re on the tour for weeks you’ll only get a handful of these everyday so you have to make them count! Catching up to the cyclists and getting far enough ahead is not that easy in some cases, and beware they’ll soon be back on top of you when you do stop. They are the terminators of the road.
Ideally you have a dedicated van team. I used the tour van, and we were beholden to punctures and exhaustion and lost cyclists. Ideally you circumvent these issues with your own motorised set of wheels and cunning driver, but more importantly if you are able to scout the course beforehand then you can note the good potential roadside setup spots, ready to hop between them.
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:
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!)
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?