Saturday, January 31, 2009

Off-season race

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Today saw the first (annual?) running of the SnotCycle mountain bike race in Leesburg, VA. Run on the same farm course that the Leesburg Baker's Dozen race uses in the spring, this race gave me the unusual opportunity of shooting a mountain bike event in winter.

And I blew it.

I tried. Sorta. I showed up with an actual plan and everything: I wanted to use a long, fast lens (200mm f/2.8) and go for shots of racers with a really shallow depth of field. I arrived before the start of the first race at 10am (and at about 12°). I wandered the farmer's fields looking for suitable backgrounds to blur out (thereby highlighting the riders). The color options were pretty limited: stick-brown of the leafless trees, brown-spotted amber of the dormant grass fields (spots courtesy of the cow poo (yay!)), and waaaaay of in the distance, an occasional stand of evergreen trees, giving some life to the scene.

So I set up and waited. And waited. Aaaaaannnnndddd waited. I picked a spot that was about 75% of the way through the course, so it was gonna take a while for the racers to reach me. Why I waited on top of a hill where the wind could constantly cool me is beyond me. But that's what I did. Probably 40 minutes later, the first racers started streaming past. I moved around as I shot, jockeying for interesting angles/backgrounds. I half-heartedly fired off shot after shot. I just wasn't feeling it. I didn't want to shoot hundreds of shots of racer after racer after racer. That's what I tend to do at the local summer races. Sure, it's nice to be able to provide racers shots of themselves. And it will occasionally earn me a few bucks. But it's gettin' kinda boring.

I looked for opportunities to take more artsy/active/general-interest shots, but sadly, this course offered little (that I'm aware of) in the way of "technical trail features" (TTFs - log crossings, drops, water crossings, jumps, rocks, unusual obstacles, etc). So it was pretty much just shootin' racers racin' past. When run in one direction, there is a decent 1-2' drop where you can usually get the more acrobatic riders wheelie-dropping off. Not the most exciting subject, but more interesting than simply racers riding through an amber field of dead grass spotted with mounds o' cow poo. Unfortunately, the race today was run in the opposite direction, eliminating the one pseudo-technical bit.

So I wandered the course for a couple of hours, firing off shots hither and tither. In the end, I think I came home with only ~100 shots, and of those, ~30 were immediately deleted due to being out of focus because of my ridiculously shallow DOF. I've really got to get smarter and shoot with something between the 1' I did today and infinity. There's a lot of wiggle room in there. I'm not sure why I didn't make better use of it.

In a perfect world, all of my general rider shots would have come out like this one:

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Unfortunately, not many did. A few more shots can be found in my flickr stream.