Photographing Le Tour de France

by Keith AlvendiaLeave a Comment

Our good friends at LensProToGo sent us this a few weeks ago and we're finally getting it published!

We told you that they were publishing some great stuff on their new blog, and this is just one sample. There's more to this story and many other great stories over there too.

Photographing Le Tour de France

When we planned for this year’s 100th Edition Tour de France, the first thing we did was evaluate the last couple of years – what gear did we pack, what did we use the most and how did it perform, what kind of images were we aiming for this year, how much did we expect to stick with what we know works versus trying something new. At an event like the Tour de France, there is little down-time and even less time to risk missing a shot. Experience, economy of movement, confidence in your POV, and agility / facility with your gear – these are, in our opinion, what can distinguish a good Tour from a great one.

On June 20th we packed our bags with our final gear package for the Tour, part practical and part splurge, just the right combination to feel like you might have something up your sleeve during those long days when creativity and inspiration wane after 16 days straight.

That’s where the glass menagerie is king.

You have the basics: wide angle, telephoto, zoom, prime. But the nuance comes in when you imagine the exact moments where each lens shines, where switching camera bodies makes a difference, when and where and why to use the flash, the perfect shot that results from switching to the 14mm from the 16mm at the last moment, almost without thinking.

So, for us it was a negotiation within ourselves to conjure up our “perfect gear kit” and set out on another epic adventure. Because when it comes to the Tour, the largest sporting event on the planet, it’s not just the athletes who are under pressure to perform.

Here’s what we brought:

Canon Bodies

(2x) Canon EOS-1D X
(2x) Canon EOS-5D mkiii

Canon Primes

14mm f/2.8L II
50mm f/1.2L II
85mm f/1.2L II

Canon Zoom / Telephoto

(2x) 16-35mm f/2.8L II
24-70mm f/2.8L II
(2x) 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
300mm f/2.8L IS II

Accessories

(2x) Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT
Quantum Turbo SC Battery Pack
(2x) Pocket Wizard Plus II

Along with, of course, a melange of other accessories and some video gear as well. We shot over 42,000 images in 5 weeks and 12 videos. Here are some of our favorites and why.



14mm f/2.8L II

Photographing Le Tour de France 14mm f2.8L II

It’s all about personal preference with a super wide aka “fisheye” lens. Some professionals use it religiously for sweeping hairpin action shots and lots of portraits. We typically use it judiciously for those moments that really warrant the extra perspective – an overhead start shot on the plaza in Montpellier, the race leaders cresting a fan-crowded corner on the ascent of the Alpe-d’Huez, or inside the media scrum, literally shot between the legs of a gendarme, after the stage winner collapsed on the ground in Annecy-Semnoz. The advantage of this lens is it provides the closest view to what the human eye is seeing with less distortion than the 8mm or 12mm lenses.

50mm f/1.2L II

The 50mm is amazing at capturing a velvety, shallow depth of field which accentuates key characteristics in the subject matter

The 50mm is amazing at capturing a velvety, shallow depth of field which accentuates key characteristics in the subject matter

85mm f/1.2L II

The 85mm has a cinematic feel that few of our lenses offer, perhaps something closer to the quality of film rather than digital.

The 85mm has a cinematic feel that few of our lenses offer, perhaps something closer to the quality of film rather than digital.

16-35mm f/2.8L II

The glass Queen. One of two of the most commonly used Canon lenses in sports photography, the 16-35mm is a staple.

The glass Queen. One of two of the most commonly used Canon lenses in sports photography, the 16-35mm is a staple.

70-200mm f/2.8L IS II

The King of Glass. It’s nearly impossible to imagine shooting a bike race without this lens.

The King of Glass. It’s nearly impossible to imagine shooting a bike race without this lens.

300mm f/2.8L IS II

Photographing Le Tour de France 300mm f2.8L IS II

Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT / Quantum Turbo SC Battery Pack

Finally, the flash. Some folks think it’s cheating. Some wouldn’t be caught without it. Us… we have a love-hate relationship with the flash. A necessary evil, an enigma, a savior. Call it what you will. Normally the flash is a fixer– when the light is poor, the shadows too harsh, a needed contrast against a dull or cluttered backdrop. I’ve come to the conclusion that the flash is an art-form, albeit a little Martha Graham. So, when you can do something really special with it – on a day, under the unrelenting sun, when you are tired, hungry, and lacking inspiration – in those moments the flash can be divine inspiration.

Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT  Quantum Turbo SC Battery Pack

(cover photo credit: snap from the site)

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