The Giordana Velodrome was this week’s photo trip. I’m not a racing bike enthusiast, but after this visit, I might become one. Even from my short visit to a time trials event, I can see the entertainment value.
Since the facility is built and owned by the city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, you can spectate all you want, for free. In an era where every form of entertainment has a price, very often a steep one, totally free and high quality bike racing is hard to pass up. The thing about a velodrome is that it’s compact. Big enough for some serious speed, small enough to see the whole track from anyplace in the stands. And since the Giordana Velodrome is recently built, the whole facility still feels brand new, clean and tidy.
From the standpoint of a photographer, a velodrome offers a lot of possibilities. It has these dramatic high banks on each end, and then the track twists down to almost flat at the center. Almost flat is probably overstating the slope a bit, my guess it that the flat part still has about 15 degrees of bank. There are plenty vantage points along the guard rails, most all are easy to get to. Spectators and amateur photographers can’t get into the infield, that’s for the racers, crews and officials only.
I didn’t take a wide enough lens to get the whole track in, have to wait until next time for that. But my first shot should give you a general idea. Taken about 30 to 45 minutes before sunset, it’s shows what happens at time trials. They start two riders on opposite sides of the track. I was trying to get something that captured some of the overall feel of the track. The lone rider finding his place in the pecking order.
Since this was my first time at the Velodrome, everything was experimental. For my first shot, I wanted to get some feel for the speed, so I slowed things down. Exposure at f/8.0, ISO 100 which gave me 1/40. I was shooting my old 16-50 kit lens, walking on the wide side, so a 35mm equivalent of 24mm. Wide, but not super wide.
I also wanted to get one shot of a rider on the bank. For these time trials, the riders don’t go up to the top of the bank, so getting that dramatic shot is a little more challenging. In a case like that, where the ‘natural’ shot is not there, you have make the best use of what is available. In this case I picked a spot where the late afternoon light give me a bright patch, and some cool blue shadows for contrast. Use color and contrast to dramatize the subject you have. Also I used auto focus. Yeah, I know that I’m always rambling on about manual focus, but this situation required setting the focus area to zone, and shooting rapid fire. Things just happening to fast.
For this post, I’m saving the best for last. I was with Ken, my part time photo buddy, and he met this senior rider. Turns out he was in a senior master division, and has some records to his credit. This guy is 80 years old and kicking ass on his racing bike. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that being 80 makes you frail. In my book, that’s totally awesome.