USA Pro Cycling Challenge

I have been following the USA Pro Cycling Challenge with great interest this week and today it is coming to an end. Stage 7 of the race will go on today and a champion will be decided. I was fortunate this year that the race not only came to my town, but Woodland Park was chosen as a host city for the starting line of Stage 5. My current circumstances don’t allow me to get to many events so I was excited that I was going to get a chance to go to such a big production.

Thursday came and I was looking forward to the usual sunny morning on Friday when a huge thunderstorm rolled through in the night, spelling trouble for the morning weather. Friday morning came and as I feared the day was greeted with gloomy dark clouds, not a good thing for photographers. As the morning wore on the clouds started to spit a little rain and I pondered the possibility of having to use rain gear. With no break in the clouds I finally decided to put on the Aqua-Tech for the camera and Gortex for me. The silver lining? Maybe there won’t be so many photographers and I will get a shot that no one else will.

Down to the starting area in the rain I went. As I closed in on the podium I was confronted by a police officer. Race personnel and VIP’s only in the starting area. Undaunted, I looked around and spotting the media tent, I decided to give it a shot. The coveted press pass. I went in prepared to do battle for my prize, but a smiling face greeted me as the nice lady told me just to sign in with my name, email and affiliation. As I was already planning my Stage 5 Examiner story, I was well prepared. As I completed my sign in I was quickly awarded the green band for my arm. The lady said, “With this you can go anywhere, no questions asked.”.

So armed with my green band I strutted into the starting area past the officer who initially turned me away to get the pre-race pictures. Still cloudy and raining, I decided on ISO 400 to try to bring in some more light and get the shutter speed up a bit. There were racers signing in with the pretty girl on the stage and interviews with the radio guy to be captured for my story. There were also a few riders warming up on their bikes in the starting chute so I got some shots of them with the beautiful mountains surrounding Woodland Park in the background.

As start time closed in I decided to head for the west side of town on Highway 24 to capture the riders with Pikes Peak in the background. Unfortunately, the peak was enshrouded in clouds and fog at the moment and wasn’t too impressive. A few test shots revealed the fact that ISO 400 wasn’t going to do it. I didn’t want to have to go to F4 on the aperture because the depth of field would be too shallow. I didn’t like it, but  ISO 640 was required to be able to dial in an aperture of F5.6 which allowed a shutter speed of around 1000th of a second. Better some digital noise than a blurry picture I thought. Oh, and set up for  AI Servo focus… the riders would be moving fast. Made that mistake at the Motorcycle rally.

After a short wait and a cordial discussion with a motorcycle cop who was poised to lead the racers, I heard cheers and saw flashing lights. The racers were coming. I quickly positioned my camera and got some shots of the pack coming towards me. Soon they were past and I repositioned for the going away shots with the Peak in the background. By now the clouds and cleared a bit and the Peak was visible in all it’s glory once again.

Two minutes later and it was all over. By the end of today it will be all over for another year. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for the conclusion!

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