Having attended the Tour of Britain last weekend I've learned three important lessons - first, I've still got an awful lot to learn, second, the LCD screen on the back of the D70 is almost useless and, third, it's easier to clean dust off the sensor before you shoot 3000 images than it is to clone it out in Photoshop later. Or, to be fair, I''ve re-learned all three lessons.
I was keen to go anyway, but Palmer Park were invited to take part in the Go-Ride event and organised a coach to get up to London, which seemed as good an excuse as any. I didn't want to lug the Lowepro full of gear around London all day, so I took a cut down set of equipment - just the 80-200, the 18-70 kit lens and the 1.7x teleconvertor in a little gadget bag I got free with a Tamron lens (now sold on eBay).
With the 80-200 in place (along with the new HB-17 lens hood, which shouldn't fit, but does), the SB-800 on top and wearing a t-shirt from the swarbrick.com collection I walked past a section of the crowd control barrier set up like a pig pen. It quickly transpired that it was set aside for press photographers although, initially, I didn't realise that. As I approached the pen, the steward near by opened it up to let me in, so in I went and there I stayed for most of the day.
Which, in many ways, was my first deliberate mistake. The pros came and went during the course of the day. Most never came back and those that did, didn't stay long. The reason? The press pit was in a great location just beyond the finish line, but it was completely in the shade and the sun was directly in front of you, the other side of the finish line. Exposure was a nightmare, even with the SB-800 trying to fill in.
I got a few OK shots - and even managed to get one of Paolini crossing the line, despite the fact that the legit press pack were all bunched on the road in front of me at that point - but most are too under exposed to recover even in Photoshop.
Worse, though, are the few I took halfway through the race when I wandered around the circuit trying to get some variety. Along the Embankment there was no light at all, even with the flash. I had to throw them all away.. At the corner where the Embankment meets Parliament Square there was plenty of it, but all in the wrong places and still having the flash on meant they were all hopelessly over exposed. I'd never got so many shots so wrong in one day - although I didn't realise how wrong they were until later. I went back to the safety, security and poor light of my pen...
As well as the full set of photos on swarbrick.com, I've been putting a few pictures on Flickr, which is quite an interesting place. So, it turned out, had a lot of other people so if you're interested in seeing shots from the earlier stages - and shots that went right elsewhere on the Westminster circuit - try the Tour of Britain group area.
More blogs about cycling photography.