There are two days of competition left, but a prior commitment means that I have to leave tonight. There are only four more hours to go.
Despite the long - and strange - hours, time seems to have gone really quickly. My initial excitement at being able to post photos almost as I took them faded somewhat as the schedule got more relentless and the time between taking photos was filled with taking more photos.
So I settled into a sort of routine - arrive an hour before the start of the event and set up. Fire up the laptop and plug in the card reader; put lenses on camera bodies; set up the file names and the image comments on each body so that I'll have some chance of figuring out what I'd taken if I need to. Grab some more water...
It's hot in the velodrome. Very, very hot. The combination of that and carrying two camera bodies with fast - i.e. heavy - lenses on means that this is actually quite tough physical work.
It has been challenging photographically, too. I'm occasionally asked to take portrait or group shots and I often joke that I'd find it easier if the subjects could run towards me at 70 km/h, but I do find it much easier to take good action shots than even passable portraits. But I've had a bit of practice this week - what with podiums and presentations and interviews to cover.
The good thing about shooting in the velodrome is that the lighting is pretty constant. It's always dreadful, but it is pretty stable. There's some natural light during the day, but it doesn't add a huge amount to the floods that illuminate the track. That means I can shoot in manual - switching between a fast shutter speed and mid-range aperture (which opens up slightly as the natural light fades but typically around 1/640 and f6.4) and a slow shutter - 1/50 or 1/100 - and apertures down to f11 to get a bit of motion blur. The D3's excellent auto ISO feature takes care of the slight variations in light from shot to shot. The lights are fluorescent, so the white balance varies a little at higher shutter speeds, but it's not a major issue.
Lens length is, though. I rarely needed anything over 300mm and 200mm was more than enough for 90% of the shots. But with events like match sprinting and bunch races you need to go much wider - 24mm often wasn't enough to get two sprinters in the same shot. So - having concluded that the D200 wasn't really up to the job - I spent a lot of time switching between the 24-70 and the 70-200 zooms. Something like a 20-150mm would be ideal for velodrome work, if anyone's listening.
I took some shots with my cheap(ish) and cheerful 85mm f1.8, too. On the D200 I only ever used it as a portrait lens because the focus was too slow. On the D3 it's a cracker of a lens and incredibly sharp from about f5.6. It's not too bad at f1.8, either and does give the option of shooting without flash - although you do have to watch the depth of field (or lack thereof...).85mm f8 85mm f1.8 no flash
Unanswered questions at the moment -
- What do I do with the 3000 shots I've taken that haven't been used in the ProTour News articles? Stock library pre-Beijing? Framed artwork for cycling fans?
- Should I nick the UCI Photo bib and use it at Reading Track League on a Monday night?
- Will I know what to do between 10pm and 2am when I get home?
- When will my shoulders stop acheing?
- What the hell is LiveView for?
- What proportion of my life have I spent charging batteries?