Shot from the saddle: We asked 5 pros for their top cycling photography tips and kit advice
Taking photos from the saddle is a pretty popular pastime these days. With the opportunities for snap-worthy scenery that being on the bike affords the rider, and the fact that nearly all of us are riding with a pretty sweet camera holstered somewhere or other, there's never been a better time to record your ride and share it with the world.
Now, just like riding up a really big mountain, taking a great cycling photography requires a bit of patience, some trial and error and a steady hand, which is why we asked some of our favourite bike photographers to contribute not only their top tip for taking better cycling photography, but also kit advice and a photo they are most proud of.
Go for aperture mode
Pieter Van Hoorebeke | @pieter.vanhoorebeke.1
Early light on the Tour of Flanders route
After I grew in my photography skills I got a love for low aperture prime lenses. I like that not everything is sharp in my image, only the most interesting part, a cyclist, a road, a detail.....They have a lovely bokeh.
I use a Canon 5D MK III camera - not easy to use when you're on a bike ride. I have bags on my bike so it fits great but if you don't have that, it could be a big piece to bring with you.
I have different lenses from 15mm fish-eye, 24mm 1.4, 50mm 1.4 and I big 70-200mm 2.8IS lens. Not recommended on a big trip without a bag pack!
People ask me all the time with camera, lenses they should buy, and I always tell them the same thing: If you're out there riding of running or doing other thing you always have to consider quality vs price. There's a reason the pros use big cameras and expensive lenses. They get the job done and there also have to carry. Recently I read and saw a lot about the mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X T20 with video possibilities or the pro version but that's more expensive. They're small, not heavy, and quite affordable compared to a Canon or a Nikon body with lenses, and they have a great image quality. They're also easy to take with you on a bike ride with a standard lens to shoot the magnificent landscape you're riding in.
Don't be afraid to use your damn camera!
John Braynard | @jbraynard
Austrian scenes....in the rain & snow
So you bought a camera or use your phone camera to take some photos on bike rides. It's now a tool. Tools are made to be used. I treat my cameras like any other bike part. I know at one point it is going to break - but in the meantime I'm gonna use and abuse the hell out of it.
When the weather get's tough, don't put your camera away. Keep it out or close by. These are the times you catch the real moments in cycling. Sometimes words can't explain how wild a storm was or how much mud you had to ride through or how deep the snow was. A single simple photo can speak volumes. Isn't the saying "A picture is worth a thousand words"?
A photo in the dumping rain evokes amplitudes more feeling than a sunny day photo of a road with some guys in spandex.
So, don't be a wimp. Whip it out when the going get's tough. Results may vary, but they will be unique - which is always worth it.
My camera... You don't want to know. As my tip explains, I go through a lot of cameras. Here is a bit of a rundown on a few cameras I use or have used on the bike and are worth considering.
A quick note ...I dislike prime lenses while shooting and riding. The lack of versatility, especially with the amount of options on the market these days, just doesn't make it worth it. I also like to shoot in the 70-100mm range on the bike to make mountains pop and details clear, while still enjoying the scale that telephoto brings.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_tta_tabs shape="square" active_section="1" css_animation="fadeIn"][vc_tta_section title="MY MOST USED: SONY RX100" tab_id="1497095862564-4fe11f02-9800"][vc_column_text]This is the go-to on the bike point and shoot these days. I'm now on my second one. The 28-100mm lens really gives you a ton of options. The image quality is stunning but things like a slow memory card save time make it a pain in the ass sometimes. Skip the higher models and stick with a MKI or II - you're gonna break it anyways, right?[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=" MY HIGHEST QUALITY: CANON 5D MKIII" tab_id="1497095862600-ec5fbf4d-70ed"][vc_column_text]This is a pretty damn heavy camera, so it's not for everyday. I bust it out when I'm somewhere special or I know there will be amazing light. People often ask how I carry it, but it's pretty simple. I use the stock strap and just sling it over my shoulder. For lenses, I stick with the 24-70 4.0 lens for its versatility and cost. However, when carrying a camera like this you really need to make sure you take photos that are unique and worth the effort of dragging it around. Sometimes, I will carry a handlebar bag with a 18mm for those moments where you just want scale.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title="MY FAVOURITE: SONY A7" tab_id="1497095864963-9e29157f-4578"][vc_column_text]I love this camera. The setup is perfect for the bike. It's small, compact, and full frame. The configuration makes it perfect for full manual use on the bike. You can change every setting with one hand. However there are a few flaws that make it a bit of a tough choice. First, it isn't weather sealed. Second, decent lenses costs so much that it just doesn't make sense to bring along on bike rides.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title="BEST ALL-WEATHER: GOPRO HERO5" tab_id="1497095865870-ceea6deb-6983"][vc_column_text]Yeah yeah, it's a Gopro. But it's waterproof. You can bust it out at anytime and with the right conditions and framing you can make some killer photos on it. The Hero5 also shoots RAW which is pretty damn awesome.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_tabs][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Light is King
Harry Engels | @harry_engels
Sunrise on Col de la Bonette, shot for Café du Cycliste
If you want really good pictures from your rides you’re going to need great light. And to get great light, you either need to get up early, or ride late. I once read that the picture editor at National Geographic wouldn’t even consider a landscape photo for the magazine if it wasn’t shot at sunrise or sunset. A bit harsh perhaps, but he has a point - the best light is at the beginning or end of the day. If the weather forecast looks clear, then why not take your camera with you on your morning ride? You can’t beat those freezing, yet sunny, crisp winter mornings for photos.
I've used a lot of cameras whilst out riding but my favourite by far is the Fuji X100T. It’s not so small that you may as well use your iPhone, and it's not so big that it either cripples your back or needs to be kept in a handlebar bag. The Fuji’s 35mm fixed focal length lens is perfect for using whilst riding - you swing the camera around from your back, compose the image, and take the picture. The lack of a zoom is refreshing; it challenges you to work with what you’ve got, rather than fall into the trap of going super wide or super tight on a particular scene. And obviously the image quality is great. Shoot in RAW and you’ll have more flexibility when playing around with the images in post.
Don't be afraid to show the subject in the context of the setting
Drew Gibson | @drewgibsonphoto
Whether it's a Sunday club run or watching the pro's in the Alps, cycling usually offers some amazing back drops. I find it helps to look for a picture that would be interesting even without a cyclist in it, then just let some one ride through it and voila!
I took the image above at this year's Paris Roubaix. I was there with my mates and shot the event with my Leica and one lens (50mm F1.4), you can see my gallery here. This is a good example of taking a step back in order to show the cyclists in their environment. Once I'd clambered up a bridge support to get some height, a relatively simple composition was all that was needed to show the Paris Roubaix event in all it's glory.
I hate carrying too much kit when I'm riding, so shoot most of my pictures on rides on my iPhone 5 (Yep, a 5, remember those...?!) If I know I'm going to be taking pictures I take my Leica 242 with a 50mm lens, which is lovely but a tricky bit of kit to use if your not 100% confident with a camera. I occasionally carry a Canon G1X on the bike, which is a great flexible all rounder.
Don’t do what everyone else is doing - do the opposite!
Tom Oldham | @tommyophoto
Herne Hill Velodrome: Grease mark, Commissaires, Derek, the lap timer and legend, Helmet detail
Try to do the opposite of what you think you should do. Go to the opposite end of your lens range. Play with focus. Don’t do what everyone else is doing and find the other shots that say cycling without getting another shot of a sweating rider in the saddle. Try to think of other elements that make up cycling: Commissaires, volunteers, tea, coffee and cake stations, detail shots and super wides... grease marks on legs. I know it sounds a bit ‘jumpers for goalposts’ but outside the race moments, in the lulls, is where the best shots live I think – the ones that really tell the story.
My work is shot on a Hasselblad H6D with a 35-90mm lens. I use this to separate the look and feel of my work from everyone else.