Although most of my work involves taking pictures of people riding bicycles off the beaten path (or at the very least away from traffic), I'm a big fan of just about anything that happens on two wheels, particularly when the engine is a carbon-based biped. So when the opportunity arises to shoot something a little different, I usually jump at it.
Cycling Plus magazine caters to a broad church of riders who mostly use their bikes on the road, whether it's for commuting, racing, training, touring or just for the sheer joy of pedalling. Although I've been a contributor in the past, it's been a while since I shot anything for the mag. So earlier in the year I approached the art ed, asked if he had any work available, and found myself with a big commuter bike test to shoot and a deadline 10 days away. I was busy already, but how could I say no?
Given that it had been a while, I treated the shoot as a first-time job. Which is another way of saying I wanted to impress the client. So I chose a gritty urban location that would give me a mixture of backdrops, lined up a bunch of willing riders... and prepared to open my Big Bag of Techniques.
We started with some straightforward long lens pics, using shallow depth of field to make the riders stand out against some industrial architecture. Er, that'll be an old railway bridge, then...
Nikon D300, 80-200mm f/2.8, 1/500sec f/2.8 @ ISO400
Next I dropped the shutter speed right down to emphasise the riders' speed, choosing a couple of different backgrounds. Can you say 'panning technique'?
Nikon D300, 80-200mm f/2.8, 1/30sec f/9 @ ISO400
Nikon D300, 80-200mm f/2.8, 1/15sec f/7.1 @ ISO200, two radio slaves
Finally I broke out the Magic Arm, the fisheye and Capture NX's magic fisheye straightening function to shoot some on-bike action:
Nikon D300, 10.5mm f/2.8, 1/25sec f/5.6 @ ISO400
Nikon D300, 10.5mm f/2.8, 1/30sec f/18 @ ISO200
I'm pleased with the results, on the whole. You can't put a skinny-tyred commuting bike in the same kind of dramatic scenario that you can (say) a 150mm travel full bouncer, so it's a question of coming up with techniques, backdrops and angles that play to the bikes' strengths. Which, in this case, is covering the (tarmacced) ground fast.
Incidentally, if you've been paying attention you'll have noticed that I broke out my rather neglected D300 for this shoot. There's a simple reason for that: working with DX and FX bodies alongside each other can easily lead to a rather cumbershome lens selection. Since I knew I'd be shooting some onboard pics with the Magic Arm (the D3 is just way too big and heavy to even consider it for this job), the D300 was already in the bag. I figured I might as well do the whole shoot with it. Although the day started out pretty dull and I was pushing the ISO for several pics to 800 and beyond, it held up remarkably well and reminded me why I bought it in the first place.
I think I need to use the D300 more...