Full Gas Track Cycling: take two

commissaire watching track racing

I had the opportunity to return to the Lee Valley velodrome for the last meet of the Full Gas Winter Track Series. The previous meet had to be abandoned following a serious accident, so it was good to see a full evening of racing.

I’d been so inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s iconic shots at the Vélodrome D’Hiver, Paris in the 1950’s I decided to have a go at shooting film once I had some digital shots in the can.

An official rings the last lap bell in track cycle race.

A cyclist warming up at Lee Valley velodrome.A manual focus 35mm lens isn’t the obvious choice for high-speed sports photography, however the good thing about track cycling is that, within a few inches, you can predict what line the leaders are going to take. I pre-focused on my chosen spot and tried to hold my nerve.

I’ve only a few rolls of Neopan 1600 remaining, sadly like so many great films it’s no longer manufactured, so I limited myself to one roll – 36 shots.

track racing at Lee Valley velodrome

I pre-focused on my chosen spot and tried to hold my nerve.

A track cyclist waiting to enter the track.The images here are a mix of film and digital but on balance I think I prefer the feel of the film. They’re not up to Cartier-Bresson standards but in my defence there aren’t many photographers who are.

Members of the Velociposse womens team waiting to race.

Track cycling at the Olympic Velodrome

a track cyclist warming up at the Olympic velodrome London

A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to shoot one of the Full Gas Winter Track Series events that take place at what was the London Olympic velodrome, now the Lee Valley velopark. It’s impossible to stand in the centre of the beautiful wooden track without imagining the atmosphere, in the heat of the 2012 summer, as the home crowd cheer Laura Trott, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton et al on to Gold Medal winning victory.

Track cycle racing at the London Olympic velodrome.

However, it’s a very different place on this cold, damp Tuesday evening in February. There are far more people in the centre of the track than outside, except for the odd supporting spouse and parent, the stands are all but empty.

The times these competitors are putting in maybe slower and many are certainly older than their Olympic counterparts, but the passion is no less real. It takes a lot of commitment to drive to this rather bleak, incredibly busy, corner of North London after a day at work only to don a lycra bodysuit and push yourself to the edge of exhaustion.

A track cyclist waiting to race at the London Olympic velodrome.

What you don’t realise, as the casual observer, is quite how dangerous it can be. I spent most of the first race doing my best to get my photographic eye in and realising quite how fast these group ‘C’ amateurs were travelling.

The group ‘B’ warm up gave me a second chance to get some shots of the racing when, after only a few laps and a touch of wheels, there were suddenly a number of riders on the ground.

Two track cyclists after being involved in a crash.

At first it seemed like the opportunity to get another perspective on the racing. It soon became obvious that two riders received more than scrapes and bruises. One received a nasty cut to his head, another landed on the wrong side of the barrier amongst the, luckily absent, spectator’s seats and was more seriously injured.

An injured track cyclist being attended on the track.

After some time the rider with bleed was taken away by ambulance and the more seriously injured rider by air ambulance. I understand both have now been released from hospital to hopefully ride again.

The prizes may not be the same as those awarded to the Olympians but the dangers are just as real.

An injured track cyclist with a bandaged leg.

I’ve had the opportunity to return and fortunately see more racing and no accidents, I’ll post some shots as soon as I’ve had a chance to edit them.

Fujifilm x-series JPEG files

A trio in close conversation in Tap coffee

 

Having read recently read Kevin Mullins’ article detailing how he set the custom film profiles on his Fujifilm X-series cameras I was keen to give it a go on my new Fuji XT1. Although I’ve been shooting with my X100s for some time it’s mainly been in RAW.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a cup of coffee in Tap Coffee, London.

I was in Soho yesterday and decided to forgo the RAW, shoot JPEG and see how they came out. Let me be the first to say none of these are going to win any awards but they give a good cross-section of lighting situations.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a patisserie shop worker admiring his wares

The commonly accepted wisdom is that JPEG files just don’t give the necessary flexibility in editing.

By virtue of the fact a RAW file includes all the available data and a JPEG doesn’t, then the RAW file has to be the safer way to shoot. However do we always need that additional data?

If I’m shooting for a client then, yes, I’m going to buy the insurance of a RAW file. But if I’m just shooting some street photography as I wander Soho on a Saturday afternoon, then on the evidence of these shots, for me, JPEG is good enough.

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a darkly light London street scene

Kevin details how he sets his custom settings in his post. I found when I used his settings on my X100s I was losing all the detail in the blacks. As the XT1 has the same sensor as the Fuji X100s I decided to back off the shadow settings a little. These are the settings I used:

Black & white (using the B&W+R film simulation)
Highlights -1
Shadows +1 (KM: +2)
Sharpness +1 (KM: +2) – this change more to see the difference than any science.
Dynamic Range (Auto)
White Balance (Auto)
Noise Reduction -2

Fujifilm X-T1 jpeg file of a man drinking in the Milk Bar, London

Generally, I’m really happy with the look. It’s far more to my liking than JPEGs from my Nikon D700. The blacks in these shots aren’t as dark as on the test with the X100s. If I were going to use these elsewhere I’d like to increase the contrast a little, so it could be my metering that was at fault on the first test. Maybe I’ll give Kevin’s settings another go.

If you’re using the Fujifilm simulations I’d be interested in hearing the settings you’re using?

Street Photography: Princess May boot fair

Part of an ongoing ‘Sunday Morning series’, shooting street photography at the Princess May boot fair. It saves me from hanging around aimlessly while my beautiful wife is looking at the clothes (again).

Street photography: A man & his daughter at the Princess May boot fair

I’ve struggled back and forth between colour and black & white. My eye defaults to b&W for street photography too easily, I’m aware of that, and this market is generally bursting with colour. But then that b&w looks so clean, classic and so beautiful. However that colour it does catch the eye… there’s red in there you know. You see how it goes. I tried to resist the dark side but in this instance I just couldn’t ….

Street photography: A man searching for bargins at the Princess May boot fair

Street photography: A group talking at the Princess May boot fair

Street photography: A woman in a headscarf at the Princess May boot fair

If you’re ever there on a Sunday morning I’m the guy with the camera and the ‘I need a coffee‘ look. Come over and say hi.