Tuesday, May 30, 2006

VeloNews Weekly Gallery . . . I'm There!

I'm not putting the shot on here today. Nope. You gotta go here to see my shot today. I made it into the weekly gallery at VeloNews and I'd like to know what everyone thinks.

By the way, I know I've said it before, but feel free to send in your shots to me to post on the Cycling Shots blog. Include a story about the shot or the ride and I'll be happy to give you a plug - maybe with a little extra commentary too ; )

In the mean time, check out the VeloNews weekly gallery. While you're at it, check out Frank Steele's shots over at the Tour de Georgia Blog along with his own Flickr albums and check out his increasing coverage of the Tour de France at the TDF Blog and his fun with Flickr - he's always pulling in some great shots from all over.

Countdown to the NORBA Showdown at Sugar . . . just a little over a week to go. If you're gonna be there, spot me in my Jittery Joes t-shirt and I'll stick a shot of you on the first "Sugar" post (of course, you've gotta tell me that you saw this post)!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

One Cool Cuban

Ivan's story is one of the coolest out there:

Ivan Dominguez began cycling at age 13 and has been racing competitively for the past 14 years. Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Dominguez is a two-time Pan-Am Games Gold Medalist and former Cuban National Champion. He is still the country's current 4 km record-holder, a title he's owned since 1997.

While traveling to the United States in 1998 for the Goodwill Games with the rest of the Cuban National Cycling Team, Dominguez chose to defect. Speaking no English and knowing no one in the United States but an uncle in Miami, Ivan made ends meet by working at a shoe factory. Gradually, he learned English and started to make associations in the cycling world, competing and winning local races in Miami. His efforts paid off, when in 2001, he was offered a spot on the Saturn Professional Cycling Team.

Seizing the opportunity with a top U.S. squad, Dominguez racked up 20 major wins in his first two seasons, including a victory over Lance Armstrong in the 2002 New York City Championships. By the end of 2003, Saturn was the number one team, thanks in part to 11 first place finishes by Dominguez.

Over the past two years, Ivan has continued to excel with major wins at the Bank of America Invitational, Tour of Connecticut, and second place stage finishes at the 2004 Tour de Georgia behind Armstrong and Italian racing legend, Mario Cipollini.

While Dominquez is widely recognized as one of the top sprinters in the country today, his speed is also backed by endurance and climbing strength, a combination few riders possess. Consequently, the races he enjoys most are those that challenge "a little bit of everything"; the San Francisco Grand Prix and the Wachovia Series' Lancaster race are among his favorites.
Source: Toyota-United Bio.

About the shot: Shot from outside line of switchback on Nick-a-Jack climb (laying down). Canon Rebel XT; Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 EX DG HSM: ISO 100; f/2.8 @ 1/400s; 200mm focal length. Post-processing with Adobe Lightroom Beta 2.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Brasstown Bad Boys

This year was every bit as exciting as last year's Brasstown stage. I should also note that, while a little chilly early in the day, it was not near as cold for my 10 hours spent on the mountain this year compared to last year, which was the coldest I've ever been. This is the last switchback without cattle gates - about 250m or so to go here; one more switchback and they're at the finish line. In fact, I'm shooting from behind the cattle gates that start after the switchback.

Floyd blew everyone's expectations away on this stage. However, I think Tommy D. may have blown it by wasting too much time trying to put Landis in checkmate instead of going all-out from the base of the climb. I didn't get to see how the climb really unfolded until a week later, but after seeing Danielson piddle around while waiting for Landis or Popo to do something, I think TD was in error by not trying to drive Landis in the ground when Popo was dropped the first time. I just don't know what he was thinking.... Regardless Tom's tactical errors, it was still a very exciting stage.

Oh, and for this shot I wiggled through the cattle gates at the bottom (barely) so I could lean into the road and grab this one.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

(motor) Cycling Shots

I know it's not really on target for my blog but I thought I might try to sneak it by. This is my cousin, Joey, on his Suzuki Hayabusa (motor)cycle zipping through Deals Gap. I went with him to grab some shots of two-wheeled targets and try out a lens before the Tour de Georgia this year. It was a pretty cool trip. I'll probably go again sometime this summer and sneak a shot or two on here again. ; )

For those of you into this (motorized) kinda thing, you should check out Killboy. Those guys shoot on Deals Gap everyday and the riders love them. They even catch a few cyclists going by from time to time. They work hard at it and have a huge following. Not my cup o' tea though - I'll stick to working in the sweatshop and things on two wheels that I have to pedal. Even stuff like this spooks me:

About the motorcycle shot: I sat in a long sweeping corner and nabbed riders as they ran through the curve with my trusty Sigma 70-200 f/2.8. The focus was spot on - if you click to enlarge, you can see his eyes are looking ahead to the next corner). If you're thinking about a mid-range sports lens, don't rule this one out. Some more Photoshopping too. Added the motion blur effect and cloned out an ugly sign post that was distracting (even with the blur effect).

Monday, May 15, 2006


I love this guy! I hope when I'm 40 I can haul it up a mountain half as fast as Eki (hell, I wish I could now at 27). This guy's history is quite a story. The most reported story on Eki at this year's TDG, however, has to be his mullet:

See also Moveitfred's props to Eki's mullet.

About the shot: This is a shot from the inside of the switchback rather than most of my ITT shots from the outside. The riders were a little closer on the inside because of the line they were taking - something to watch a little closer at my next race. It worked for me here, but I had to be quick on framing and shooting on my 70-200 zoom. I had a lot more time to arrange the shots from the outside.

A little off-topic, Discovery now has 3 guys in the GC top 10 at the Giro: Salvodelli, Tommy D. and Rubiera.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lookin' for a Rhythm

Here's Phil Zajicek on the Tour de Georgia Stage 3 ITT. He said he never really found a good rhythm on the ITT even though he had a decent split of 26:10 at the top of the Nick-a-Jack climb. You can see more of Phil at his blog.

As I pointed out before, shooting on a hill is a great place to catch several shots of riders as they slowly pass by. You also get some of these unique expressions due to the excerption they put out on such climbs. That said, let's consider the perspective of this shot. A lot of Phil's face is in view from this perspective. Getting this perspective on a climb requires the shooter to get low - I'm actually laying down on the edge of the left lane. I tried some shots kneeling on the ITT and I just wasn't low enough to get "under" the rider because of the grade of the climb. So I layed down. Watch out for motorcycles though - I almost got clipped by one because he was watching the rider and not the road. I'll admit a guy laying down in the road probably wasn't something he was looking for. Regardless, stay alert if your shooting from a low perspective either in or near the road. While you're at it, consider this discussion over at the spare cycles blog.

Additionally, I like a portrait (vertical) framing if the rider is coming at me and he's isolated like riders on an ITT are. In my opinion, framing this shot in a landscape (horizontal) orientation would take away from the intensity. Another problem is busy backgrounds you get in crowded areas of the course like this - think about how much busier the background would be if this was a landscape orientation.

Speaking of busy backgrounds, desaturating the background is a great way to isolate your subject to create a very unique shot in a world full of the same - especially when your talking about a race like the Tour de Georgia where everyone is taking a picture to put on the internet (even people in pictures are taking pictures)! It's not that hard to create this effect, although it can take a little time if you want it done right.

I first made the initial post-processing adjustments and RAW conversion to TIFF in Adobe Lightroom Beta 2. Then I jumped in Photoshop to create a desaturated layer and then brought Phil back to color via a layer mask. A little unsharp mask, then some de-noise, and there you have it. If you want to take a closer look at it I made this shot an 800 pixel file, so you can click and get a bigger version if you'd like.

There's a lot of resources on the net for doing things like this in various photo editing programs. I like to have a book in front of me though. I've listed some books below that I use and recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about digital photography. Scott Kelby's books are great if you're not all that familiar with digital photo work in Photoshop - digital photography is one thing, but digital photography in Photoshop is a whole other ballgame. I'd recommend the How to Wow book if you know your way around Photoshop. I own the Photoshop CS Book for Digital Photographers and the How to Wow: Photoshop for Photography and still use both on a frequent basis (last night on Phil for instance). I've browsed through the other Kelby books and can say they're just as good - just depends on which version of Photoshop you've got.

Monday, May 08, 2006

J.J. Haedo - Ready to Strike

Here's George Fraser leading out Juan Jose Haedo and Freddy Rodriguez in the final sprint of the '06 Tour de Georgia. At the 100 meters to go mark, Fraser was giving it all he could but Haedo (left) was too much and simply out-sprinted Fraser for the stage win. In a post-race interview Fraser call it a "fair and square" sprint after expressing his disappointment with second place finishes on the podium. Stage 6 was the only stage this year that a rider from a continental team won.

About the shot: I like this shot. I like the intensity of sprints. Originally, I was unhappy with my positioning for this part of the stage. However, a shot like this would not have been possible from the other side of the road. The final couple hundred meters of this stage were enlosed by cattle gates and covered by sponsors' signs. Additionally, there was a slight left hand bend and uphill slope for the finish. Here, I was literally leaning on the 100m to go flag pole and out across the barrier. Because of the left turn in the course the riders hugged the barriers all the way in on every pass of the circuit. I actually had to pull my camera in on one pass to keep from striking a racer. What was good about it though, when the riders round the bend I had a straight-on shot of the sprint. I didn't have a lot of time to shoot it though. The other side of the road would have given me a longer approach to shoot more frames but I never would have gotten the shot of the sprinters coming at me like this.

As an aside, congrats to J.J. Haedo for another first place finish at the Sunny King Criterium on Saturday, May 6. Expect to see J.J. racing across the pond soon. You can check out the full results of the Sunny King Criterium here. Here's another shot of J.J., doing an interview before the final stage and his sprint victory.

To digress a bit further, you can now reach the Cycling Shots blog at www.cyclingshots.com. The new contact email is contact@cyclingshots.com (very original, I know). The blogspot address is still in use as well. Expect a full move to the new domain later on this summer, along with gallery access to the photos you see here and many more. If you've got any suggestions or comments for the blog feel free to let me know - on the blog comments or by email. Additionally, if you know of something worth shooting in the East Tennessee area (small trail rides are game) or even larger events in the Southeast, by all means buzz me. I'm tentatively planning a trip to the NORBA Showdown at Sugar Race in June. I'll keep you posted. Until next time. Cheers!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Favorite Giro Stage 1 Shot

Not really a picture, but still quite an image!

12 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel +0'21"
13 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC +0'23"

Just to make it a valid photo post, here's a shot of Tommy D. on the Stage 3 ITT at the Tour de Georgia. Go Tom!

Also, congrats to Il Falco! What a resounding statement!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Scott Who?

Scott Zwizanski of the Kodakgallery.com/Sierra Nevada Pro Cycling Team placed 70th on the Tour de Georgia Stage 3 ITT at 7'02" back on Floyd Landis and finished 91st overall. Scott said he "was way over geared on the main climb of the day and that really took a lot out of" him. Not an astounding result, but Scott's main purpose for the Kodakgallery.com team was to serve a support role with the potential of hopping in a breakaway like he did in the Tour of California's final stage earlier this year. Here's another shot of Scott out of the saddle on the IIT at Tour of California.

The Kodakgallery.com team, like most of the other teams, were very accessible during the Tour de Georgia. They were great about letting us look over their gear and chatting with fans. While the UCI guys are tackling the Giro, Zwizanski's team will be kicking it off with the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Alabama - followed by the Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas and the Tour of Connecticut. Go get'em guys!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Nice Wheels!

Sorry, I couldn't resist. If there was one "car" at the Tour de Georgia this year that caught my eye it was the Mavic neutral support car (shown here in Dalton, GA prior to the Stage 4 start). I caught the Mavic guys on Sunday and talked a little shop with them. On a bad day, they could actually end up changing dozens of wheels. There were actually 3 Mavic neutral support vehicles at the race this year. One was this car. The other two were motorcycles. My apologies, but I don't think I caught a shot of them. The motorcycles only carry wheels - but a lot more wheels than you'd expect.

The Mavic car carries all sorts of goodies, including three spare bikes in sizes 61cm; 58cm; and 54cm. (Unfortunately, I'd be out of luck if I needed a change for my 56cm. As luck would have it, I made it through on my own.) The mechanic I spoke with said they might do one bike change over an entire race. It's just not a typical need with all the team cars and teammates so close. They hadn't done any by the start of Stage 6 this year. He also said that the riders start to get real pissy if you don't have them rolling again within 15 seconds. He said "they either love you or hate you." No pressure, right?

I say kudos to the Mavic guys for showing up and supporting American bike racing. According to the mechanic I spoke to, neither the race organizers nor the teams shell out any cash for Mavic's support vehicles. The Mavic guys just show up, work hard, and get to do a little advertising in their yellow car. They caught my eye! How 'bout yours?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You Mean There's More?

The great thing about shooting an ITT on a monster climb is that the riders come by sloooow. Even better is shooting from the top side of a switchback. For most of Stage 3's ITT I sat or even layed down on the outside of the of a switchback about halfway up a huge climb that reached an 18% grade at points. I've already mentioned riders' speed is great for shooting. For most of the guys, I got to snap several shots as they approached and even a few as they passed on by. The other great thing about my spot is I caught the expression on the riders' faces as they rounded the corner and couldn't see the end of the climb.

Christophe Rinero of Saunier Duval Prodir (above) had one of the best expressions of all the riders that passed by on the ITT. Rinero finished 6'04" back on the day. Not scorching the stage by any means but clearly enough to make me look like a school girl on a bike. As an aside, in 1998 Rinero finished 4th overall in the Tour de France at 9'16" back on Marco Pantani. Rinero has been around for quite a while hopefully I'll get a chance at another moment like this with him next year.

Thanks to the good folks at Cyclelicious for sharing the love of my photos and blog!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

McCartney's Breakaway and the Phonak Train

Earlier I talked about Jason McCartney going off the front on Stage 4 of the 2006 Tour de Georgia. Here's a shot of Jason pushing up Wolf Pen Gap solo. Wolf Pen Gap KOM was 95.6 miles into the stage of 118.9 miles total. It's a Cat. 2 climb. The riders had already been rained on (and I'm talking about hard rain) and climbed a Cat. 2 at Fort Mountain and a Cat. 4 at Hicks Gap.

Jason jumped on an early breakaway to put pressure on Phonak because he was high enough in the overall to cause alarm. By this point he dropped the rest of the guys in the breakaway and solo'ed the Cat. 2 Wolf Pen Gap and Cat. 3 Woody Gap climbs before being caught on the 13 mile downhill descent into Dahlonega! If my memory serves me right, he was 3 minutes and change ahead of the peloton at this point. We were stationed a kilometer or so from the King of the Mountain, which was flooded with people. If you were there then you know what I mean. The size of the crowd at the KOM really surprised me. Parking was nil all over Wolf Pen Gap so I guess a lot of folks pedaled or walked up there.

Here you can see the Phonak train giving chase with team captain, Floyd Landis, in yellow. Tommy D. (not shown) is a couple back on Floyd (behind the Healthnet rider) keeping a close eye on how things develop.