This may not be my best shot of the Tour de France, but it sure felt good taking it. For years I would forego the classic finish line shot and hover well behind the line to capture the riders and their emotions close up.
It was a theme I had pursued for years, a theme I had published and exhibited.
But for the past two years, with Covid restrictions in place, such shots have literally been impossible for most photographers here at the Tour, unless you are lucky enough to be part of the Tour de France pool.
But today, with the breakaway finishing nearly 15 minutes ahead, most of the photographers had long since moved to the awards podium, and I sensed an opportunity to get a few shots of riders after the line.
I looked to where the riders wearing the distinctive jerseys would be escorted into the podium area and waited.
Ironically, I was chatting with Jered Gruber just yesterday while we waited for the race to come up the Mont Ventoux, and we both noted that we use flash less and less. But we also agreed that there are moments when a flash really can make the difference. And today was one of those moments.
Using my vintage 20mm lens I did a few tests to identify the best shutter speed to capture the sense of movement I hoped to achieve. I settled on 1/50 of a second, a speed that would allow the flash to capture the central movement while letting blur enter the background.
Waiting for the riders to passed, they all continued past after the sprint to the line. But soon enough, both Mark Cavendish and Tadej Pogacar came rolling back towards me. With Pogacar on my side, I focused on him, shooting four frames as he was whisked into the podium area. And this shot was the strongest.
It could have been stronger if, say, the stage had been more challenging and he expressed more emotion. But I still liked the play of colors and the reflection of the flash his mirrored glasses. No, it is not my best shot after the line. But it sure felt good to at least be able to shoot here.