Tomorrow morning I am leaving to Rotterdam for the Prologue of the Tour de France. I will be there as an accredited photographer (so cool, isn’t it?!?) shooting for Bikemag, the market leader cycling magazine of Hungary. I will take the high-speed train (Thalys) from Brussels (leaving with a local train from Leuven on the very early morning – at least getting up at 6:30 is extremely early for me) – for the first time in my life – which will cross the Dutch border traveling with 300km/h on a quite recently (end of 2009) completed new track. After taking pictures on the Belgian Championship last Sunday, I am not (too much) worried about my equipment anymore – though I am far from being experienced in sports-photography -, but I am a bit afraid of the weather… At the moment (17:35 CEST), it is quite likely that there will be showers passing by on the afternoon as a moderate cold-front swipes through from the west, meaning that there is a chance of 33% that rain will fall on a given spot (where I stand with my camera). Though this is much better than constant rain (because you can take photographs at least in between the – hopefully – short rainy periods, and wet roads look great in pictures), but it still makes the life of the photographer much harder (extra clothes needed, and you have to search for places when you may take cover if needed). Also, stormy weather is very unfair during individual time-trials, because conditions (wet/dry road, wind, etc.) can change radically in 5 minutes, and completing the course on dry roads with no wind is incomparably easier than riding against the wind in heavy rain. So it might be a very interesting afternoon (but the Tour will definitely not be decided on the first day), but I keep praying for dry weather anyway.
As I am not a professional photojournalist, (I mean it is not my job, but a hobby – something I do for free, just for fun), I can not spend a huge amount of time on preparations (like reading through all the predictions and interviews, memorizing the face of all the riders – to be able to recognize them around e.g. the team buses, to always know whom I should take a picture of -, etc.), because I have already spent a lot of money on train tickets (100€ just for a return ticket to Rotterdam) and new equipment (I do not want to count that). But as we all know: “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard”. So experiencing the atmosphere of the Tour from the photographers’ side will be probably unforgettable. I will try to do my best (of course I have red a lot of things, plus I am following several cyclists on Twitter – and not only Lance Armstrong -, and I have a good guess about which cyclists should finish around the top 10).
This is the equipment I will use on the Tour de France (TdF) – all goes into a Lowepro Fastpack 250 backpack:
Canon EOS 7D body
Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens with EW-78E hood and a B+W UV filter
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens* + ET-86 hood + Hoya UV filter
Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash
Canon LP-E6 battery packs (2x) and charger
SanDisk memory cards (8GB Extreme III, 4GB Ultra and a 1GB normal – very old one)
MacBook (with Adobe Photoshop CS4) + mouse, power adapter and Tucano second skin
and other small things (money, phone, USB-cable, B+W lens cleaner)
*thanks to Dr. Stefan Uttenthaler
What else am I supposed to say now? I am very excited, I have already packed almost everything, so I could leave in a half hour, if I had to. (Luckily, this is not the case, so I can still go for an ice-cream and watch the World Cup with my colleagues tonight.) In the following couple of days, I will try to give an insight into not only the most important and famous cycling race of the year, but I will also show you the photographer’s life on the Tour. Look back regularly, I will try to keep you updated! Vive le Tour!