On Saturday, July 14, I photographed the third annual Indy Criterium cycling competition and festival, making it through all 11 competitions and a fun kids' race, a long, eight-plus-hour day on which I also set a personal record for volume of total pictures taken in one shoot -- almost 4,700. Such is the "luxury" of digital cameras -- there is no film cost overhead to worry about; you just have to be sure you pack enough memory cards.
Before ever leaving the house Saturday, I made a couple of choices with the memory of another very long day -- the White Lick 5K Mudathlon near Anderson on June 30 -- still firmly in mind. Two things distinguished my experience at the mudathlon -- I left my sunscreen in the car and I used my heavy Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens, most of the time without benefit of a monopod. I had the monopod that day, but it would not stand firm in the mud, plus ... the assignment I had made it impossible to get the shots I needed without moving a lot, and the monopod proved to be an impediment to that.
So on Saturday, for the Indy Crit, I elected to use my much lighter -- and, in terms of focal range, more versatile -- Tamrom 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II PZD VC lens. The versatility precluded me from needing to lug around a second body equipped with a lens with a shorter focal range, my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L. Another decision I made was to move my point of focus, in pack shots of riders, away from the lead rider to the center of the pack. And still another decision was, for the first time ever, to shoot in Small RAW format. I used to shoot in Large RAW, but for so many sports outings, the huge file sizes proved unnecessary. I've shot in Medium RAW for several months now, and those file sizes are more manageable and take up less space on the home computer. But I sensed I was going to shoot a lot Saturday, and I decided to go small to keep my memory-card changing and post-event tracking to a minimum. I'm glad I did it, but ... I won't do it on a regular basis; I'll continue to shoot in at least Medium RAW format unless circumstances dictate otherwise.
Oh, yeah: I applied the sunscreen before leaving the house!
Now that I've gone through all my pictures and posted them online at my SmugMug site, here's what I feel about my decisions on gear:
*** Physically, electing to to use the Tamron was a wise one. I got around much easier, and that was key because I moved around a lot, as I knew I would because I've done it before at loop-course cycling competitions. I must have circled the mile-long figure-eight route at least seven times during the day. Not having a second camera body and/or a first body with a heavy lens did my anatomical body a huge favor. I didn't have nearly the back and shoulder ache I recall having after a long day of using the Canon 70-200mm at the mudathlon. Plus, the Tamron could get my closeup and long-range shots, saving me time from switching from one camera to another.
*** I think the quality of images using the Tamron was not as good as I would have gotten with my Canon lenses, but I would not go so far to say that the drop-off was a large one. The oft-changing natural lighting proved to be a bear to work around all day, but even the prolonged cloud cover periods never compromised my camera settings enough to make me seriously wish I had the faster Canon f/2.8 lenses, though it came close a couple times. The real question is whether I'd do it again for a similar outdoor shoot. The answer is: I'm not sure. If I knew I had a long day ahead of me like Saturday and/or that I'd be moving around a lot and taking lots of pictures, I'd have to give using the Tamron serious thought again. But if it were a relatively short shoot -- four hours max -- I would turn to the Canons to optimize image quality.
*** I got some interesting results using the center of the pack as a point of focus -- I was getting far more riders in the back of the pack in focus -- but it did bother me that the lead rider or two were not in focus. So I'm likely to not repeat that experiment and next time push my ISO to higher levels to secure a smaller aperture that will enable me to get more riders in focus behind the lead rider. Now ... if I only had not twice forgotten to return my shutter speed to 1/400 or 1/500 until halfway through both the second Men's 3/4 and the finale, the Men's 1/2/3 events (I'd reduced it to 1/250 to grab either podium or festival candid shots in the lulls before the races), I might not have had to throw out so many blurry shots. But, I don't think I'm the first who's been caught napping doing something irksome like that. But like I said, it was a long day.
I lead off today's post with a scene from a crash involving two cyclists about midway through the Men's Masters (age 40 and over) competition. The spill involved teammates on the McDonald's Racing team on Market Street between Illinois and Meridian streets, the southern-most point on the course on downtown streets. One of the riders, Michael Savory of Miamisburg, Ohio, got up in short order and resumed racing. Impressively, he finished 11th. The other, face bloodied, pulled off the course and conferred with race officials and spent time examining his damaged bike. According to the posted official results, there were no DNFs (did not finish), but I don't see his bib number (241) listed in the results, so I presume he did not return to the competition.
Above: Mayor Greg Ballard welcomes and addresses the crowd; with him is Indy Crit founder and director Jennifer Cvar, herself a top-flight cyclist.
Above: Texas Roadhouse's Chad Burdzilauskas leads three other riders around the corner of New York and Illinois streets. Burdzilauskas would finish second in the Men's 1/2/3 race, equaling his finish in the 2011 Indy Crit.
Above: One thing I did a lot of Saturday was pan -- following action by tracking the riders with the camera. The shot of this Texas Roadhouse racer wasn't my best execution, but in tandem with the spot sun highlighting and rider-cycle shadow, I count it among my favorite of the day, even if the execution was only mediocre.
Above: A group in the Women's 4 race that includes (second from left) Team Bicycle Exchange's Kristin Siebenlist, Indianapolis, an alumna of Marian University's heralded cycling program.
Above: Eric Geier of Marion tries to make champagne-spraying an art form during the podium celebration of the first Men's 4/5 competition, which Geier won. Flanking him are runner-up Scott Baumer of Indianapolis (left) and Edward Wimmer, Erlanger, Ky., who fnished third.
Above: Former Indiana University cyclist Sarah Fredrickson of Bloomington, riding for Speedway Wheelman, is in the center of the pack turning the corner of New York Street to head north on Illinois Street during the Women's 1/2/3 competition.
Above: Bri Clark of Carmel crosses the finish line first in the Women's 1/2/3 competition.
Above: Tri-column trains made this scene on Monument Circle an interesting spectacle during the Men's 1/2/3 competition.
Above and next three below: The podium ceremony for the 1/2/3 race went off without a hitch, as Bri Clark (center above), winner of the women's race, raised arms with runner-up Katie Arnold (left) and third-place finisher Emilie Flanigan for the women's salute. They also enjoyed the traditional champagne bottle spray and drinks. Runnerup Chad Burdzilauskas of Indianapolis (first image below) got the Men's 1/2/3 ceremony off to a different start by marching bare-chested onto the stage then bending over -- a sort of pants-on side monty (second below) -- while stretching to get his arms back into the tight-fitting jersey at his podium step, much to the amusement of the crowd. When proper decorum was restored, attention returned to winner Mac Brennan of Team Bissell-ABG-Nuvo (third below). Also on the podium was photo-finish third-place finisher Nicolai Brochner.
Above: One of my best pan shots of the day, a capture of Men's 1/2/3 riders (from left) Paul Dental of Cincinnati, Mark Alford of Indianapolis, Harry Clark of Carmel and Thomas Walsh of Bloomington. Of the four, Clark finished the highest (24th).
Above: The closest podium-place finish of the day determined third place in the Men's 1/2/3 competition. Nicolai Brochner (right) edged Weston Luzadder of Carmel, and race officials had to take time to consult video to decide who crossed the line first. Luzadder's team Bissell-ABG-Nuvo, led by race winner Mac Brennan, landed six riders in the Top 20 and won the team competition.
Above and next three below: Children played an important role in the Indy Criterium & Festival, whether it be as spectators (above), participants in the kids' race (next two below) or having fun with water and a hose in the mist test in University Park.
Above and remainder below: More scenes from the festival in University Park in downtown Indianapolis and elsewhere along the figure-eight course.