Shooting a mountain bike race is hectic. A ton of fun, but hectic. Why hectic? First off, they are generally somewhere remote, like in the woods, on the side of a mountain (duh), and as such, require you, the photographer, to get up early, pack your gear (the night before would be a good tip), hop in whatever means of transportation you have access to, get to the venue, walk the course to see where to get the best shots are, shoot the race running from awesome spot to awesome spot and hope you got a few keepers.
When I go out to shoot a mountain bike race, I like to try and scope out at least 2, maybe 3 good vantage points to shoot from. This is why walking the course before hand is super important and will help cut down on the amount of walking around, thereby missing shots, you have to do.
Take these shots I took while covering the 2022 B.C. Provincial Mountain Bike Championships in Abbotsford, B.C. on the May long weekend. I walked the course, found a few good spots (and one that a lot of people were shooting from that I didn't really care for), and varied my shot list, capturing images from these spots at different times of the day, as the different classes of racers did their laps. Walking the course and scoping out a few good spots to shoot from will save you time and energy and allow you to get as many good shots as possible in the limited time you have during the race(s).
The first spot I shot from was from slightly above the apex of a high speed corner on a decent somewhere in the middle of the overall course. This spot got me quite a few really good photos due to being up slightly above the racers and showing the flow of the course lines. For a few of them, I slowed my shutter speed down and managed to get a few "panning" style shots. Panning shots in bike racing are the "Holy Grail" shots, IMHO, as they show the speed at which the racer are going and can really add to the "value" of the shot.
2022 BC Provincial Mountain Bike Championships1/125 sec. f/2.8 70 mm
2022 BC Provincial Mountain Bike Championships1/200 sec. f/2.8 70 mm
From here I moved up the path to shoot this same corner from a different angle and little further away. I wanted take advantage of the Tamron 70-200 f2.8 that I had brought with me to create some shallow depth of field looks by shooting through the foliage and framing the racers with the lush greenery. Here a few examples of what I'm talking about:
2022 BC Provincial Mountain Bike Championships1/800 sec. f/2.8 115 mm
2022 BC Provincial Mountain bike Championships1/640 sec. f/2.8 88 mm
2022 BC Provincial Mountain Bike Championships 1/800 sec. f/2.8 108 mm
And from there I went up a little higher to capture this corner when the sun was a little higher in the sky and lit it up just perfectly.
2022 BC Provincial Mountain Bike Championships 1/100 sec. f/7.1 70 mm
2022 BC Provincial Mountain Bike Championships1/125 sec. f/5 70 mm
2022 BC Provincial Mountain Bike Championships1/60 sec. f/6.3 70 mm
Keep in mind that I shoot mostly (99% of the time) in Aperture Priority and adjust my ISO depending on the lighting conditions. Taking this full day of shooting, from morning to late afternoon, my ISO fluctuated between 100 and 1600. Quite a range.
S there you have it, a little insight into a day of shooting a mountain bike race and some tips and pointers on what to expect and how to get the most out of your day.
Big thanks to Cycling BC, Glenridge Acres and Norco Bicycles for putting on this awesome event!
Now get out there and shoot!