People often ask me, 'Geoff, do you shoot events?' To which I reply, 'yes but not as you know them.' My job as an editorial/ corporate photographer has a completely different remit to that of an event photographer. I don’t go with the intent of catching every competitor and then selling to them afterwards. My fee has already been established (but it takes longer to get at that money!) and my job is to provide a story from that event whatever that may be. Sometimes I am there to photograph certain people, sometimes to photograph the event in a news style, which means, I must be there at the beginning and, if it is a race of any kind, most definitely at the end to catch the victory celebrations, the podiums and the champagne spraying. At most of the events I go to there will be a lot of photographers, and there will be a ‘pack mentality’. I try to disengage from this and wander off to do my own thing – this can be impossible, dependent on what you are shooting; F1 or other dangerous sports, will have very strict rules on where and how you can shoot. I am always after a different view and angle. A colleague once said to me, 'I always see you in a field somewhere, don’t know what the heck you have seen, but then I see the finished article and am shocked.' That sort of response fires me up.
I often want to give the viewer a look at how the rider/racer may have seen their event. Along the way, I have collected a few pieces of ‘equipment’ that help me achieve certain different points of views images.
For example, in image , a magazine was running a feature about preparing a mountain bike for winter, mud riding. The concept was to get right into the mud and run the image as the opening spread. So I went straight to the local DIY store and bought a large sheet of Perspex. We found the muddiest section of trail we could find in deepest Epping Forest and I propped the Perspex up to the side, but very close, to the track. I set my Nikon D200 camera up on a mini-tripod behind the Perspex and attached a radio, remote release into the ten-pin socket. A Pocket Wizard transmitter was put into the hotshoe. Because I was shooting low and upwards I wanted to use some flash to catch the wet mud splashes as they rose from the wheels. To this end I used a ‘secret’ stand that I found in an angling shop. It is a telescopic bank stick and has a camera thread adapter screwed into the top. This is so anglers fishing alone can plonk their digi compacts on the stick and take a shot of themselves with their leviathans via a self timer! It is perfect for me to attach the plastic-threaded stand that comes with the SB-800 and then the flash itself. Having lined up the view using the rear LCD, I stuck the flash ‘stand’ into the soft ground to the right of the camera, about three metres away and pointing towards the riders at an angle of about 45 degrees from the camera plane. The SB-800 was fired with a Pocket Wizard receiver. Then I stood back at a safe distance (it was cold and I had flu!) and fired the camera and flash with the radio release. The resulting image made the grade and was run as a DPS. It showed what the art editor had asked for and, importantly, left room for a headline and any other text. Job done.
In image  I used a monopod, a piece of kit I once used to prop up my long lens when shooting football and cricket, before I found a more inventive role for it. I removed the battery pack from my D200 and fitted a 12–24 lens at its widest angle of view – important since I wasn’t going to be looking through any viewfinder. A Pocket Wizard transmitter was put in the camera hotshoe and an SB- 800 on a small stand off to the camera left to illuminate the rear hub part of the bike. Then I held the camera upside down on the end of the monopod and pointed it at the part of the bike I wanted to capture. It took a few passes and constant reviewing on the camera screen but the net result can be used to illustrate many things and is a good stock image. This technique can be used to highlight any aspect of the bike and has lots of other applications. Again I used my e-bay radio release. But before that I used a cable release which is just as good. You can choose whether or not to use flash.
Image . When Maxim called up and wanted a group test of racing machines I knew I had to get some eye-catching images. I decided on POV. This time looking back at the bike as in a real race situation. I scoped a quiet piece of road where we could work with little hindrance because shooting this kind of image means constantly looping around in the middle of the road! This image was shot on film on a Nikon F5. I clamped it to the handlebar of the forward bike with a Manfrotto Superclamp so the rig hung upside down. Look closely and you can see the shadow of the body and lens. (The magazine retouched the finished item.) This was also before I owned a radio release so I ran a short cable release to sit under the camera operator’s (yep, they are my chubby thighs!) fingers. But not so obtrusive as to hinder braking! Image  is an alternative take.
Back to the monopod for image . But this time I held it way up over the racers as they burst over the start line. I used the radio release and a 10.5mm fisheye to ensure I got a lot of the scene in the frame. I purposely did not use flash which would have, to some extent, frozen the scene and I wanted to show the excitement that a bunch sprint yields. I used a shutter speed of 1/8s on a D200. It pays to fire a lot of frames off in this situation and edit down to the one that fits the bill. I always change the POV as I shoot , simply by rotating the monopod.
Image  I shot both as an experiment and a stock image. Here I used a Manfrotto Magic Arm, an ingenious and very useful piece of photographic equipment. At one end I have a Super Clamp, at the other, a camera bracket, but this set-up can be altered to suit needs. The arm was clamped onto the handlebar next to the stem and rotated outward and downwards to achieve the desired angle of view. A D200 body minus the battery pack was used to reduce weight, with an SB-800 flashgun attached. I used a fisheye lens and attached the white dome diffuser to the gun to spread the light since the camera was so close to the subject and I didn’t want any unsightly hotspots. A cable release was taped to the bar to allow for a release by the rider’s thumb but not so it would show in the shot. The location was relatively crucial to this image. I tried to find a section of track that has overhead foliage which I wanted to ‘streak’ under the slow shutter speed. The shutter was released at 1/15 of a second as I rode gently (ish) down the trail. First time around the camera kept slipping on the bar; a body and flashgun hanging on a magic arm are heavy and I didn’t want to screw down the clamp so tightly that it damaged the aluminium handlebar. The answer was a bungy cord which I hooked on the bar and around the camera bracket. It moved still, but not enough to spoil the result.
Different angle same session . This time I clamped the arm to the seat post (The bit that joins the saddle to the frame) and angled it so it was pointing between my arms and directly down the track. A proper rider’s eye view. I experimented with shutter speeds, ranging between 1/8s to 1/30s to achieve the correct amount of speed blur. Any camera shake here can add to the overall feeling of speed and the trail’s bumpy nature, but it pays to keep referring to the LCD screen to check the results. It was even more important here to choose a nice leafy cover with gaps to allow for light streaks. No flash was used because it would have been so close to my pasty arms that horrible hot spots would have occurred. I tucked the cable release away underneath the top tube (crossbar for old-schoolers) and up to the right thumb.
Another Magicarm image . This time the camera was clamped to the front fork of the bike and pointed forwards to show the lead rider, pedalling away into the gloom on a very cold and wet day in the Brecon Beacons. This was shot on a Nikon 801 body (I like to keep my old bodies as ‘stunt cameras’ for exactly these sort of applications!) because we wanted to use colour negative film for a different look. No flash and the arm was clamped in a very ‘tight’ position, close to the frame to form a rigid structure and to show the portion of the front wheel to give the image depth. I used a 16mm fisheye.
So you see, getting a different perspective on an event is easy. The techniques I used here can be applied to many sports and even other areas; clamp your camera over the altar for example! Try it, your creative brain will be exercised – which is always a good thing.
Geoff Waugh abppa
Geoff Waugh ABPPA has been photographing sports and action since the late 80s. He has worked shifts for daily and Sunday newspapers shooting mainstream sports. Five times an award winner in the SJA Sports Photographer of the Year, he now concentrates on alternative sports such as cycling, motorbikes and lifestyle. He was SWPP Press Photographer of the Year 2007.