Getting just the right image at a bike race can be a tricky thing. There are a lot of distractions in the frame, some of which are fans, podiums, race officials, and let’s not forget dogs. There are also traffic cones, caution tape, hay bales and some really awkward fencing. For someone who likes clean images with lots of open space, this regularly poses a problem for my photographic vision. I can zoom in and get very tight images, eliminating backgrounds altogether, but an entire gallery of that seems a little...meh. Plus, I would miss the fun shots of racers lined up in draft or the symmetry of them spread across the road.
My next option is to Photoshop the hell out of what I don’t like. While I’m not opposed to getting rid of a stay spot or weird artifact, to eliminate entire pieces of scenery seems both tiresome (I ain’t got time for that) and somewhat misleading. I tend to edit more on the side of photojournalism with my photography – I don’t add anything that wasn’t there and I’m careful not to remove something that was part of the race, even if it was an actual hay bale.
Instead, I work with what I’m given. One important lesson I’ve learned is that it never works to fight against the background distractions. The more I try to crop them out in-camera, or find a stretch that is distraction free, the worse my shots get. The only success I’ve had is to work with them – find a way to blur them, or better yet make them fit the composition, even if it seems like a bad idea. Sometimes it is, in fact, a bad idea. And sometimes it’s not. A few missed shots are well worth finding a way to tell the true story of a race.