Okay, so sometimes you have to be patient! As much as I was frustrated yesterday that the peloton did not race through the old city in Matera, today I was literally spoiled with opportunities.
After arriving at my hotel last night, I walked around the old center of a town that is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth. And I quickly understood why it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The layers of time are simply breathtaking as one gets lost in the maze of footpaths.
But how was I going to get a shot of the peloton at the start of stage seven in this year’s Giro d’Italia? It seemed impossible to find a spot with a proper perspective.
Waking up early, I took another walk before breakfast as I tried to get a better lay of the land. But I still was unsure. It was only after running into a local resident that I had a clue where to go. “Try the Belvedere di Sant’Agostino,” he said. “You get a view from above there, and you can even get the riders in several spots.”
Looking up the Sant’Agostino, I decided to walk back over after breakfast. An old convent, Sant’Agositno sits back from the oldest part of the city. And indeed it provided the perfect perspective. I spent some time trying to understand just which direction the peloton would arrive, and I identified at least five spots for potential pictures.
I could get them coming down the Via Madonna delle Virtu, with the old city on the right and the cliffs on the left. I could get them in the turn underneath the city. I could get them from behind as they came out of the turn, and lastly, I could get them a final time as they climbed past Sant’Agostino. By any photographer’s standards, so many possibilities from one location makes for a one good spot.
I wasn’t particularly pleased with the harsh morning light but I calculated that, by the time the race started the sun would have moved. And I wasn’t wrong.
Returning about 15 minutes before the start, I was relieved that every photographer from the Giro had not eyed this same spot. I checked my locations and prepared my camera’s focal lengths and exposures for the different perspectives.
So I waited.
As the clock ticked down, I felt like a downhill skier going through the motions, trying to visualize every turn of a slalom as I rehearsed each of my shots. After all, I would have only seconds between each.
And then came the riders. I clicked them off on the descent with my first camera—my new Nikon Z7. I then quickly switched to my second camera, equipped with a wider lens for the curve shot. Then I ran up the adjacent steps and grabbed my first camera body for the shot of them coming out of the turn. And finally, I ran across the road, climbed a terrace, and changed to my widest lens for the final shot of the pack in front of Sant’Agostino.
It all happened so fast, I wasn’t sure what I got. And it was only in the editing process that I really knew. The shots were consistent, but while you can anticipate certain elements in photography, nothing is ever a given. So when it comes to cycling photography, you cannot always predict just how the image will appear with the peloton.
I quite liked the shot of the pack descending between the city and the cliff, as well as the shot in the turn. And while the shot of Sant’Agostino was solid, I didn’t get a sense of the unique nature of Matera. In the end, I prefer the shot of them coming out of the turn as they roll back through what is a sea of aging architecture. The peloton is bright and powerful, while Matera offers an undeniably unique stage.
Today at least, I got the shot I was chasing! And today, at least, things turned out more like I expected.