Giro d'Italia

Getting the shot: Entering the Valley of the Temples

I have loved this area since covering races for VeloNews here in 1994. But aligning everything is still tricky!

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Every time I come to this area I try to visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, home to the most remarkable Greek ruins outside of, well, Greece.

I first discovered this magnificent site in 1994 when I was covering an early season race, La Settimana Siciliana, for VeloNews. I came again later in the year for the world championships. And finally, I returned more recently a few years back for another photo shoot.

But while the views are spectacular, my self-imposed mission today was to get the peloton racing past at least one of the distinct temples — something I knew would be more complicated than it sounds, as many of the temples sit well off the main road leading into Agrigento.

There are over a half a dozen temples here on the hills around Agrigento, most of them looking down the valley towards the nearby Mediterranean Sea. There is the Temple of Zeus, The Temple of Juno, and of course the magnificent Temple of Concordia, which is the best-preserved of all.

I knew I had to arrive early to scout out the area. And as it turned out, I needed every second. Driving past the first viewing of the temples, I was unconvinced and hoped to find a better perspective closer towards the finish. But I soon realized that I had gone too far, and had no choice but to cross the finish and drive back down to the closest cutoff before walking back downhill.

Initially, I was hoping to get a clear view of Concordia, one where I could also get a clear shot of the peloton. I remembered a spot about four kilometers from the finish with a clear view of the temple and hoped it would offer me a chance. But arriving, I struggled to find a spot with sufficient perspective. And I did my best, climbing over a stone fence and into a field. But I was not convinced that I could get enough of the peloton, and the temple itself remained far off.

Making a last-minute call, I returned to the roadside and made my way up to another spot a few hundred meters further. Here the remains of the Temple of Heracles towered over the roadside below. Only one real wall of Doric columns are still intact, but they are distinctly visible, and climbing up another rocky wall, I found a vantage point. To be honest, I would like to have been able to get more distance, but as is often the case in photography, you have to work with the space that is given to you.

In addition, now after so many back and fourths, the peloton was closing in. I could see the television helicopter approaching as well as the numerous police motorcycles speeding by. I quickly tried several focal lengths, but finally just went with a class 50mm lens. But then ancient Greek temples are pretty classic as well. And soon the peloton was racing underneath as I clicked off as many frames as possible.

Sure I wish they had been more strung out. Sure I wish I had more framing options. But this is photography. And today there was only one shot to get in my books: The Valley of the Temples.