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  • Making a connection: Shooting Tour de France from the back of a motorbike (part 2 of 2)

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    In part one of our ‘Making a connection’ series for sports photographers’ Nikon Pro explored how pros will transfer their images at the Olympics, with award-winning sports photographer Bob Martin. In this second part, Bernard Papon, French photographer for sports publication l’Equipe, talks to us about covering the Tour de France, shooting from the back of a motorbike and working with slow Wi-Fi.

    Bernard Papon’s image of Thibaut Pinot, the youngest rider in the 2012 Tour de France. D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED @ f/14 | 14.0 mm | 1/200 s | ISO 100 © Bernard Papon’s/ l’Equipe
    Bernard Papon’s image of Thibaut Pinot, the youngest rider in the 2012 Tour de France. Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED @ f/14 | 14.0 mm | 1/200 s | ISO 100 © Bernard Papon’s/ l’Equipe

     

    ‘I take one NIKKOR 14-24mm for close shots and I now use the NIKKOR 28-300mm a lot because it’s so flexible, especially when I don’t have time to swap cameras on the bike. I also take some tilt lenses and a 400mm or 500mm to shoot the sprint finish of a stage. My camera is equipped with a WT-5 so I can send my shots live. The only parameter out my control is the quality and coverage of the    Wi-Fi network.’

     


    The race doesn’t just happen on the track

     

    Speed is vital for sports photography, especially when producing images on the go for the media. Bernard explains that, for websites like l’Equipe, it’s an accepted fact that ‘the first person to send their pictures to the editor sees them published’.

     

    According to Bernard, photographers transfer their shots so quickly that they’re now rivalling TV. ‘Sending the photos ‘live’ is something all my colleagues and myself are doing now; for the daily paper and also to update the L’Équipe’s website. If the photo editor is ready to caption and edit our shots as we send them, there’s hardly any difference. So today, I have the means to compete with anyone’.

     

    Bernard’s kit & Wi-Fi

     

    The Nikon D4S is his secret to success, and Bernard has perfected his transmission routine.

     

    Packed inside his kit bag are four Nikon D4S cameras: two for everyday use and two spares, because ‘you never know what might happen when you work in tough conditions on the back of a motorbike and you’re shooting in all weather conditions’.

     

    ‘I take one NIKKOR 14-24mm for close shots and I now use the NIKKOR 28-300mm a lot because it’s so flexible, especially when I don’t have time to swap cameras on the bike. I also take some tilt lenses and a 400mm or 500mm to shoot the sprint finish of a stage. My camera is equipped with a WT-5 so I can send my shots live. The only parameter out my control is the quality and coverage of the Wi-Fi network.

     

    ‘If the Wi-Fi is slow, Bernard has a back-up plan: ‘I pair my WT-5 with a 4G mobile router and if the network is good, I can send pictures without compressing them. If it’s slow there is an integrated set-up in the camera that allows me to compress files at different ratios/sizes, 0.7 Mo being the smallest, for web publishing for instance.’ 

     

     

    Straight from the back of a bike

     

    ‘People are generally surprised at what can be done on the back of a bike but because of the D4S’s shortcut buttons I can quickly bring up a compression menu and then select the best picture from the screen’, Bernard explains.

     

    ‘At the touch of a button I can compress and send the image. I don’t have to waste time uploading my memory card to a laptop, caption the shots and then send them. I send my pictures directly to the L’Équipe editors from the bike, for them to caption and edit.’

     

    It’s the immediacy of the process that allows him to stand out. No photographer wants to miss the action and with the possibilities that the wireless transmission provides, it means Bernard never does.

     

    ‘The big plus for me is that I never have to drop my camera in order to send pictures – so I never miss the action. If I hear the crowd react to something, I can instantly resume shooting and not miss anything that’s happening.’

     

     

    Vocal tagging

     

    When you’re taking over a thousand shots a day or more, and sending less than half of those on to your editors, it’s hard to pick out the ones you that are the best without spending too much time.

     

    What’s Bernard’s tip for this? Vocal tagging.

     

    ‘I tag the pictures I like while on the bike, because on the mountain stage for example, I typically take about 1500 shots a day, so it’s useful to flag which ones we like for the editors. I edit a selection of around 200 shots to send to the paper and for this purpose I use vocal tagging. I press the mic button and I briefly say what the pic is about and why I like it. So the sound file is uploaded together with the picture.’

     

    It’s this combination of lightning quick kit and smart use of features that allows Bernard to get and send the shots he needs to his editor without a hitch.

     

    Are you photographer who works on the go where quick transmission of images is a vital? If so, what are your tips for getting the job done quickly? Share them in the comments below.

     

     

    Nikon Pro The original article appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of the Nikon Pro magazine. Interested in similar articles? Get the mag here or download the Nikon Pro app, available from the App Store here and through Google Play here