The Algarve Cycling Tour 2017 with the Fuji X-T2
The Algarve Cycling Tour (‘Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta’) is the highest level road cycling race held annually in Portugal. Every February it brings to the region a good number of professional cyclists listed in the UCI top 100 individual ranking, thousands and thousands of fans from several countries and, of course, many portuguese and foreign photographers, whether they are the most reputed ones working for media coverage or incognito amateurs (like me).
Professional photographers sometimes have the possibility of shooting under very special conditions. They make pictures from motorcycles and can follow side by side, and occasionally up ahead, the race. They also have specific missions, centered on recording images of the most sounding names of the ‘world cycling squad’ and on particular moments of the stages. Other photographers, even collaborating with regional newspapers (such as myself, who occasionally publish in the ‘barlavento, a weekly regional newspaper’), face notorious restrictions to make ‘those’ unique photos of the best cyclists. But we benefit, on the other hand, from enormous freedom to register the surroundings of the ‘algarvia’.
This was my working script, to some extent inspired by masters like Sebastião Salgado who photographed ‘Le Tour de France 1986’, Henri Cartier-Bresson on ‘Les 6 Jours de Paris 1957’, or Robert Capa on ‘Le Tour de France 1939’. Keeping in mind my motto ‘Give Creativity a Chance – Go Beyond the Obvious’, I went out onto the road with a watchful eye, very focused on the public, the landscape, the quirky and the amazing details.
I came out with my X-T2, with three prime lenses, 16mm F/1.4, 35mm F/2.0 and 90mm F/2.0, and with a Cactus RF60 flash. A light and practical set but full of potentialities. And the first thing I can comment on is the enjoyment of some professional photographers who saw me in the reserved areas, and their surprise when I showed them some of the results on the LCD or EVF. The agility of FUJI allows me to be more flexible and therefore more creative. I photograph today with much more pleasure than with my previous full-frame setup (Canon 5D MK III + Sigma or Canon lenses).
Since I mainly wanted to be centered on the public, I chose to keep it in focus while registering the cyclists in motion. This was easily achieved with low or moderate shutter speeds, chosen according to the race itself and the intended effect: 1/250 sec allowed me some drag in sprints or climbs, close to the plane of action, 1/50 sec allowed me an obvious effect when the action plan was farther away. I opted, of course, for editing my best pictures in black and white. It’s true that the world is in colour but colour in photography is often noise. As Ernesto de Sousa wrote in 1978, ‘photography does not imitate the eye, suspend it’, and B&W in this series allows me to transmit in a pure and free way what I wanted to see and register. But I also know that this aesthetic option ensures a permanent ‘conflict’ with a large portion of the ‘public’ of cycling photography, and of sports photography in general, because it values images with vivid colours. Outside of my aesthetic B&W, I chose to edit in color two images. These are the ones where there is a more immediate photo reporter approach: a podium, where I also tried to highlight the hustle and bustle of professional photographers, and the final image of Amaro Antunes (W52 F.C. Porto) about to win the ‘Alto do Malhão’ stage. It’s an intensely confused photograph, where the cyclist is almost disappearing from the frame, and very small in the midst of the people, the cars and all the apparent confusion and shouting of the most mythical Algarve Cycling Tour stage, raced at one of the weekend days for the great delight of the thousands fans. The same ones that appear in the two previous images, that go up the Malhão by bike and stay all day to eat, drink and fraternize with friends, or those who wait patiently to see, applaud, encourage and photograph, even if it’s only with a mobile phone.
About FUJIFILM, what to say? The X-T2 is truly amazing and beyond reproach. Fast and precise focusing, ergonomic and complete. Even with uncompressed RAW, the number of frames per second is dazzling as long as the writing speed of the memory cards allows it to continue shooting. It only lacks for me the possibility of georeferencing the images with an external GPS. The same above listed adjectives apply to Fujinon lenses. I’m a primes big fan and keep the old principle that the best zoom is on the photographer’s legs.
The set I own (16mm, 35mm and 90mm) fully meets my requirements concerning to focal lengths and depths of field. I use a lot the 16mm when I photograph road cycling, cyclocross and mountain biking, and I’m always satisfied. The 90mm, at the other extreme, it’s a sublime lens, both for ‘frozen’ images, pannings, and ‘close-up’. I confess, it’s true, that I’m anxiously awaiting the 80mm OIS that is announced for the next summer, to find out what else will allow me a Fujinon prime lens with image stabilization.
For post-processing, which is a task that I also like a lot, I love simple ‘tools’. Lightroom CC and sometimes Silver Efex Pro 2 are more than enough for what I seek and want: simple, direct, realistic and humanistic images with a free photographic language but based on the ethical principles of photojournalism.
‘a dilettante and independent photographer who shoots dirtying inattentively the lenses…’
“Born in Lisbon (1960-), I’m living in Tavira, Algarve, and working to the University of the Algarve. Photography is (not) just a hobby. Since 2014 I’m the coordinator of the ‘Lagoa Photographic Encounters’, having been the cultural coordinator of the exhibition ‘O Algarve de Artur Pastor’ and the curator of the exhibition ‘Algarvios, de Vitor Pina’. Nowadays I’m curating and producing the photobook / exhibition ‘Algarve 63’. I am also a photobooks collector. Cycling and mountain biking races are one of my preferred shooting subjects for having good times in the cloudland. The ‘Volta ao Algarve em Bicicleta’ is one of the top of them.”