This pic set the internet alight yesterday. I don’t know who took it, but as you see from the watermark – it came from the Australian site Cycling Tips . The image clearly shows a man lying in the road and taking a picture. Viewers were rightfully outraged. I imagine some of the riders were pretty surprised and/or pissed off too. Some of the captions ran something like:” Photographer in the middle of the road”. I suppose that since he has a camera and is taking a photo, he could be described as a photographer. He probably thinks he is too. But I cannot see any accreditation, no bib which denotes he is attached to race, has signed on and and is doing his job. So, in that light I would prefer to call him a fan with a camera. A professional photographer doing his or her job would not put themselves in such a crazy position so as to endanger riders – and let’s face it, themselves. Fans with cameras tend not to carry long lenses which allow them to shot from safe positions whilst still achieving the ‘close up’ look. So they have to get close to the action. And if the lens has a wide angle point of view then it makes it even more difficult to judge the speed and proximity of a subject. What looks like a great and exciting angle can mean getting clipped if the picture taker is not constantly aware of the edges of the frame. Shoot with a fisheye lens and this becomes an extreme sport within itself!
If you want to see how this works in real life, check out this video of T Mobile’s Giuseppe Guerini on his way to winning the Alp D’Huez stage of the Tour de France back in 1999. (Skip to 4.50).
The man with the camera is no doubt concentrating on the rider – the first rider to come up the mountain through a sea of parting bodies. and when those bodies part you have seconds and sometimes fractions of seconds to get the image and get out of the way. He probably isn’t checking all around the edges of his viewfinder frame. He could be getting pretty excited at seeing the potential winner of that stage, looking right into his eyes. And then BOOM! The racer is upon him before has time to get out of the way and the classic ‘which way?’ dance ensues and the rider goes down. Luckily Guerini got up and rode on to a famous victory. In the chaos of a mountain top stage people cannot be policed all of the time. But I am surprised no one had a word with the guy at Gent Wevelgem. And looking in the background of the image there is a man in a hi-vis vest who could be a race marshall or , judging by his position, a photographer or cameraman. Still, he would be concentrating on the action in front of him not in the direction of a supine body in the road! Maybe a spectator should’ve spoken up? Maybe it’s not their business. Maybe the guy with the camera had one too many Duvels. It wouldn’t be the first time. I believe one of the beauties of cycle racing is the very fact that it is unpredictable. The fact that is run on open roads and with barriers only at the start and at the finish. It just wouldn’t be the same if spectators couldn’t get as close to the men on the road. Just because a person has a bike does that make them a cyclist? That’s a question I see bandied around a lot. We could apply the same logic in this scenario. What do you think?
Footnote: He got his 15 minutes – check out the gwguy blog.