photographer geoff waugh mtb fishing
photographer geoff waugh mtb fishing

Internationally famous ex–fishing photographer Geoff Waugh kicks off another random (might be every issue) regular mini feature for us. Each month we’ll be picking someone from the biking world to choose their ‘favourite’ photo. It could be one they have shot, one they have on the wall, a photo that someone has taken of them…anything. And I’m not going to lie to you, I stole this idea from our sister publication DIG. Thanks guys, hope you don’t mind! Imitation is the highest form of flattery and all that…

From Dirt Issue 136 June 2013

Words by Geoff Waugh. Photo by Geoff Waugh.

This is a hard test. Choosing a favourite photograph was never going to happen. I have so many, by so many people, that no particular one stands out. For instance I own a picture by Norman Parkinson of three beautiful women modelling hats on a New York rooftop. The composition amid the skyline is just as you’d expect. Some of Gregory Crewsden’s productions do my brain in. But they have nowt to do with cycling.

So I opted for an image that is my favourite as of a few weeks ago when I took it. It sounds like I’m bragging but I know (because, I’ve seen ‘em) that there are others from the same session. That’s what makes editing such a tough game; very possibly a game for someone whose has the job title of Picture Editor. Someone emotionally unattached to the image. But for now, as I write, this is the ‘one’.

This image was taken at the famous Paris Roubaix Spring classic one day road race. Yep, road racing. Skinny lycra–clad blokes on skinny tyres. It is super tough, probably tougher than most downhill runs I’ve ever photographed or seen, so get used to that one. It’s about riding bikes…I don’t do division.

This was shot on a stretch of cobbles that runs around the outside of a small town called Orchies in north west France. I knew the spot because a couple of weeks previously I had done a bike test shoot there. The weather was very different from that day when there was mud and snow on the ground. This day dawned foggy but the sun soon burned that away to reveal a brilliant day. Often this means too brilliant for great photography because the races are run when the sun is at its highest and unwanted hard shadows are in order. But by the time the race got here, it was mid afternoon and the Spring sun had moved on.

I was set up to catch the leaders of the race with a 300mm lens as they came towards me down the pave, but I could also see across the flat field to this point which offered another angle before they got to me. I live for this stuff. The chopper thudded overhead and the lead motorbikes came into view. Two breakaway riders appeared through the dust. Pop, pop, pop…in the bag. They rounded the corner and came into view through a crowd of fans going absolutely bonkers. I caught them again head on, fighting to keep them framed and in focus through a sea of waving arms and knowing that I only had seconds to get out of the road, and then looked back to the far poplar trees as the chasing group with their corresponding entourage of cars and motos made this fantastic line of silhouettes against the dancing dust cloud.

Wait, wait until the line of riders fits in between the spectators…pop, pop, pop…done!

There is a great sense of satisfaction knowing you have a ‘banger’ in the camera. I got home from an 18 hour day and went straight to bed, covered in dust and grime. The cards could wait.

Next day I loaded this image into Lightroom and converted it into a split tone as you see here. My main aim was, and is, to produce images that require a second, deeper, look. Not the kind that appear on a website in the morning and are gone after lunch. Hopefully this is one of them. Hopefully it hits the spot with the people that view it. If so, then that makes me very happy. And if it becomes someone else’s favourite picture then that is an honour.