I look at photographs with 3 things in mind - education, inspiration and entertainment. This extends far beyond still photography to include movies, TV and sports coverage. I find the Tour de France bike race to be one of the most amazing visual experiences on TV providing a full serving of everything I look for.
The Tour is a 21 day dynamic challenge for any photographer and the coverage provided by the Versus cable network is first class. These photographers and videographers ride along with the 197 racers over the streets of France on the back of motorcycles and hanging out of helicopters without getting in the way. There is no stopping the race to accommodate for advertisers. Accidents happen, and lenses snap from their camera bodies.
Yet, these people persevere to bring you street level views of the rider's faces, from their eyes to their injuries and of the high tech bikes they ride. You see and experience, close-up, all the skill, concentration and emotion that is the sport. Ever changing lighting, from bright sunlight to full downpour rain and every shadow in between test their exposure and focusing skills. Shooting moving targets while you twist backwards on a motorcycle make creating good composition an amazing feat.
Dodging spectators adds to the danger, but they are also interesting subjects and are included in the coverage. You must see the costumes and enthusiasm of these fans to believe it. Don't forget the support teams. Cameras and microphones are installed to monitor team strategies. It is amazing to watch these small cars, covered in bike parts run the gauntlet of people crowding the narrow roads, bikes and motorcycles winding between them.
And, you get a free tour of France, amazingly photographed. While the motorized camera people show us the cobblestones, the local houses and gardens of the small towns and big cities of France, the helicopters give us grandiose views of medieval castles, cathedrals and estates. There are endless miles of sunflower filled farmland, green forests and vistas from the highest Alps. The Versus camera crews always find a way to include the peleton as a focal point in the composition whenever possible.
The race started July 3 and runs until July 26. Every day includes between 3 to 5 hours video of race coverage, interviews and technical analysis. The picture quality has improved greatly over the past few years and is now broadcast in HD. This TV event is not just coverage of a sport but also a colorful, undulating visual feast for the eyes.
Check your local listings (it feels funny to write that) and visit http://www.versus.com/ for more information.