Getting the shot: Inside the stage three sprint

James Startt explains how he got his top shot on stage three of the Tour de France

Well, even though yesterday’s sprint shots were strong, I felt I could do better. And once again, upon arriving at the finish line of stage three of the Tour de France, I was not satisfied with perspective from the photographer’s space. So off I went to check out what the sidelines looked like. And once again I preferred to stay. 

The shot was clean, something that is often not the case. But there were no telephone poles, signs or buildings polluting the background. the fans, and a tree provided a pleasing stage for the day. The only problem was the light which was not as abundant as the sun was darting in and out of the clouds—mostly out. 

And light, I must say, is crucial for a shot like this as the shutter speed, as well as the F stop, must both be high. 

Today's road was wider than yesterday's, but still, I preferred to go with a 40mm lens setting, as it is impossible to predict just where the final rush to the line would happen. In addition, I loved the variety of fans that lined the banner, and I wanted them in my image. 

As the intensity mounted, I could feel the riders coming. And I even got a glimpse of Wout van Aert and Peter Sagan battling it. This time the action was on the far side of the road, and just as they came into view I started shooting. 

Again I could not make out exactly who was leading the charge, although the yellow jersey seemed to have a shoulder's advantage. I just fired. My Nikon D5 gives me about 12 frames a second. The leaders were in three of them, so I guess they passed in about 1/300 of a second, or something like that. All I know is it was fast. 

In the end it is this second shot that makes the cut today and of all of my sideline finish shots I have taken over the last couple of Tours, I think this will go down as one of my favourites. The balance is almost perfect. I love the way Jasper Philipsen, Dylan Groenewegen and Van Aert line up. And I love the variety of expressions from the fans. Wonder, dismay, exhilaration, you name it, it’s all there. 


Camera : Nikon D5
Lens : Nikkor 24mm-70mm (set to 40mm)
F9 1/6400
Iso 10,000

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