Tour Divide by Eddie Clark

Tour Divide by Eddie Clark (website | Facebook |Instagram | Flickr , all photos were shot with a D500 and D750 cameras):

My first year of relying solely on photography as a source of income was 2009, which is also the first year I shot the Tour Divide.  Back then the Tour Divide was still very under-the-radar in the bike racing world, and probably less than one hundred people had ever finished the race. This year would mark my seventh year covering it.

For those unfamiliar with the event, the Tour Divide is a self-supported bike race that starts in Banff, Canada and roughly follows the Continental Divide of North America for over 2700 miles down to the finish at the US and Mexico border crossing of Antelope Wells, New Mexico.  Racers must navigate the unmarked course, find supplies, and maintain their bikes all on their own.  Of course, they can purchase supplies, services and lodging, but the gist is no outside support like what you would see at races such as the Tour de France.  There’s no entry fee, no prize money, or even an award- just glory and personal satisfaction.

Since I follow this race in my truck, I was able to take nearly all of my gear but I’ll just mention what and sometimes why the gear was used in the photo captions.  (All lenses are Nikon’s fitted with Hoya Pro1 or HD UV filters and sometimes a Hoya Pro1 circular polarizer.)

Unfortunately, I had less time for shooting the Tour Divide this year, so the coverage starts almost mid-race with me waking before dawn at Mosquito Lake near Union Pass in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming where I waited for the race leader to ride by.

*Editor note* captions below are in chronological order of date/time taken

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Mosquito Lake at 5:15am, taken with a Nikon D750 and 35mm f1.4G because I like primes and the dynamic range from this duo was fitting for the scene. I didn’t really want to get moving so early, but the scene was too pretty to pass up and I especially didn’t want to miss the race leader riding by because I wasn’t awake yet.

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Race leader Mike Hall with the Wind River Mountains behind him. He already had a substantial lead at this point, and the experience from a previous Tour Divide win to stretch it out even further.  Shot with the Nikon D500 and 70-200mm f2.8G VR2 for the excellent auto-focus combination that is needed to accurately capture a cyclist riding towards the camera.

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Blowing out the high key because the shadows were more interesting. Shot with the D750 and 35mm f1.4G at 1/400th, f1.8 and iso100.

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Single speed racer Chris Plesko on his way down from Union Pass.  Shot with the D500 and 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR DX.  I actually sold my Nikon 24-70 2.8G because I found the newer 16-80 DX lens to be a superior mid-zoom lens for the D500 in real world use.

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Heading into the Great Divide Basin at sunset.  It’s just such a surreal place, and for the racers it represents a 100+ mile section of the course with no access to food and water.  D750 and 18-35mm f3.5-4.5G.

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Even though I took a picture of the sign, I still went the wrong way...  I usually kept my D750 ready with the 35mm 1.4G mounted on it as a second body for low-light and detail shots.

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Looking north to the Wind River Mountains, and using the extra reach from the D500 and 70-200mm f2.8G VR2 to accentuate the mountains.

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Pronghorn Antelope are everywhere in the west, and can run amazingly fast.  I usually kept the 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR on my D500 (used in this photo) since they work so good together in so many different situations.

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However, as I’ve mentioned I really like shooting with primes, this was a not-so-rare occasion of when I used the 35mm f1.4G on the D500. Shot at 1/5000th f2 and iso100.

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Sofiane Sehili is a Frenchman who was riding the Tour Divide for the first time, and ultimately put in a great ride for a third place finish. He was nice enough to stop and chat for a bit, so I put the camera on the ground and used the tilt screen and live view to compose this shot in an attempt to show just how vast and barren the Great Divide Basin is.  Shot with the D500 and 35mm f1.4G at f2.8, it’s one of my favorites from this year.

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A last shot of Sofiane.  Handheld and panning with the D500 and 70-200mm f2.8G VR2 at 1/80th f10 and iso50. Ten frames per second with VR certainly helps get a keeper when panning.

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Atlantic City, Wyoming is the last place for racers to stock up on food and water before heading into the meat of the Great Divide Basin where they are about the furthest from the outside world on the entire route.  This is a shot that I had plenty of time to think about, but little time to execute since I was racing the light in a hurry to get up to the next racers before sunset was over.  Shot with D500 and 50mm f1.8G at 1/2000th f2.8 and iso100.

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Watching the dust settle as the light disappeared behind the horizon.  Shot with D500 and 85mm f1.8G at 1/3200th f2.8 and iso100.

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It was a full moon, and I knew this guy would be riding by, but I didn’t expect him to stop so the shot didn’t exactly go as planned (a panning shot).  With no time to grab my D750 and 35 1.4, I ended up ramping up the iso and shooting the 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR DX wide open at f2.8 (16mm) and 1/200th iso6400 on my D500 with VR on to try and get a crisp shot. When these guys stop they don’t really quit moving, so given the conditions of shooting by moonlight and minimal ambient light from the already-set sun a slower shutter speed would have yielded motion blur on the subject.

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Looking up a steep hill, the bushes were at a perfect 90 degrees to the sun from my viewpoint, which made using a circular polarizer ideal to really get some pop and contrast with the blue sky. Shot with D500 and 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR DX.

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Singlespeed racer Chris Plesko on one of the numerous climbs between Radium and Kremmling, Colorado.  Shot with a D750 and 35mm f1.4G and a Circular Polarizer at 1/1250th f2 and iso100.

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Shooting the Tour Divide is very much a hurry up and wait type of event since you don’t want to miss shooting a certain location or the light, but are then left waiting for racers to ride by with no knowledge of exactly when that might happen.  So, I try to find other things like mountain flowers to shoot for the sake of passing the time.  Shot with the D750 and 35mm f1.4G.

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Australian Gareth Pellas heads off for a long descent to Radium, Colorado at sunset with the Gore Mountain Range in the distance.  Shot with the D750 and 35mm f1.4G.

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Another shot of Gareth rolling by, but this time I opted for the D500 and 35mm f1.4G for the superior auto focus and 10fps of the D500.  The reasoning for the gear combo was:  I wanted a shallow depth of field, I had three different shots that I pre-composed from this one position so the better AF system would ensure more keepers when changing compositions, and finally for the rolling by composition I’d only get one crack at capturing the sun behind the bike and 10fps yielded better odds of making that happen.

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A last shot of Gareth rolling off on a long downhill into the dim evening light.  Shot with the D500 and 70-200 f2.8G VR2.

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I needed more photos of Mike Hall, the then leader and odds on favorite to win, so I zipped down to Platoro, Colorado to catch back up with him and lucked out to find him finishing his lunch.  Again, leaning on the versatility of the 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR DX paired with the D500 shot at 16mm, 1/100th, f2.8, iso1000 in ambient light.

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A tight shot of the cockpit of Mike Hall’s bike.  Shot with the D500 and 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR DX.

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Capturing most all of the behind-the-scenes part of the race.  Personal Hygiene is a tough one for racers, but simple things like changing socks can make a big difference towards keeping the feet healthy when they spend nearly 20 hours a day buckled into bike shoes. For the 2016 Tour Divide, Mike Hall averaged just over 194 miles a day for a finish time of 13 days and 22 hours.  Shot with the D500 and 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR DX.

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A last tight shot of Mike processed in black and white since the mid day colors were quite washed out and distracting.  Shot with the D500 and 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR DX.

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I was already moving on to the next assignment, but spent a few extra hours to detour from my intended destination for a quick chat with the eventual women’s winner Jackie Bernardie in Poncha Springs, Colorado.  Shot with the D500 and 16-80mm f2.8-4E VR DX.

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