Four Exposures for One Bicycle Race

Photographing the Swiss Time Trial Championship with a large format camera has been on my mind for a long time. Large format sport photography opposes the slowness of a 4×5″ camera to the speed of the athletes. Opposites attract.

Stefan Kung of team BMC won the Swiss Time Trial Championship June 22, 2017 in Luterkofen, Switzerland.
Stefan Kung of team BMC won the Swiss Time Trial Championship June 22, 2017 in Luterkofen, Switzerland.

Yesterday, I finally had the opportunity to set up my Graflex Crown Graphic camera and tripod at the roadside and wait for the athletes to rush by. The 40-kilometres time trial parcours takes place in my quasi-backyard where I like to cycle myself through picturesque farmer villages. The shortest shutter speed of the Optar f4.7/135mm lens is 1/200th of a second – not short enough to freeze the racers. Blur is good, and you cannot have too much of a good thing!

I used two kind of films: Kodak Tri-X 320 4×5″ in wooden film holders, and Polaroid 55 film. The Polaroid 55 black and white film sadly is not produced any longer and has expired a decade ago. I was curious and anxious to see how the film would turn out. Unfortunately, it didn’t develop anymore – the chemicals have probably dried out as I’ve waited too long using it for my photo project. However, I still had the the Kodak Tri-X film developed in HC-110 developer (about 4 minutes at 20°C, difficult to achieve during the current heatwave). One of the film holders has a light leak, and unfortunately I do not know which one… The 4×5″ wooden film holders each hold two film sheets, and I have to preload them at home in total darkness. That’s four exposures for one bicycle race.

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