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Black Sheep Cycling Night Riders

Colin
April 11, 2017

Black Sheep Cycling put on an unsanctioned crit under the lights over the weekend. With 20min heats it was full gas right from the start, and on a technical course, which made for some exciting racing.

Being that it was under the lights, it also proved to be the perfect opportunity to see how my Lumo Pro LP180 flashes perform in the hot shoe. These speedlights are designed to be used off camera and even have a Phottix Odin trigger built in, they also don’t offer TTL, high-speed sync or rear curtain sync without the Odin transmitter. Basically, they only work as a quite powerful manual flash when used in the hot shoe.

That also meant I could only use a shutter speed of 1/200 max because that’s the fastest my Canon 5DMKiii will sync. This isn’t near fast enough to freeze action so it meant I had to rely on the flash duration to capture the action, it also meant I could play around with some ghosting for something a bit artsier than I usually aim for.

Check out the gallery below to see the results

 

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First Look: Mindshift rotation180 Horizon 34L

Colin
March 8, 2017

Camera backpacks can be a pain, there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. They’re bulky, they don’t always fit very well, hence why photo megastar Chris Burkhard avoided using them (skip to 1:40 for the explanation) until Mountain Smith designed him one. Most of all, if your gear is in your bag, getting to it quickly is a problem. Bag brands are continually trying to find new ways for photographers to carry, and more importantly, access their gear, and there have been some innovations beyond the simple camera strap, like the Peak Design Capture Pro. But, for the most part quickly getting to your gear ain’t easy.

For quite some time, in my opinion, rear access packs have been the best option for my style of photography. Usually, they are big, sturdy and the packs themselves are designed around being outdoors and carrying lots of gear comfortably with load lifters, internal frames, hip straps, daisy chains and the like. The trouble is, you still have to take the bag off and set it down to access your camera. Worse, this means putting your bag down in potentially wet and/or muddy locations.

Mindshift is the outdoor division of camera bag brand Think Tank Photo, and they have created and interesting solution with their rotation180 range of bags. As the name suggests, the rotation180 series sees the camera insert attached to the hip belt which rotates around your waist, making your camera gear accessible quickly and without having to take your pack off.

Highlights

Mindshift-rotation180

Spin to win

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The rotation feature is completely unique to Mindshift’s bags and accessing your gear is as simple as unclipping a magnetic latch, pulling on the hip strap, opening the camera insert and shooting – it takes all of 15-seconds to do. The insert itself isn’t big, it only really fits a Canon 5DMKiii or similar with a lens attached and a spare short zoom lens or prime.

There is also a padded pocket for a small tablet as well as a velcro mesh pocket in the lid, perfect for spare batteries and cards.

Mindshift-rotation180

Mindshift-rotation180

The insert itself is burly with hard sides and you can remove it from the bag for use without the pack.

To prevent the insert from sliding out of the pack, there is a flap and the patented magnetic clasp affectionately called the Fidlock. The flap has a hard plastic rib which once unclasped opens on its own, and as a fail-safe, the insert also tethered to bag with a length of webbing.

Lugging the load

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While a lot of bags have interchangeable camera inserts, most take up the majority of the bag, however, with the Mindshift rotation180 Horizon you still have plenty of room for extra layers, water, food and other essentials. At the top of the pack, there is quite a large space to keep gear, as well as a laptop sleeve.

As I mentioned before the camera insert isn’t huge, and if you plan to take more than a body with a lens and a spare short lens, or need to bring a telephoto like the Canon 70-200 2.8 or Canon 100-400 MKii,  Mindshift’s Panorama insert is designed to fit perfectly in the top compartment. Unfortunately, I don’t have one of these but the insert from a Thule Perspektiv Daypack is roughly the same size and illustrates the point. 

Mindshift-rotation180

Mindshift-rotation180

On the front of the bag there is a decent sized pocket great for rain layers or other items you may not want to intermingle with the rest of your gear, as well as a top zippered pocket that is ideal for snacks, and smaller items.

The bag also sees a dedicated hydration bladder pocket on the side, which Mindshift says is designed around 3L reservoirs and is complete with a port for tubing. If you prefer to use water bottles over bladders there is also a bottle sleeve that comfortable fits a Nalgene.

If you plan to tote a tripod with you on your adventure, the bag features a clever suspension system that sees the tripod mounted on the back of the bag.

The pack also sees an internal frame, load lifters on the shoulder straps and sturdy webbing all around.

I’m looking forward to putting this bag through its paces over the next couple of months, be sure to check back for a full review once I’ve had the chance to get a bit of mud on it.

Where to buy

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New Years Day Daniel Bennett Memorial Race

Colin
January 4, 2017

New Years Day isn’t exactly when you’d expect to see high octane crit racing, but that’s exactly what happens on the Gold Coast every year. The Gold Coast Goldstars out on a crit honor one of their fallen members, Daniel Bennett who was a high-performance rider from the Gold Coast who was killed on a training ride.

So every year the club puts on a race in his memory that has been won by the likes of Steele Von Hoff, Mat Hayman, and even Gold Coast local and former TDF Green Jersey winner Robbie Mcewen! This year’s race was fast a furious and packed full of big name riders. It was super hot, and by the end of the race riders and spectators alike were suffering.

Check out the gallery below for the A and B grade races.

 

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Behind the Shoot: Oceanway Ride

Colin
November 7, 2016

It’s been a hectic couple of months for me, and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving. If you’ve been following me on social media (shameless plug please follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) you’ll have seen I shot the Oceanway Ride, a new charity ride here on the Gold Coast to raise money for the local surf lifesaving clubs. Starting for Surfers Paradise it followed the Darren Smith Memorial Route, a 55km out and back ride mostly along the coast.

Also making an appearance was the one and only Phil Ligget, the voice of cycling who MC’d and mingled with the riders through out the day. As a cycling fan, I was a bit star-struck, to say the least

The Promo

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Even though it was only a quick shoot I’m stoked on the images I got for the promo shoot. I had plans to organize a dawn shoot at a great spot here on the Gold Coast, but that went out the window when the events organizer called me in a panic saying she needed images in two days time to meet a deadline.

Not having organized riders I frantically began searching for someone to help me out, and luckily Peter Spencer of GC Bike Fit stepped up to the plate! The morning of the shoot it looked like it was going to be a gray miserable day, but the clouds broke and it was bluebird!

The shoot went off without a hitch and I was able to deliver the images by five o’clock that afternoon. That’s gotta be a record for planning, executing and delivering in three days.

The Ride

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As it always seems to work with cycling events they start well before dawn, and the Oceanway ride was no exception.

The plan was to chase the riders down the coast stopping at a few key locations to capture the riders as they passed by. Usually, that would mean the organizers have a photo-moto and driver to shuttle you up and down the course, however, that was not the case.

Lucky for me a friend was happy to drive me up and down the coast in exchange for a case of beer and man I’m glad I had him. If I would have had to stop and park the car every time I wanted to take a photo it would have been a more stressful morning than it already was.

If was fast and furious run and gun shooting, and when I say run and gun I was leaning out of the windows of the car literally running full sprint to the spots I wanted to shoot from as to not miss riders go past.

The Gear

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My gear for the day was my trusty Canon 5DMkiii, Canon 24-104 f/4L, Canon 100-400 f/5.6-6.5L, Canon 8-15 Fisheye f/4L and a new addition to my bag the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART. I was amazed how much I used the 35mm, on the day and it has proved to be an extremely useful addition to my bag!

Also, a godsend on the day were my Hoya Circular Polarizers. The ability to cut out any glare on the water as well as from the road surface made a huge difference for quite a few of my images.

Check out a few of my favorite images from the day, or click here to see my full gallery from the day!

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The best camera is the one you’ve got with you, sort of – taking a step back

Colin
August 17, 2016

There is an old adage, the best camera is the one that’s with you. And it’s true, the most powerful photos are of that fleeting moment which will come and go before you can get your DSLR out of your backpack or swap lenses.

But, there’s something to be said for having the right tool for the right job, and in this case, that’s a pro level DSLR.

Some of you may recall that I recently drowned a camera body, specifically my Canon 5DMKiii. I went out to a local cyclocross race to play around with some lighting techniques and it started raining cats and dogs. I was prepared with rain covers for all of my gear, but unfortunately, the rain proved too much for the Vortex Media Storm Jacket I was using.

It’s wasn’t a complete write-off as a night in a sealed box filled with kitty litter did bring the camera back to life, but there was some apparent corrosion as the battery was draining at a rate of 10-percent an hour even when the camera was switched off.

So, I sent it away to get repaired, but as it always seems with this sort of thing the part needed to fix my camera was back-ordered and a job quoted to take eight days took over a month.

60D or 5Dmkiii can you tell which body I used for this image? The answer may suprise you

60D or 5Dmkiii can you tell which body I used for this image? The answer may surprise you

So while my 5DMKiii was away I decided to make a challenge for myself, instead of using one my backup bodies, I decided I would use a 60D I had lying around for every project until my 5D was fixed.

Don’t get me wrong the 60D is an absolute workhorse of a body, and features an 18.3mp APS-C CMOS sensor, ISO 100-6400 (expandable to 12,800), 5.3 fps continuous shooting, and 9 cross-type AF points. With that said, the 5D is also in a completely different league to the 60D which is what made this so interesting and the 60D doesn’t have near the same dynamic range, ISO performance, or processing power among other things.

Crop = reach

Being used to shooting on a full frame platform it took a bit of adjusting to not chop off too much with the 60D's 1.6x crop factor

Being used to shooting on a full frame platform it took a bit of adjusting to not chop off too much with the 60D’s 1.6x crop factor

Other than obvious cosmetic and weight difference between these two bodies is the APS-C crops sensor, which gives you a crop factor of 1.6x. This means that a 24mm lens is actually a focal length of 38mm (24 x 1.6 = 38). It doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but it’s surprising how easy it is to miss part of the action or chop something out when you’re used to shooting on a full frame sensor.

At the same time, on the other end of things, the 1.6x crop factor give your telephoto lens quite a bit of extra reach. The whale migration has been coming through the Gold Coast the past few weeks, and with the 60D body on my 400mm lens, the crop factor gives me an effective focal length of 640mm (400 x 1.6 = 640). Whales don’t really like to pose for the camera so I’m yet to get anything good, but extra length has given me a much better view of the action.

AF system

The 60D doesn't have great AF tracking, but there's a way around that

The 60D doesn’t have great AF tracking, but there’s a way around that

It’s safe to say the 60D’s AF system is a bit dated. The nine crosspoint system have thankfully been superseded by the current 61-point system which features on all the current pro-level Canon DSLRs.

To be honest this was probably my biggest gripe about using the 60D and it was only because the new AF system has me a bit spoiled. The 60D’s tracking is not nearly as good, and the placement of the points can make certain compositions tricky.

How do you get around this you ask? One-shot AF lock! It so easy so simple and requires you to rely more on your sense of timing that the spray-and-pray technique.

Using the back AF button and One Shot AF mode you pick the spot you want in focus compose the shot and rather than taking 10 photos, hold the button down for two or three as the subject passes through the frame.

With AF tracking being so good on the 5D and similar bodies I’ve become a bit too complacent and having to rely on an older slower AF system has been a fantastic skill building exercise.

ISO vs Sensor size

Because of it's smaller sensor the 60D's pixels are tightly packed, which is why it doesn't perform as well in low light conditions

Because of it’s smaller sensor the 60D’s pixels are tightly packed, which is why it doesn’t perform as well in low light conditions

The other thing the 5D series of bodies does sooooooo well is dealing with noise at high ISOs.

Generally speaking the more room a sensor has on it between pixels will process less noise than a sensor with pixels tightly packed together. So and images shot at 1600ISO a camera that shoots at 22mp on a full frame sensor will have less noise than 22mp images shot at 1600ISO on an APS-C sensor.

The measurement for the space between pixels is called pixel pitch and it’s measured in microns – the larger the pixel pitch the less noise generated at high ISO. The 5DMKiii shoots at 22.3mp on a full frame 35mm sensor and has a pixel pitch of 6.25 microns, and the 60D shoots at 18mp on a 22.30mm x 14.90mm APS-C sensor with a pixel pitch of 4.30microns.

It’s right there in the numbers but in practice, there is a noticeable difference as well, especially in shooting at high shutter speeds. On the 5DMKiii to get that extra bit of shutter speed it’s no issue to bump the ISO and know the image is still going to be usable. Heck, I’ve shot images at max ISO (12,800) on my 5DMKiii and had no trouble getting them back to an acceptable level of noise.

With the 60D there is considerably more noise to deal with starting around 800ISO, and getting worse as you go up. The 5D can do double that before you start to see much noise that needs to be corrected out depending on the image of course.

Final Thoughts

It has really been interesting to take a step back and shoot with a camera body that’s less capable than what I’m used to. Not even addressing the slower frames per second and reduced buffer, these three factors are what I noticed most in my particular requirements for a camera body.

The 60D is an absolute workhorse of a camera body, that can produce fantastic images. However, when a client is paying for images of a certain, though you can definitely deliver with a body like the 60D, I think I’ll stick to the more capable bodies.

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SRAM Focus Queensland Cyclocross Round 1

Colin
June 20, 2016

Cyclocross and rain go together like macaroni and cheese. They’re both great on their own, but when you combine them it’s so much more fun.

I wanted to get out and practice some off camera flash, and with very flat light it was the perfect opportunity. I’ve been getting into a bad habit of using too many lights so I set a challenge for myself to use a single speedlight to get my desired look.

Unfortunately still being quite new to the area I got lost on my way in, and missed most of the B grade race. Being so behind I also didn’t have a chance to go for a walk around the course before the race started but I did manage to find the mud pit, which is where all the action was happening anyway.

 Just as I got my first speedlight set up, the rain began to fall. Light rain turned into heavy precipitation, and then an absolute deluge! Everything was getting wet, and it was damn near impossible to keep water off the front element of my lens.

I did have my rain gear and all my equipment in storm shields, but unfortunately my camera gave me the, “please take me out of the rain or I’m going to make a large withdrawal from your bank account” warning, so I had to seek cover and to save my camera I wasn’t able to stick around for the whole race

Lucky after spending the night in a sealed sealed tub full of kitty litter the body in question came back to life.

Despite being cut short I did get a couple good ones, check out the gallery below. Prints and digital downloads are available.

 

 

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Fstoppers Flash Disc review

Colin
May 6, 2016

It seems everytime I leave the house my camera bag is heavier and I am always grabbing extra lights, triggers, and batteries. But, when it comes to flash modifiers it can be a tough decision.

Everybody loves softboxes but they’re difficult to transport, especially if you’re shooting somewhere hours away from the car. Umbrella’s are easier to pack but still need to be lashed to the outside of your bag, and don’t play well with gorillapods. For me, the ultimate modifier is something that can be stuffed down the side my camera bag, is lightweight, and doesn’t require much faffing around.

Obviously struggling with the same issues as me, Patrick Hall and Lee Norris from Fstoppers created the Flash Disc.

What is it?

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Packaged in a little black zippered bag, the flash disc is a compact 12-inch pop up softbox – think those tents you pull out of the bag and throw into the air to set up.

In its compact state, the Fstoppers Flash Disc can easily be stuffed into small gaps in your camera bag, a pocket or even lashed to the outside thanks to a small loop.

It worth noting the Flash Disc deserves due respect, and nearly gave one of my assistants a black eye. If you’re not paying attention it can slip away from you and ‘pop’ you right in the face.

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The back of the Flash Disc sees a grey card and the front is as you would expect white diffusing material. Designed to be universal with speedlights the Flash Disc uses a glorified elastic band to secure the flash head. I’ve yet to find a speedlight that it doesn’t work with but there’s definitely some that fit better than others.

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It seems Canon flashes fit the best, their rounded profile slips into the band nicely. Boxy square flashes however do not, and it’s quite fiddly to get square flashes into the disc. I had a fair bit of trouble wrangling the FlashDisc onto my LumoPro LP180 flashes and an ancient Sunbeam Manual Flash.

With that said, once they’re on your light stand will fly away and take a sandbag with it before the Flash Disc leaves your speedlight.

Okay, but do they work?

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It’s worth noting again this is a 12-inch softbox and not a huge 40-incher, so they’re not going to produce the same light. Because of it’s size the FlashDisc needs to be quite close to the subject, but it does produce nice soft light.

For portraits and products they’re pretty useful as you can place the FlashDisc just out of the frame but still close enough to reap the benefits of a small modifier.

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Photo: Phil Gray

It does take some fiddling around to get the flash discs in the right position when they’re mounted on a static light stand, but if you’ve got an assistant they are awesome. Because they’re small and lightweight it’s no trouble at all to get your assistant to dangle the light with the FlashDisc very close to the subject.

Also due to their feathery nature they pair nicely with Gorillapods, and my favorite thing is to wrap them around a tree branch or pole in a spot you wouldn’t be able to put a standard light stand.

Do you actually use it?

Absolutely! The Flash Disc is extremely versatile and is great for a variety of looks. Check out the gallery below to see how I’ve used the FStoppers FlashDisc. Even when it’s not close enough to for that creamy soft light it still diffuses the flash head nicely for something a bit more dramatic.

The biggest reason that I like to use the FlashDisc’s is they’re so packable. It’s a rare occasion I’m shooting within 5-miles of where I parked my car, and it’s just not practical for me to pack in (and back out) large soft boxes, they just wouldn’t survive. Weighing just 113g adding the FlashDiscs won’t add much to your already heavy pack

As it is I get funny looks riding single track on my mountain bike with my big camera pack and light stands, can you image what people would do if you had soft boxes strapped to my pack?

Final Thoughts

For such a small modifier, the Fstoppers FlashDisc’s pack some serious punch. Whenever I take speedlights with me I always stuff them in my bag. They’ve definitely got their limitations and and $49.95USD they’re also not cheap, but the FlashDisc’s have become an essential part of my kit.

Do you use the FlashDisc’s? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Behind the Shoot: Pittwater Council

Colin
April 18, 2016

For those of you who’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know I just was down in Sydney working on a project for Pittwater Council.

The council contacted me just after I moved to the Gold Coast wanting photos of people riding bikes in recognisable areas of Pittwater, specifically large hero images to be used throughout an upcoming council document.

As Pittwater is one of my favorite areas of Sydney I jumped at the offer and immediately began wrangling riders and scouting locations to shoot.

With this being a fly-in-fly-out assignment I was worried about inclement weather, but lucky for me my rain jacket stayed in my bag the entire weekend.

The Kit

The project involved everything from action landscapes to very setup portraits and required a large kit. I’d organized an assistant for the longest day of shooting, but I still didn’t want to lug big strobes and battery packs around, so instead I opted for every speedlight I owned and plenty rechargeable AA batteries.

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See I wasn’t kidding about the batteries

Gear:

The Shoot

Kids

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After I picked up my bags and grabbed the rental car I headed straight out to do some scouting. I had most of the day to scout, but had scheduled my first shoot of the trip for that afternoon.

They say, ‘never shoot with kids or animals, because you won’t be able to direct either of them.’ Having worked as a Ski Instructor I know how much fun it can be to work with kids, but I also know how difficult it can be to get them to do anything – I was pretty worried about this part of the shoot

Same as skiing, if you put a bike under a kid and tell them to ride around for a while they’re stoked until they get tired, and then they cry.

Lucky for me the bike stoke lasted until we were packing up, and the kids only started crying as their parents tried to wrangle them home.

It was quite grey throughout this shoot, and some of the photos were pretty dull and lifeless. Remember all of those speedlights and batteries I packed? This is exactly why, a couple of strategically placed flashes can be the difference between a muddy boring photo to one that is full of life and contrast.

The Roadies

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As part of the brief Pittwater Council wanted large format hero images, so basically ‘bike landscapes’ – big scene little rider.

We had two locations to cover, Whale Beach and Chruch Point. The plan was hit Whale Beach at dawn to catch the sun coming up over the ocean, and then run over to Chruch Point while the light was still good.

These are the photo’s I was the most excited for, what respectable photographer doesn’t get excited for a dawn shoot?

I’d organized a group of riders from the Manly Warringah Cycling Club to help me out, and they were awesome doing as many hill repeats as I asked. It was fast paced and a little bit stressful as we only had so much time while the light was good.

From a technical standpoint this section of the shoot was pretty simple, with the focus being on composition and a quick shutter. I did use flashes for some fill on a couple of occasions, but for the most part I didn’t need to mess with lights.

Special thanks to my assistant Zacc for chasing me around with heavy gear and driving the rental car as I hung out the back.

The Family

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After we finished with the roadies, Phil from Pittwater Council brought his wife Lara and their cute baby daughter Ashley to be my ‘utility riders’ and ‘happy family on bikes.’

The light was still quite harsh and this is where the speedlights came in handy. In almost every shot from this section of the shoot, I was shooting into the sun and using one LumoPro speedlight, with a flash disc on the end of a 10ft light stand, held directly above the subject(s) just out of frame as a fill. This provided a flattering soft light and awesome results.

The Kids Part 2

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By this time in the shoot Zacc and I had been going for about 14 hours. The council had organized some teenagers to shoot with around Avalon Beach.

Having no idea what I was in for, when some surf groms showed up on bikes I was stoked. The light was becoming glowy, golden and getting better by the minuet. This section of the shoot was a breeze, the teenagers were awesome models and hardly required any direction to get the shots we were after.

The Commuters

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I got to catch up with my friends Kath and Fiona as they were my ‘fast commuter’ and ‘slow commuter.’ Pretty straight forward, I’ve shot both of these gals before so they know how I like to run things, and other than saying, ‘again’ don’t need much direction to get the shots.

The Take Away

Every shoot I do I learn something, and this shoot was a challenge. Not because the weather conditions, or because I had a precious model who was a pain to deal with, or even that the shooting was that difficult.

The hardest thing was the logistics of coordinating all these separate groups of people, some of whom I didn’t meet until the day of the shoot – it’s actually pretty scary to depend on people you’ve never met.

IMG_6961

Photo: Phil Gray

It was a stressful weekend, but just about everybody was on the ball. As the way things often happen one of my subjects had something come up last minute, and couldn’t make it to the shoot leaving me unable to fill their slot on such short notice. Fortunately I gotten plenty of great images from the rest of the shoot, and wasn’t stressed for images.

Overall the shoot was a massive success, and we came up with some fantastic images. Massive thank you’s to Pittwater Council, Phil Gray and family,  Alexis Kaless, Brad Ward, Evan Snow, Peter Mcnamara from Manly Warringah Cycling Club, Dave Musgrove and Cell Bikes, Kath Bicknell, Fiona Dick, and Zacc Larkin; I couldn’t have pulled off this shoot without each and every one you.

Check out my favorite shots from my weekend with Pittwater Council

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ATEC Criterium sponsored by LACC, Bont and Etixx

Colin
July 6, 2015

Wide roads and stacked fields made for some blistering fast racing at Sydney Olympic Park. Luckily everyone stayed rubber side down, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any fireworks going off.

Mens Elite

 

Womens A-B Grade

Men’s B-D Grade

 

 

 

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