(The story behind my
And, on March 27th, 2006,
Photo of the Week
There aren't that many
times when the average person manages to be at just the right place
to witness something really extraordinary. This was one of
those times. The setting is about 30 minutes after the finish
of the '03 Tour de France, and Paris had arranged something very
special, since this was the 100th year of the event.
Those clichés about how only Paris could put on a show so grand?
They're true. For just over an hour spectators were treated to
a grand parade of past TDF winners, re-creations of the earliest
races, the procession of all of the teams, all manner of acrobatic
acts and more. But it all started with the two above, an old
guy on a bike from the 30s with a very young kid of maybe 8 or so.
They were out there for the longest time as things got organized
behind them, and it was just up the street a bit from me. When
things got underway, they would be in the lead, riding down the
Champ Elyssees ahead of the parade.
the young kid, it must have seemed like forever, waiting for things
to get underway, and I remember wishing there was a way to get him
something to drink. You could imagine it was your own kid out
there, both oblivious to and at the same time aware of the many
thousands of eyes focused on him. At first they were stoically
astride their bikes, nearly motionless, waiting for the signal that
meant they were to lead the grand parade down the Champ Elyssees.
You can see this in the photo on the left; the old man is
like a statue, while the young boy is just beginning to get a bit
After 15 or 20 minutes, the old man put his hand on the boy's
shoulder and engaged him in conversation. I don't know if he
was telling the young boy about his own past bicycle racing
exploits, or how special a moment this was, or just simply
reassuring him that there was nothing to worry about, he'd take care
of him. But I do know that it was a real moment between two
people, a private exchange in the most public of places.
Unfortunately, I wasn't close
enough to capture the shot very well. There were a variety of
obstacles in the way, including people and signposts, making it
difficult for the camera to set the exposure and focus correctly.
My camera, an Olympus 5050Z, has a maximum zoom of 21.3mm, which
corresponds to roughly 100mm on a 35mm camera. Not nearly
enough zoom to "get the shot", but I went for it anyway, lifting the
camera up high and tilting it 90 degrees so that the two poles would
have minimal effect on focus & exposure.
As you can see, the subject of the photo occupies a very small
amount of the picture, so it had to be very severely cropped.
With cropping you lose a lot of resolution, since you're throwing
out the majority of pixels the camera produced. Essentially, a
5-megapixel camera ended up shooting a 1-megapixel photo!
For those interested in the technical aspects of photography, this
was shot at F4.0, 1/320th second, ISO- equivalent of 64, 2560x1920
pixels. It probably would have been better at 1/200th or so,
but it's difficult to manage exposure when the camera's above your
On the left you see the
actual cropped section of the photo (770,000 raw pixels). I
took two liberties with the original photo to create the final
product (shown on the right), both intended to draw attention to the
old man & the young boy. First, because the background
contained so many distractions, I desaturated the color. Next
I blurred the background which, besides making the background
less obtrusive, also makes the two cyclists look much clearer than
they actually are (because, in a relative sense, they're much more
clear than the background). The software used for this work
was Corel PhotoPaint V11, which is functionally similar to the more
well-known Photoshop, but with an easier learning curve (or at least
it was back in V2 or 3 when I first started with it!).
All of this is actually a
very long answer to a few simple questions someone asked in an
email- Where was the picture taken (at the '03 Tour de France), who
took it (me), and are there any high-resolution versions available
(no, because there was nothing hi-resolution to start with, due to
the extreme cropping). --Mike--
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