Cyclocross Photography with Geoff Waugh

With almost 30 years experience photographing cyclocross Geoff Waugh was an obvious choice for the latest in the Rapha series on cyclocross photographers. We first met Geoff a few short years ago, on that holy soccer complex that is CrossVegas, where he was on location shooting a profile of the American cyclocross scene for Rouleur magazine.

Geoff brings some international flair to Rapha’s cross photographers series. Keep an eye out for Geoff in the coming weeks (or follow him on twitter: theWarhead ), as he heads first to Belgium then on to the Netherlands to shoot the remainder of the cyclocross season.

How long have you been shooting cyclocross racing?

Since the late 1980s!

What was the first bike race that you shot?

Not a cross race. It was a Tour of Britain stage in London (above). I was working at a magazine and snuck out on to the roof to shoot a picture of the pack as a reflection. It was hall of mirrors-style, with skinny calves and distended bodies. That was my first published image and sent me down the road to what I do now.

What differentiates shooting cross from other cycling sports?

The shortness of the race itself and the short laps. You can get a lot done, unless you’re cornered by a mob of friendly Belgian drunks who want their picture taken (they never ask to see it or that you send it to them). Cross is a geniune race from start to finish, so you get battles within battles and some great facial expressions. Road racing is more stressful because of the amount of crazy driving needed to access locations.

What is your favorite format to shoot with?

I suppose it has to be my Hasselblad 501CM. It is notoriously slow to reload and meter for, and also to focus etc. But I always love the results. I get less but it’s more rewarding which has to be a good thing. It also depends on the commission.

Do you have one particular event, or racer that you like to shoot, or for that matter would like to shoot?

I want to shoot a snow-laden race. Ever since I saw a pic years ago where the flash lit up the sleet, I have wanted to shoot in the snow. I nearly got it a couple of years ago at Kalmthout in Belgium, but a train stuck in the Channel Tunnel meant I missed the race. I watched it online. Sven Nys crashed about fives times and still won. I still rue that day. They don’t come around very often.

Muddy and sloppy or dry and fast? (that’s a bike racing question).

Muddy and sloppy every time. Dry and fast only if it’s frozen. The deeper into the season the better.

OK, word association time. What are the first few words that come to mind when you think of cross in the UK?

Breezy sports halls, steaming tea, cakes, muddy smiles, piles of wheels, Three Peaks.

You have also shot at Cross Vegas – what are the main differences shooting there compared with cross in the UK?

I think it has to be the surface. The grass in Vegas is different, sort of springy and tougher. Also the temperature, for sure. I can’t imagine rain disrupting the race that much in Vegas. In the UK and on the Continent, a decent overnight storm will make things interesting. The fans in Vegas are more vocal than those in the UK (but never Belgium), which is always a good thing.

Do you have any tips for aspiring cross photographers?

Shoot loads. Then loads more. Shoot wide scene setters, then tighter for the inside picture. Faces tell a story. And watch your backgrounds. Keep ‘em clean and uncluttered if possible. Try new stuff each time out.

There you have it, another way of doing things from another great cyclocross photographer. To see the work of the other fantastic photographers in this series click on: Chris Milliman, Dan Sharp or Brian Vernor. And check back later this week, when we will introduce you to a photographer who has some exclusive action shots of Team Rapha-FOCUS in Belgium.