Getting The Shot: Inspiration, Van Aert style

James Startt explains how he got his shot of the day on stage six of the 2022 Tour de France

Today was a spectacular day of racing in many ways. There was the uncanny breakaway by Wout van Aert in the yellow jersey. And of course there was the spectacular victory by Tadej Pogačar, who powered away from the field and into the yellow jersey on the climb to Longwy. Today was a great day on the Tour de France for many things, but not for its picture postcards. 

Today’s stage, the longest of the Tour, started in Binche, Belgium before rolling back into France. On paper at least, there appeared to be a wealth of opportunities for some classic scenic shots. But the further I rolled along into the stage, the less opportunities I saw. Nothing in the landscape or the villages we passed, really spoke to me. And the heavy grey skies that settled in for much of the day did little to help.

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Finally, about 100 kilometers into the stage, I rolled by a family picnicking, with a group of kids all clad in their polka-dot tee shirts. I saw my shot. Obviously polka-dot clad fans have been in abundance along the roads of the Tour this year, but there was something about the way these three were standing together in this forlorn field that caught my eye. And knowing that Wout van Aert was in the breakaway not far behind convinced me that it was time to act. 

Walking along the opposite side of the road, I positioned myself across from them. And for this shot I opted to go with a slow shutter speed. Let Van Aert be blurred, I thought. It is the spirit of the yellow jersey that is important. The kids were clearly the focus of my attention. 

Seeing the breakaway approach, I fired several shots as the Belgian passed.

To be honest, I don’t know if the kids understood the power behind Van Aert's move of the front, and the sort of long goodbye to several memorable days in yellow. But they understood the power of the yellow jersey, and that, if only for a fleeting second, they were witnessing greatness. 

As I looked at the image it made me wonder. How many kids get into cycling because their parents took them to see the Tour de France pass? Perhaps it was just a good excuse for a picnic. Perhaps it was about getting some goodies from the publicity caravan. But then, when the riders finally sped by, they understood something else, something magnetic. 

But the Tour de France is like that. Sometimes you only need to see it once, to remember it for a lifetime. 


Camera : Nikon D5
Lens : Nikon 70mm-200mm (set at 90mm)
Shutter speed : 1/100th 
Aperture : F 14

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