David Ashdown's Sports Picture Diary: The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race

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The Independent Online

The Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race is a unique event in the sporting year.

Normally I go on one of the chase boats that follow behind the race. For some reason my accreditation application did not have the right boxes ticked this year, so I found myself on Hammersmith bridge instead.



When something like this happens, it would usually make me angry and frustrated, but with an event like the boat race there are different ways to photograph it.

In the past, I have thought about alternatives to covering the event from the river. Being on a chase boat usually means that you won't miss anything that happens, however it also means you can end up in the wrong place on the river as none of the chase boats can change position during the race. If one of the teams changes course, you could miss the action.

Conveniently, the threat of G20 protests came to my rescue this year. As the police were worried protesters would try to do something during the race, they closed the bridges to the public and traffic during the race. This meant anyone snapping from the bridges had the freedom to move from one side to the other. If the public had been there I would have had to stay glued to a particular spot.

This is one of those rare events when I could conceivably use every lens in the bag. As the race approached Hammersmith Bridge I used a 500mm lens. When the boats went under the bridge it was a 24mm-700mm zoom followed by a quick change to the 70mm-200mm zoom. Then it was back to the 500mm as they moved down river.

This picture was taken on a Nikon D3 camera at 1/640 second with the 500mm lens at F8.0. The boats are small but it shows lots of people watching which captures the spirit of the day. After all, there is nowhere else in the world where so many people would go and watch what is in effect a very minor sport.

I just hope that next time I have to take pictures from Hammersmith Bridge, the G20 summit is back in town. Spectators are great in the picture, as long as they don't prevent me taking it.

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