As some of you may have realized from my photos I like to bring in elements from outside of the race. The race action itself is important that's for sure but give me an old barn, some horses or pretty much anything interesting and I'll try to get it into a shot. Sometimes, however, I see things that I just have to shoot but I can't work them into an image of the race no matter how hard I try. This happened to me June 5th in Reading, PA.
It was during the womens race. After the women took off on the small crit course I walked around to get a couple shots I had gotten last year. As I walked over past the first turn I noticed this guy with a camera and big lens but he was looking up in the air instead of at the race. I crossed over the road to see what was happening and when I asked him what he was looking at he pointed up. High above the race on a tall building across the street I could see a bird on a ledge with wings spread wide. The wind was catching it and it would go a little off balance, pull its wings in to recover then stretch them out again. At first I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking at but then the guy explained that it was a baby Peregrine Falcon and it was about ready to take its first flight. The guy was frantic because, he explained, if the flight doesn't go well the bird could just plummet to its death on the sidewalk or perhaps right into the race.
The womens field came by again and Ina Teutenburg had attacked. It's always great to see Ina back in the states racing. She's the scrappiest rider out there and doesn't mind making herself suffer to ride everyone else into the ground. She kind of reminds me of the Peregrine Falcon. Once an endangered species they have fought back from near extinction, to survive the falcons prey on other birds. They are very fast and can fly up to 70 mph while going after supper and can dive at up to 200 mph to attack prey. That's one scrappy little bird if I've ever seen one. Today Ina was the falcon and everyone else was prey.
With the baby bird still lingering precariously close to the edge the mum swooped in from out of nowhere. Wings were flapping, feathers were ruffling and the falcons screeches pierced the air. My hands grew sweaty on my camera as I watched the seemingly impending tragedy. Finally, after much protest, the little one brought its wings back in by its sides and seemed to settle down. The mum landed on a nearby ledge and then dropped down to another one closer by. She must have known the dangers and maybe knew that the young one wasn't ready yet.
Up above I heard a familiar noise. I hear it on the weekends a lot back home but I was surprised to hear it here. Sure enough, moments later I saw the mirrored alloy hull of a B-17 bomber passing over. What was with all the distractions today? Is their a race going on or what? A couple riders tried to attack Ina but to no avail. She calculated every move and spent her energy cautiously. With all of the action at the front the field blew apart with women scattered all over the course. Just like the mother falcon above, team directors were screeching orders into race radios with either encouragement to those off the back or orders to move up to those who could still hang on. No matter, they were all prey.
One more time the mother falcon swooped and this time came down on the same ledge as the young ling. Just when she did that I noticed another fuzzy head pop out and then another. The mum had 3 young ones up there to look after. But with the mum on the ledge now the first one, with wings by its sides, backed in closer to the wall of the building and away from the chaos below. She had done it, she'd calmed everyone down and kept the family together for another day. Thoughts of me having to run across the street with cameras flopping everywhere, shoot the riders as they lean through the first turn and then swoop in to catch the falling bird just before it crashes to its death began to subside. Time to breath.
Back in the race it was one lap to go. In the distance you could barely see the riders as they came through the last turn. Ina swooped across the road and into the lead with a couple hundred meters to go and never looked back. Somehow I got focused back on the action and got the finish shot. What a day......I need a beer.