What would Graham do?

I titled this entry "What Would Graham Do?" but obviously this entry is not written nor endorsed by Graham Watson, so at best it's more of a "What Does Ken Think Graham Would Do?"Why write an entry like this when most of the information here is gleaned from the "Ask Graham" section of GW's Web site? Well, after clicking 70+ times to gather this same information for my own research, I thought it worthwhile to perhaps save someone else's time in doing the same. The layout of GW's Web site leaves much to be desired. Read on if you're interested.

What does Ken think GW would do?

If you have $30,000+ to spend on camera equipment, maybe you too could be like Graham, or at least own the same equipment that he does. If you're like me, knowing what GW uses at least provides some guidance for future purchases, even if you know you will only be buying a lens or two. Having the same equipment won't make you a great photographer, but it will expand your possibilities for shots you can take. You also won't get to ride around on a motorcycle right in front of the riders, but if you're like me you'd probably be too thrilled to be riding along with the peloton to even take a shot.


GW tends to use two cameras. He is currently using two Nikon D2Xs, though he still likes the D1X for its files when using flash. The Nikon D2X is heavy, but GW pointed out something I would have considered: if you're riding around on a motorcycle, you want a heavier camera as it less sensitive to the road vibrations.

It wasn't until GW upgraded to the D2X that he completely switched to digital. He used to carry a D2H and D1X. The D2H is faster than the D2X, has a smaller file size due to its 4MP sensor, and is cheaper. He briefly used Canons when they had a strong advantage over Nikon, but he is now happily back in the Nikon camp. GW feels that the Canon colors are greyer in comparison.

Lens equipment

  • 70-200mm and 17-55mm when shooting from the motorcycle. GW recommends that spectator photographers use a 70-200mm when shooting from the side of the road, though you may need something wider if the roads are narrow or if there are lots of spectators.
  • 10.5mm fisheye (special effects shots)
  • 12-24mm
  • 300mm f/4 lens for finishes and scenic shots. He has a 300mm f/2.8, but with the crop factor of digital cameras he prefers to travel lighter, which I interpret to mean that he used to use the 1.4x extender more often with the 300mm lens.
  • 1.4x extender for finish shots. He'll stick this on the 300mm if a lone rider wins to get a longer focal length. I'm not sure he still uses the extender now that he carries the slower 300mm f/4 instead of the 300mm f/2.8.

Flash equipment

GW uses two SB800 flash guns to do fill flash and recharges them with a Quantum Turbo 1 battery pack. When shooting with fill flash he prefers to let the camera do the thinking with the metering -- he uses TTL mode.

Technique/Other equipment

Photos/day: 200-300 photos per day if there's a lot happening.

Focusing: GW uses a mixture of both auto-focus and manual focus. He uses manual focus when he's on a motorcycles and he sometimes also uses it on race finishes "to keep [his] reflexes in shape." He likes using auto-focus on time trial stages because of its ability to track.

Tripods: recommends leaving them behind and getting used to using your lenses hand-held. The tripod restricts your freedom and you can't change your position as quickly.

Software: Adobe Photoshop's file browser

Graham Watson's Book

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Comments (1)

Thanks for putting this together!
I admire everything Graham Watson does, but navigating through the Ask Graham section of his site truly is a nightmare. Speaking of nightmares - that yellow & white font on a black background: *shudder* :-)

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