Event Coverage 101

Feb 24, 2015 at 3:44
by Matt Wragg  
The Basics

• Race coverage is about telling the story of the day - that means you cannot and should not cover everything or everyone - this means focusing on the people who are doing the winning and the losing as your priority.

• Speed is important - you need to get the content to us on the same day if at all possible - this is news content, so needs to go out quickly or it becomes worthless very quickly. Yes, this is going to mean long, hard days.

• Photo dimensions: 2400 x 1600 only, please. The site is set to work on the 3:2 ratio that is standard on Canon, Nikon and most other cameras (except Micro Four Thirds), please do not mess around with the aspect ratio of your photos beyond cropping to 2:3, if needed - only art editors and designers should be doing that. Portrait-oriented photos look terrible on the internet and we will reject them.

• We need at least 20 photos as a minimum (although some days just don't go well, so if you can't deliver 20 on occasion please let us know why). 20 is a good rule as a goal - if you have enough photos to produce a bigger piece of a high standard, great, but part of the skill of telling a story is knowing what to leave out and we want every photo to be relevant to the important stories of the day.

• Every photo should have a caption explaining what is going on - and, if appropriate, rider, person or place names.

• When writing you are going to make some spelling mistakes. If you are shooting and producing a piece in one day we know it won't be perfect, but it has to look professional, so always check out text at least twice before submitting it and, if possible have a friend read it for you too.

• No swearing, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. This should be obvious - we are an international news outlet and as such have standards to maintain, so keep your opinions to yourself on such matters.

• Keep it simple to start with - yes, Nathan is doing exciting stuff with the World Cup layouts, but we want you to show us you can get the basics nailed first of all. You should set the blog to widescreen and replace the "l0" in the image size with "h" to make your pictures fill the page. The code is: [PI=XXX size=h align=c][/PI]

• The easiest way to compile an article is to use the "Add to Blog" function in the photo album you upload your images to. The best way to work is to caption your photos when you upload them, then select the "Add to Blog" function, select the photos you want to add, set them to widescreen and then choose to add them in chronological order. This way most of the layout work is done for you.

• Familiarise yourself with the Pinkbike blog system before race day. It's going to be a tough enough day as it is, so by understanding how to create an article you are making your life easier - remember, we are asking you to create content for us, not just take photos. And yes, it is a little confusing to start with, but with practice it will get easier and you will get faster at doing it.

The Intro

These first paragraphs will set the scene for the reader, so they are incredibly important - you need to explain to readers who may never have heard of the event before what you are covering. Stick to the journalism staples of who, what, when, where and why here. This is not your blog or holiday diary, neither we nor our readers care if you enjoyed yourselves (although we hope you did) - so keep it on point, if it reads like a personal diary we will reject it. We want to know what the event is - if it's part of a series what is going on in the series? Is there a particular history to the event? What is it about this event that means people should care about what happens? Is there some aspect of it that is just plain cool? Never assume that people know about something or someone - just referring to someone as a legend is not enough for example. What have they done to make them legendary? Most important of all - keep it to the point, 300-500 words is plenty - these two paragraphs here are about the kind of length you should be aiming for. Don't waffle, try to fill space or go off on weird tangents - there is a time and a place for that kind of writing, this isn't it. In short, this opening is a pitch for people's attention. If you know you find writing tough, consider drafting your openings before the event so you have time to think about them - you should have a good idea of what is going on before you arrive, then you can just adjust the details to fit events, if needed.

In terms of language, please don't try too hard here - we don't want a junior poetry assignment of dramatic descriptions of the sky (although weather is always important to mention when talking about a bike race) - we want simple, clear, descriptive writing. In terms of vocabulary keep it simple - if you're not sure what we mean a good starting point are the free guides by the Plain English campaign. You should keep in mind that many people who read Pinkbike don't speak English as a first language, so won't necessarily understand slang terms. For instance use the word "derailleur" instead of "mech".

The sample photos here are pulled from my coverage of the EWS in Finale Ligure in 2014, but if you look through any of our race coverage you will see a similar style.

This is one of the classic Finale views standing on the beach looking West as the sun sets.
It is good to start with some landscape shots - people want to know where the event is. Are you in a stunning mountain range? City centre? Rolling hills? Everywhere is interesting in someway or other, especially to someone who has never been there. The way to think about this is that the person reading this may well be stuck in an office somewhere and would like to daydream a little about places he or she could be. It also helps put the action in context.

If you don t know this man you don t know Finale. It s a fairly good bet that if you cut Riccardo Negro you d find it said Finale Ligure on the inside too. He lives and breathes this town and has been on the main driving forces in developing the mountain biking here for many years. His energy and passion for the sport here has undoubtedly made a huge difference in making Finale the popular destination it is today.
It is always good to include a shot or two of the race organsiers. Every course has builders who have put more hours than they care to count into the race course, every race has an organiser who is probably horrifically underpaid and rushed off their feet, there are volunteers who come help without thought of reward. These are the people who make our sport happen and we should acknowledge and appreciate them and their work.

Jared Graves mechanic Sean Hughes puts the final touches to his bike this evening. The battle pla for tomorrow is stready keep it upright. 22nd place is no big ask for Graves and the world champion title must be so close he can taste it.
A couple of pit shots are useful - it is a chance to look at bikes and setups - for example, what tyres are people running? Is there any particular setup thing they are doing for this race?

Practice didn t start until Thursday but many riders came early and took the chance to enjoy the warm weather and take a few days holiday before the racing begins.
Finally, before we get to racing a lifestyle shot or two to set the mood. It is this kind of scene setting that will make the content complete - covering a race is not just about what happens on track, but about the whole event. Also, if you keep the twenty shot goal in mind, with a landscape shot, two organisation shots, two pit shots and two lifestyle shots you already have more than a quarter of your work done on relatively easy, but important, shots.

It was a focused Anne-Caroline Chausson who took to the stage this morning - she clearly wants the title a lot and was ready to give it all to try and secure it.
You should start you riding shots with the riders setting off - whether they leave from a mass start, a gondola to the top of the hill, a single start hut or pedal off up into the hills - it's an important part of the story. It may be worth follow-up shots to explain how riders reach the course - for example, with DH, a shot of the rider on the way up the hill then one at the start line, with enduro on the start ramp then one on the pedal up.

Riders headed out from the centre of town towards the 50km loop in the hills around the town.
The follow-up transfer shot.

What a comeback. Considering how many huge injuries he s had in his year you might expect for Fab to come back gently from his broken back in the first round this year but no. He won the first stage this morning setting out his intentions and kept it consistent to sit in second tonight a mere half second from the lead.
When you get into the action. The golden rule here is not to repeat your angles and while we do want to see your best shots, what the race report needs are photos of the important riders. Most obviously we need photos of the mens and womens winners, riders who were competing for the lead and other interesting riders - if Jared Graves shows up to your local race we need a photo of him, even if he finishes last. In terms of prioritising your shots, if you have limited angles to choose from, we would prefer a solid shot of the winner to a spectacular shot of someone we have never heard of. If you are not sure who to include hit the timing sheets - who had great split or stage times but ended up further back? With a DH race with two splits and a finish line you would ideally want the leader at split one, the leader at split two and the winner at the finish line; with enduro it would be stage winners; with freestyle it would be scores from qualification, run one and run two.

Yoann Barelli has taken the confidence from his stage win in Whistler and built on it. By this evening he was leading an EWS event for his first ever time fending off a host of his countrymen.
Mixing up lenses and styles of shot is important - most race photographers would admit that they tend to fall back on a certain style of shot (I tend to go for head-on shots with a 70-200 too much) as they are safe shots which you need to have in high pressure situations. But you need to add diversity or the article will simply look repetitive.

Bryan Regnier prefers the lift-accessed racing rather than these rally-style enduro but is still sitting in a respectable 22nd place tonight.
Only once you are sure you have enough shots to cover the story of the day racing should you go let yourself be free and be more experimental with your shots - this is a showcase for your work, so we do want to see your best shots, but the story must always be put first.

Overnight leader Yoann Barelli was showing few signs of pressure this morning.
Keep your eyes peeled for interesting moments through the day, whether it's an interesting detail or a rider playing around - they add colour and life to the piece.

Anne-Caroline Chausson s aggression was clearly what made the difference for her this weekend - while Tracy had everything to lose she had nothing and threw everything at the race course to try and take the title.
Don't forget to shoot the women. It's not always easy to cover the women's racing in many disciplines for a whole variety of reasons, but we need at least a couple of action shots of women racing.

That smile says it all.
Above all else, racing is about winning and losing. So we need to see the people who did the winning and losing after the dust settles. Who is jubilant? Who is heart-broken? This is the emotional part of racing and no coverage is complete without it.

Your 2014 series champions Jared Graves men Tracy Moseley women Sebastian Claquin junior and Primoz Strancar masters .
Podiums aren't that important - for a start most podiums look terrible, but if you don't have shots of the winners and losers it's a bonus opportunity to make sure you have that in the bag. However, having unique, candid shots of the winners is always more important.

At this time of the year the sea here is nice and warm what better way to end a hot day than a refreshing plunge into the water
And again, don't forget the moments and the details - it's hard to stress how important it is that you keep looking for them.


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