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Courage Cyclistes - Rapha and Spectacular Sporting Imagery

7 years ago

“No other sport allows you to get so close to the athletes, no other sport allows you to travel to such beautiful, often remote places.” - Marshall Kappel

As one of the biggest and most influential sporting events in the world, drawing an estimated worldwide television audience of 3.5bn and around 12 million spectators on the ground each year, the Tour de France also provides unparalleled photographic opportunities.

From uncompromising close-ups of the world’s top athletes enduring unthinkable pain, to stunning vistas of Europe’s most beautiful mountains, lakes and roads, Le Tour offers photographers an opportunity like no other.

World Photography Organisation were honoured to collaborate with Rapha, the world’s top creator of high quality cycling clothing and accessories, to help choose some of our favourite images from their recent #CourageCyclistes campaign, launched during this year’s Tour to explore the themes of “Tension, Sacrifice, ‘Holding On’, Risk and Survival” - all the factors that make the Tour de France such a legendary (and feared) event.

We chose the works of two photographers that stood out to us the most - Marshall Kappel and Marcus Enno - and talked to them about their approach to photographing at this year’s Tour, the logistics behind their stunning imagery and what they think makes a great sporting photograph.


Marshall Kappel

Marshall Kappel is a lifestyle and sports culture photographer. He received his first camera, an Argus twin-lens, from his father on a camping trip to the White Mountains in Arizona when he was 10 years old, around the same time that he fell in love with cycling. After years of working in fashion and beauty around the world, he recently came full-circle and turned his eye to shooting cycling. His photographic stories focus on the "faces and beautiful destinations that make this sport such a glorious pursuit."

On capturing this stark, haunting image

“I was waiting on one of the tight hairpin turns half-way up the climb at Pra Loup with a Slovenian family that was letting me use their camper when someone yelled, “Ils arrivent!”. I turned and shot a few frames as the riders quickly cut through a narrow decent before the ultimate climb to the summit where we were waiting.”

On his second year shooting at Le Tour and what it means to him

“No other sport allows you to get so close to the athletes, no other sport allows you to travel so far to beautiful, mostly remote places. Having lived in France for the past 5 years, and, as a lifelong cyclist, I’ve watched the race before as a spectator. It’s one of the most inspiring events to witness; the summer sun, the massive crowds, the intimacy and intensity of humans pushing their bodies to the threshold of possibility. And intertwined throughout all of this magic is the unparalleled beauty of France.”

The key to capturing the atmosphere and adventure

“For me, it’s about exploring the surroundings and interacting with the fans and riders. I engage them in conversation and I never hold back having fun either!”

On what makes a great sporting photograph

“It’s the emotion in the faces for me. In cycling, I am similarly drawn to the diverse and dynamic personalities of the peloton versus landscapes or lone sunset shots. I would rather see someone’s tense face, sweaty and gritty with pain, than a beautiful mountainside. It’s all wonderful and inspiring of course, but I just feel I interact well with people and athletes and like being close to the action. People are also dynamic, so it never stays the same and our ability to welcome and endure suffering is beautiful to me.”


His photographic philosophy
“I still tend to consider myself a purist, having only shifted to digital about 3 years ago. Previously, I was working in beauty and fashion and shot a lot of portraits on two older cameras. Both were rangefinders which I feel better taught me to compose in the camera and rely on feeling and impression versus relying on post-production to crop and fix things or to seek technical perfection. It’s more about capturing a moment in time than creating something “perfect”.”



Marcus Enno - aka Beardy McBeard


A commercial photographer for 10 years, eventually finding his way to cycling's heartland, Europe, Enno followed the last week of the 2013 Tour de France and was hooked. The next year he documented the Giro d'Italia, before covering both the Giro and the Tour de France this year. As well as using Instagram as a platform to exhibit his images, he started a blog called Beardy's Caravan, giving readers an insight into what it's like to chase the races.

On his first time covering Le Tour

“It was both an amazing and demanding experience. The Tour is so much more than a bike race. It's about the spectators, the scenery, the culture and the history that all combine to make it the most enthralling spectacle.”

The biggest challenges as a photographer at the Tour de France

“There is a lot of time that goes into planning which locations to shoot. There are many things to take into account, such as the terrain, traffic, riders average speed and weather. These all affect what's possible within the day. You need to work quickly on race day so being prepared is key. Sometimes things don't work out and the best plans go wrong, so it's important to have an exit strategy. This way you still end up with the images you need at the end of the race.”

On what makes a great sporting photograph

“Capturing the decisive moment, conveying the atmosphere and telling a story in an artistic way. This is what I try to do with my work.”

His most memorable photo from this year’s Tour

“The image of Chris Froome with all the favourites in tow on the Plateau de Beille (top of page). The weather was atrocious with hailstones and heavy rain. This image for me captures what's involved in winning a Grand Tour: you need to be prepared for all conditions. This goes for photographers as well. We have to endure shooting in rain, hail, snow, dust and sweltering heat while keeping our equipment from getting ruined.”

His photographic philosophy 

“Photography is about transporting the viewer to a moment in time. To capture the fleeting moment and the emotions that go with it. If an images makes you feel the atmosphere, it's a success.”


Find out more about Rapha and the #CourageCyclistes campaign.

This blog was orignailly published on August 14, 2015.