The Col du Tourmalet is the most notoriously tough of all the stages of the Tour de France, taking riders up to nearly 7,000 feet above sea level in some of the steepest and most severe elevations in competitive road cycling. For this reason alone it is legendary among cycling enthusiasts and remains one of the most traversed stages of the Tour – steeped in the kind of history that provokes reverence from even the most casual cycle fan.
Enough of the bike geekery though, more relevant to us is the striking beauty of the scenery in the surrounding area and Mark Leary’s exceptional ability to capture it alongside the fervour of the crowds. A life-long Tour fan, Mark’s been looking for an excuse to photograph it for years. No big deal, loads of people have – but Mark differs from his peers in his choice of hardware, two Ebony field cameras that function using plates instead of film.
Using this antiquated technique Mark has captured the Tourmalet in its most vibrant rendering yet, using the long exposure times of the camera as an excuse to step back from the fast-paced action below and offer up striking panoramas of the Pyrenees in all their resplendent glory. This is the first time that Mark’s taken his field cameras to France, but he’s all set to return next year to track the whole Tour and celebrate its centenary. If these stunning preliminary shots are anything to go by, the results are going to be exceptional.