Monday, March 7, 2011

Photographing a Track and Field meet (for the first time)

This weekend marked another first for me, as I photographed my first track and field meet. My son just started this sport (adding to his hockey, swimming, basketball...) and asked me to bring the camera to their first meet. The great thing about photographing a meet like this is that there are so many different types of events happening, all of which present unique shooting opportunities.

The day started off with running races. I positioned myself by the first turn and shot many images from this spot. I did this for numerous reasons:
    1. I felt that the turn would provide a better image than a straight-on shot.
    2. The sun was out in the morning and the light was better on this side of the track.
    3. There were minimal distractions behind the runners in this area.
    4. In the relay races, this is where the baton was passed, giving me more action.

The races with hurdles make for some cool shots. The level of activity and the intense concentration really adds to the image.  

This is one of my favorite shots from the day. I really like the position of the runner with his shoe flat out in front of him. He has a great expression on his face and he shows good form in the shot. It also helps that he wore the red shoes and a black and white uniform. (Photographers note: I shot this meet with the Canon 5D Mark II, mostly using the 100-400 L series lens and a 32GB 600x Lexar CompactFlash card. I kept the camera in aperture priority mode for most of the time, adjusting the ISO to make sure that my shutter speed was at least 1/1000 sec or faster)

I did more to the finish line area to shoot some images of the runners coming across the line. For many of the images, I laid down on the surface and shot images from just inches above the ground. This gave a much more appealing background and also enhanced the power of the runners.

Once they started the high jump, I walked over to this area and shot some images, trying to freeze the girls at the height of their jump.

I really wanted to use my 15mm fish eye lens to get in close and exaggerate the height of the jump, but the only way to do this correctly would be to be on, or at the base of the mat, which would not have been safe. 

For the discus throw, I went out to the edge of the flags and used the 400mm lens to get in as close as possible.
This is another shot from down low on the surface at the start of the race. There is actually a funny story to this image. I was shooting some images of the different races when I heard someone say my name from behind me. It was one of my favorite clients and their son was running in the next heat. I made sure to key in on him (dead center in the red) so that I could get a shot for my friends.

And then, towards the end of the day, I decided to slow the shutter speed down to get some motion blur.

I shot this image at 1/40 sec and panned the camera along with the runners as they went around a turn. (Photographers note: The key to shooting panned motion blur shots is to get the motion of the hands and feet but try to keep their faces sharp. It is not an easy technique and takes some practice to get it right. It's not easy...but final result is well worth the effort.)


hopefulfarm2002 said...

I'm a newbie and having issues with how to properly pan a moving object. Any advice on the proper settings on my camera.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for these tips. I am taking photos for the first time at my son’s first track event tonight. This helps!

mom of 3 said...

Thanks for helpful hints!