Sunday, July 25, 2021

First time in the Tokyo Swimming venue - Showing motion and emotion!

Last night, after shooting the woman's first water polo match for Team USA, I retouched all the images for the team and then headed over to the swim venue (which is only a 5 minute walk from the water polo facility). There are numerous shooting positions in the swim venue, but due to Covid restrictions I had to go to the venue photo manager to get a pass to a specific location to make sure that none of the areas was over crowded. I decided to pick the "B position" which was a side position, since I planned on motion panning the swimmers. For those of you not familiar with motion panning, this is where I slow the shutter speed of the camera WAY down and then move my camera and lens at the EXACT same speed as the athletes.

This is your typical high shutter speed photo where we use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and the water. 

I used a fast shutter speed to freeze this swimmer in mid air as he dove into the pool... capture reactions from the athletes...

...and to capture reactions from the stands (from teammates in this case).

I typically shoot sports at 1/1000 second, which shows things that we never see when watching live. Just look at the way the water is pouring off the face of this Irish swimmer.

It yields very nice images, but once I get those "safe shots" I like to push myself to get something more interesting. So I set the camera to a shutter speed closer to 1/30th of a second and panned with a selected swimmer (my chosen subject). 

Using this technique, you can see much more movement of the swimmers. When panning, my goal is to follow one of the swimmers (usually from Team USA) and get their face in great focus while showing motion everywhere else in the photo. 

Since I need to move the camera at the exact same speed as the swimmer, most of the images are throw aways. But when I get one, it is really cool.

I got this one perfectly sharp on her head. I know that because I can read her name perfectly on her cap.

Sometimes I will tilt the camera to add drama to the motion pan..

...and sometimes I keep it nice and straight.

Motion panning is a learned technique and not easy to do. It is made especially hard here at the swimming venue where we have to sit in the position. I prefer to stand and twist at my hips normally (like a golf swing). But I love the challenge of shooting these unique photos and showing the world something different than most of the photographers are shooting here.

The next post will be the first game for the men of USA Water Polo. Stay tuned!


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Anonymous said...


steven said...

Thanks Jeff For all your hard work.

mcfotosfo said...

Thanks so much for sharing your photo's and experiences. I know it takes time but but I find it so valuable. This is my 4th Olympics that I've been reading your blog and it adds another fascinating, behind the scenes, dimension to the games for me. Plus I always pick up some good photographic tips that I use in in my own photography.

I know you are primarily there to photograph the USA Water Polo teams but do your other photo's get picked up by the other USA teams for their purposes? How about news agencies such as AP/UPI, etc?

Keep up the great work!