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Triathlon - Swim / Finish Line shots

M38A1

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Edit to Add: Title changed to reflect Finish Line shots too

I was part of a three person team contracted to shoot a sprint/olympic distance triathlon a few months ago. Rusty (Woodbutcher) was also part of the team and I had one other shooter I took on as a recommendation. The tri was out at Lake Pflugerville and when it came to assignments, I seem to gravitate towards the swim/swim exit and finish line. That's where the fun or cool shots can be created IF the sun is in the right place.

Sports shooters are at the mercy of the venue for location, and then the sun position after that. The swim and finish line are probably the most difficult for sun position as they are generally fixed in one place. In simple terms, you can't really change the angles to your benefit with the sun much if it's in the wrong place. The bike or run you can swap sides of the road for the most part, find a cool hill rise and a bunch of other little tricks to really frame and isolate a subject.

Shooting 600 people with the goal in mind of providing two or three 'keepers' is a challenge, not to mention a lot of shots/culling/processing. When the pace of finishers allows you to wait and frame, you can get some shots like the following. But most of the time it's the most hectic hour of shooting multiple targets in a fairly large area where they come out.

I use a floating ISO and shoot these at f/8 or so to give me some 'fudge' room on focus with a shutter speed North of 1/500th. Focus is "continuous" mode.

If you have any questions, let me know!

Here's the 'straight on' shot where you get the swimmer coming right at you. You can see the sunlight is in my favor in addition to that "BayWatch" look.
SSS_7433.jpg


Here's another one but from a quartering angle. Nice arm strides and the leg lifting, not planting. Water off the face also brings motion to the image.
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Here's one that has it all... Determination on a face, water off the face, water droplets frozen, leg stride vs plant and the BayWatch stride.
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Finally, getting shots with reflective goggles still on is always kind of fun if the sun works to your advantage.
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I dig the shots, Scott! I can only imagine the culling on an event like this.

Were these shot with a 70-200 or longer lens? Even at f/8, you got great separation.

Any good ones from the finish line?
 

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The shots were 160/160/140 and 200mm with the 70-200 f/2.8. The first one is about a 10% crop with the other three 100% full no-crop. Getting the timing down is critical so you don't have to go back and crop images after the fact. That's realllllly time consuming. It takes practice, but once you get the hang of it, pretty much every shot will work without a crop. When I shoot IRONMAN triathlon as a contract shooter you don't have the opportunity to do ANY post-processing or culling. They provide you the media whereby you shoot various pre-scouted assigned locations, drop the media in a bag and mark it, then move to the next location. So you HAVE to get it right the first time.
 

M38A1

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The finish line is a really fast paced place to be and there's a ton of pressure to get everyone since that's the "money shot" for these folks. There are periods of single runners and periods of pure chaos where you just try to do your best to get them all. The larger events will have multiple (like four or six) shooters just before and just after the finish line.

It's also a fairly high emotional area to shoot. You get first timers who show it on their faces. You get the seasoned veterans with their steely cold faces. And you get the hot dogs who know there's always a camera on the at the end.

You only have a couple places you can park yourself and it's usually right or left of the finish timing mat. The trick is to get the right distance from the mat to allow for the full range of 70-200 to happen. Why the 70-200? Because if you wait for everyone to be at 70mm, what do you do when there's six people finishing at the same time? You have to start shooting them at the 200mm mark and pick them off as they come in mentally keeping track of who you've shot. Crazy at times.

Here's an example of when the sun was just perfect and the background storm really worked to my benefit.
SSS_0542.jpg


The next two are the 'leg' shots you have to be aware of. Most people do NOT like the foot planted shot and honestly, it's not a flattering look. The first one is a leg planted and the second one is a push-off shot. See the difference? And that's not a dirty sensor in the sky - it's birds!
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Then you get the seasoned Hot Doggers knowing we'll take the shot...
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There's family time which is really cool....
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...and if you keep your head on a swivel during a lull you can find cool stuff like some blue porta-johns that just happen to have a couple sharing a 'moment'
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Another family shot. On the smaller races this is allowed, but larger organized events it can get the athlete DQ'd.
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Then there's the shots you MUST get. This is Hoyt Racing who's organization takes paraplegics on the 'journey'. You'll probably recall Dick Hoyt's name. He's the guy that took his son on countless marathons and IRONMAN triathlons. He recently passed away in March of this year, yet his legacy continues.
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More family time. I love the look on the kids face...
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Speaking of faces, here's a "glad this is over" face.
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M38A1

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You get the shots where athletes are simply joyous in the finish...
SSS_0999.jpg


...or they know you personally and ham it up a bit
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Or the mom's with their happy kid. This is the wife of 1048 in the previous post. The little girl crossed the finish line twice if you're keeping track of people. lol
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More happiness and "I see you Mr. Camera Man..."
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Proud papa... This also shows how lighting can really mess with auto ISO. Bright, but no direct sun.
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All the glory to Him on this one
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More airborne tom-foolery...
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This was just cool. A man and his finish
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Then there's these other photographers wandering around drinking coffee on the clock... If you come down the chute, prepare to get shot. :-)
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...and the final finisher of the event. I'm surprised she had the energy to do this but she insisted I capture it.
SSS_1868.jpg







Well, that's about all for a sprint triathlon swim exit and finish line.

If anyone has questions, fire away!
 
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Really enjoyed it, Scott. Great pictures captured and entertaining comments on your process as well as the event. Thanks for sharing! :clap:

I like sports shooting, but this just sounds stressful. :lol2:
 

M38A1

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Really enjoyed it, Scott. Great pictures captured and entertaining comments on your process as well as the event. Thanks for sharing! :clap:

I like sports shooting, but this just sounds stressful. :lol2:
Shooting sports for $$ does in fact have a level of stress associated with it. I've been shooting for others such as the IRONMAN triathlon, the larger marathon races in Austin, several trail running series races, and some local tri/running events. It's always kind of fun, but it's still work and you have to produce which increases the stress.

I think your approach to shooting sports is perfect - just have fun without the stress.
 
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