Saturday, December 22, 2007

Covered in water...

Shooting swimming had some interesting qualities: High stakes, pressure shooting. Humid as heck conditions. Subjects that splashed you as they got closer. But perhaps the most frustrating: subjects whose heads disappear out of sight, below the water.

It was a cold day outside, but the inside of the Upper Darby pool was hot and humid. The swimmers warmed up as I took off my sweatshirt and hoped that my camera would not fog up in the humidity. Fortunately it didn't, but all the water in the air certainly made me nervous switching lenses.

The swimmers were happy for the publicity. While the other team chanted something to the tone of "Go us. Beat 'Stoga!" the 'Stoga swimmers shouted "H-R-O-M-E. What does that spell? HENRY ROME!"

Swimming was a sport unlike anything else I've shot before. For one, there isn't a specific center of action--i.e. a player with the ball. There are several lanes of 'Stoga swimmers, and I mainly stuck to the middle lanes, as I was informed that generally the faster swimmers were in those lanes.

It also became clear that I would not stay dry in this shoot. When I determined that probably the best shooting would be getting head-level with the swimmers, that meant lying down on the wet pool tiles. And then getting water kicked at me, sometimes it felt done on purpose by some of my friends on the team, added to the moisture, especially on the camera, which I desperately tried to keep dry.

Some of the most intense shooting happened when the swimmers came to the blocks. A flash is used to tell the swimmers when to go as well as a horn, so I could not use a flash and thus could not shoot the start. See, this pool was so poorly lit that it was almost impossible to shoot without the speedlight flashing alongside. But, a flash of mine during the start meant big trouble, so I had to be quite careful throughout the event.

Some of my favorites:
This photo was actually during a warm-up, and it required holding the camera precariously above the water.

The butterfly was one of the easier strokes to shoot, as their heads came out of the water, looking right at me. Other strokes proved more challenging, as the fact that the heads are only up for a fraction of a second and not even fully out of the water makes for a mediocre image, like this one:
But swim meets are not only about the strokes. There's also diving in the middle of the meet. And this proved to be the most difficult part to shoot. Flashes are not allowed in diving, as it may distract the divers, so action shots were next to impossible to shoot. But this opened my eyes to more creative shots:

And then there's always the useless shot that just looks cool:
As the meet ended, Conestoga came out decisively on top--both boys and girls--and it was time to head home. Coming from the heavy humidity of the gym, I walked outside into the now heavy snow, in soaking wet clothes. It would be a cold and snowy ride home, after a fun and very different swimming shoot.

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