Warm-Up Stretches

March 24, 2011 

There were plenty of unimpressive feats of athleticism at last week's Richland track jamboree. While I understand that the early season meet is meant to allow everybody to participate and get a feel for competition, it was hard not to shake my head after seeing a javelin go 10 feet on a fouled throw.

As a one-time terrible track and field athlete (in middle school), however, I wasn't too harsh with my internal critiques, and the first meet of the season gave me a chance to do my own screwing up while getting back into track mode.

These early, less-official meets always cause a couple other problems. None of the athletes wear numbers, taking away a good deal of shooting time while tracking down names, and field events are arranged in a dizzying number of flights that mix stars with scrubs. Covering a track meet by yourself is hectic enough when you go in with some semblance of a plan, but when you don't have numbers, heat sheets or a good idea of when strong contenders are competing, it's kind of a crap shoot.

With that in mind, my day at Fran Rish started with me shooting crap, photographing straightforward finishes of the boys 100 meter dash. Somebody told me there were only seven heats instead of 11, so I went for something easy to capture the finish:

Their determined expressions are pretty good, but it's the duh angle I had to settle for during crowded track meets featuring top-flight talent at Hayward Field in Eugene. I moved to the side and slowed down the shutter speed for heat 10, which had a close finish featuring three Bombers:

I liked the shot, got their names and filed it away under "maybe" for a photo to print. After realizing that girls high jump was down to two local kids, though, I settled in for their final jumps. High jump isn't hard to photograph, but each jumper approaches the bar a little differently, so sometimes it takes a jump or two for you to figure out the best shooting angle — especially considering how messy the backgrounds at Fran Rish can be. I got one I liked of Hanford's Veronica Bradley,

but botched a couple of Richland's Elizabeth Quick before getting an alright one:

Quick was looking stronger, though, so when they both moved up to 5'7 1/2", which Richland people were saying would be a school record, I was really hoping she'd clear it. I had her angle figured out and that would be an easy call for photo selection. Unfortunately, they both failed all three attempts and Quick won because she needed fewer attempts to clear 5'6".

As I wandered around looking for other options, all I was seeing were the aforementioned short throws and early competition. Running out of time and figuring the photo would probably run small and inside the sports section, I decided to start messing around a bit more, banking on the high jump shot as my offering.

I tried to make a cool starting line frame,

worked some more slow shutter speeds,

and went wide:

I also kept an eye on the spectators,

and the birds flying behind them:

I ended up cropping that wide, blue sky pole vault shot into a vertical for the gallery because of how small the photos are, but I like it better with the extra space. Looking back on my take, I can't help feeling like I squandered an opportunity, though. A lot of what I was doing was recycling the same types of shots I've always done — gimmicks you lean on for visual variety during more meaningful meets when who you photograph is more important than how you shoot it. The old standbys of low wide-angle distance runners,

and the forest of poles during warm-ups are fine,

but eye-rollingly trite — even for a relative newbie like myself. I didn't even spend any time roaming through the team hangout spots, taking the lazy, long lens route to snipe fun moments like the kid jumping above and these athletes sharing some giggles:

The sad thing is that I really enjoy shooting track, and if I can't push myself during a fun, no-pressure meet, I'm nervous about what I'll be able to produce if I cover some of the bigger events later this season. It's hard to say if this is just a little uncreative hangover from the winter doldrums or if I was feeling a little lost at the first meet of the year and played it safe as I shook off some rust.

Here's hoping it's the latter.


Read about the four New York Times journalists' ordeals after being captured in Libya.

A Florida law that would have made it a felony (!) to photograph, record video or audio of agricultural operations without consent of the owner, resulting in up to 30 years in prison just passed. However, it came with two important amendments that reduce it to a misdemeanor and remove the really scary part applying to recordings produced from public property. A similar law was also recently passed in Iowa.

And if you don't already regularly check out Boston.com's The Big Picture, do yourself a favor. There are some really powerful images coming out of the crises in Libya and Japan with some interesting edits and amazing work from other big events. If you only have time in your life for one photo blog, stop reading mine and check out The Big Picture.



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