Jeff Cable's Blog: Photographing a swim meet
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This is one of my favorite images from the day. Partly because I am a sucker for cute little kids, but also because it was this little 4 year-olds first time swimming in a meet and she gave everything she had to get across the pool and she did. I got down to the water level and shot this image of her. This vantage point really brings the viewer right into this little girl's world.
The nice thing about the newer DSLR cameras is that they can take 3 or more pictures per second, thus making it easier to capture your subject at the height of the action. But, even with this advantage, it is still difficult to capture the exact moment that you might be looking for.
I still find that the best way to get the peak of action is to hit the shutter at the exact point where you want the image. For this shot above, I purposely waited and shot this image to get the swimmer right before she came up for a breath. I like the fact that you can see her eyes goggles through the water. Here is another favorite shot from the day. What makes this so cool, is that, most people would never see this during the meet. Because the camera can freeze the action in a fraction of a second, you can expose the unseen moments.
Overcast skies help you avoid the deep shadows, while still giving you ample light for fast action shots. As I mentioned before, I normally photograph the breast stroke from the end of the pool, straight on to the swimmer, but since I practice what I preach, I went for a different angle this time, and really liked it. Not only does this show my daughter from a nice perspective, but it also shows that she is ahead of another swimmer in the race, helping to tell the story.
Don't just photograph the swimmers.
There is a lot action happening around the pool deck. Keep your head up and look for the unexpected moments. In this picture, taken during the final relay, you see this girl's teammates encouraging her to finish strong.
Something in the area of 12 photos per second. This really helps you get photos at the peak of action. I would shoot photos at different points of the swimmer's stroke.
This would give me a nice variety of photos, not always having the swimmer looking directly at me. This shot clearly shows the muscles of this young man.
\Swimming and Diving
When shooting a swim meet, don't only capture the action. Have some fun and look for other good shots.
I saw the reflection of the Stanford swimming pool in this man's sunglasses and zoomed into for this photo. This is way more interesting than a straight shot of the pool, don't you think? For backstroke, I decided that the photos would look better from a high position. So I climbed to the top of the stands and shot down from this location. For this shot, I turned the camera and I adjusted the mm lens all the way back to mm on this crop sensor camera to include most of the swimmers diving into the pool.
I also zoomed the lens in tight to isolate some of the swimmers diving back from the edge of the ppol. Just like in the butterfly stroke, I will often shoot photos at different times during the swimmer's race. In this case, I chose to shoot photos as the swimmer was still underwater and just about to break the surface to start her backstroke. I also took some backstroke photos from the pool deck.
As you can tell, this yields a completely different look than the shots from up above. Don't be afraid the move around and try different shooting locations. I really like the veil of water coming over Rachel's face on this shot. With all of the distractions at this end of the pool, I did not take too many photos of the kids diving in for the start of their race. But it is a good idea to get some photos of this, since it is an important part of the meet.
The breast stroke in an interesting event to photograph, since the swimmers come out of the water quite often and get their faces low to the water line.Julie's First SWIM MEET
Much like the butterfly stroke, I usually choose to shoot this from straight on. Some shots with them high out of the water and some not And then there are the mishaps. I always feel bad for the swimmers who have to complete with their goggles out of place. But it does make for some interesting photos.
I have seen many kids swim with their goggles off, but never seen anyone chewing on them as they swim. They are just too darned cute! The last stroke is freestyle, which is best captured from the side of the pool. Shooting from the side of the pool means that you can see the swimmer's face.
The biggest challenge with this is when some kids only breath to one side.