How to Take a Great Triathlon Photo – Part I

There was a young couple trying to see all of the sites of New York City, guidebook in hand they saw a well-dressed elderly man, slightly bent over and with violin case held lovingly under his arm.  Excuse me sir, but can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall? Without hesitation the man looked up, gave them a wry smile and said ‘Practice, Practice, Practice.’   I know, it is an old story and a bad joke, but it does have the side benefit of being true. If you want to do something well, really well, you have to practice, practice, practice.

Triathletes put in hours, days and months of training, maintaining equipment and planning their race season, if you want to get a great shot to memorialize their efforts, you need to practice too!

In part I of How to take a Great Triathlon Photo, I am going to concentrate of the swim. Pretty clever huh? Three sports, three part blog!

The swim start yields some of my favorite shots! The start is the only time when all of the competitors are together. Although you will likely find access to be restricted at major events, with a bit of planning you will be able to get some shots that will capture both the spirit and the chaos of the start. You have to be smart, you have to be creative and sometimes you have to get wet!

These first two images we used a camera in a bag!  Actually it is an EWA-Marine waterproof housing. The goal of using the housing is to get the base of the camera and the lens right at the water level and get be able to get the refection of the athletes in the water. There will be another more detail blog post at some point with information about using underwater housings.

Another view of the start is from overhead. Both of the following images were shot using a 15mm fish-eye, with the camera mounted on a mono-pod, which was extended over my head and triggered with a wired remote. AKA – camera-on-a-stick, again I will do an upcoming post on how to set this up and use it.

Immediately after the start, the chaos continues. Here are two shots from the Lifetime Fitness Chicago Triathlon, as well as two from 2011 Kona Ironman World Championship. Our goal with these images was to show how it feels to be in the water! The final shot in the series is by Kerry Yndestad.

Finally, you can get some really dramatic shots at the swim exit. One of my favorites is a head on shot with the water sheeting off of the athlete. The first image below is Lisa Norden of Sweden at the 2011 Madrid ITU event (shot by Bob Kupbens). The next shot is former World Champion Javier Gomez of Spain, side by side with Olympic Gold Medalist Jan Frodeno on the London ITU race, which served at the 2012 Olympic Test Event.

An ITU event often has a two-lap swim with also can present some great image opportunities. Here is one from Madrid.

The final set of images are from the 2011 Clermont Sprints. The first shot is a fairly low angle which emphasizes the athletes and the second shot is a higher angle and emphasizes the pattern and composition of the pack running into first transition.

Getting back to Practice, Practice, Practice, for each of these events, I made it a point to be at the race site during the practice swim time the day before the event to do some test shots. In addition, I will typically go to the start the day before the race at the same time as the start just to check the light. Another great time to practice is your local Tri club has open water swim practice. They are out training, you should be too!

No matter what, get there early! For Kona we were on site before 5:00 AM, and we were far from the first to arrive.

3 thoughts on “How to Take a Great Triathlon Photo – Part I

  1. I really like the photo of the referee amongst all the swimmers. It is one that definitely surprised me. As an amateur photographer I primarily shoot bike races, so I look forward to your section for the bike portion. I have a friend who is competing in the IronMan Lake Placid this year, so the whole series will be very beneficial for me and my 70-200L II and (soon to be) 7D

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