There are lots of things that can be said about an Ironman Triathlon and the people that race them. From the outside, friends of the triathletes, whether Professional or Age Group think they are Compulsive Obsessives and addicted to their training. Others sit back in awe of what they have or are working to accomplish.
Although my deteriorating knees saved me from ever attempting an Ironman, I have done some pretty absurd things in my long and undistinguished athletic career. But, as the tag line for Ironman says – Anything is Possible, which I believe is what really drives most of the participants. For some it is a statement of what they can do, for many others it becomes a lifestyle.
There are of course the genetic anomalies like Craig Alexander, Jan Frodeno, Mirinda Carfrae and Jesse Thomas that do this professionally and win, but let’s face it; they are not like the rest of us.
Traveling to compete at one of the 40+ Ironman races or other Iron-distance races around the world is becoming increasingly common. Destination races have become part of the adventure of racing, as well as a great way to see the world and involve your family whom has had to be incredibly supportive during your long training.
Each year it seems I am spending increasing amounts of time in Europe covering events. The atmosphere, the charm, the attitude of the hosts keeps drawing me back. Personally I also love the opportunity to explore new places and cultures.
For years, my friends at the ITU kept insisting that I come to the race in Hamburg just to see the crowds. When I finally did, it was amazing. Now I typically spend July in Germany shooting IM Frankfurt, Challenge Roth and Hamburg.
In fact, IM Lanzarote turned out to be the combination of attributes of all of the best events I have been to over the last 15 years. Lanzarote has the volcanic Island and black sand beaches of Kona, the mountainous bike course of Zell am See in the Alps, the welcoming celebratory atmosphere of Roth and crowds of Hamburg! Really it has it all.
Unlike many of the North American events, Lanzarote has a rich 25-year history and certainly reflects the personality of founder Kenneth Gasque. To say the least, Kenneth treats every triathlete and family member as his personal guest.
Kenneth began his Ironman career in 1985 and immediately commenced his efforts to bring a race to Lanzarote. 1992 marked the beginning of Ironman Lanzarote and was the 4th event in the world. The race has a rich history, with some athletes returning for 15 years or more. When you arrive you are neither treated like guests or friends, you are treated like family. With the Club and Event staff doing all they can to enhance your experience.
At first Lanzarote may seem difficult to get to, but since I typically have to make a connection in Amsterdam, Paris or London to get to the race venue, this time I connected in Dublin and then headed south for an additional 3 hours to Lanzarote.
Club La Santa is a training center, in the fall and winter professional cycling teams, triathletes, swim clubs and many others flock here to escape the European winter and enjoy some solid training. On site there are 3 50-meter 8-lane pools, a 400-meter track, soccer field, weight training, gym and almost anything else you can imagine, including Stand Up Paddle boards. While May is not peak training season families from all over Europe arrive to play together. My apartment was simple but quite comfortable and for my 8 day stay, I felt very much at home.
I hope you enjoyed a few my favorite photos from my stay in Lanzarote, judge for yourself, but put this one on your bucket list!
I had great intentions of writing several blogs while I was on the road, but as luck who have it, I was more than a bit over optimistic about my available time. I know, like that has never happened before.
Saturday, May 7 was the Ironman St. George 70.3, the North American Pro Championship, with a great field of athletes and truly a championship course. With portions of the course set in Snow Canyon, it is a photo op in waiting. This was the fifth time I have shot there and unlike in prior years the light was less than perfect.
Temperatures in the low to mid-50s and periodic rain is indeed less than perfect. But I felt confident, I was wearing full dress Aerostich Moto gear which makes me look like a cross between the yellow Power Ranger and the Michelin Man. Bruno was driving for me and we were using my BMW F700GS, which we have modified to make it easier to shoot. In addition, I had ThinkTank Photo Rain covers.
Aside from a few random snaps, this was the first field use of my new Canon 1Dx Mark II, with its magical glow-in-the-dark ISOs and 14 frames per second.
First, more as a test of the camera, I shot the following image of Bruno at 40,000 ISO. Below you can see what it was like right from the camera followed by the image with some Lightroom clean up. Not too bad, but the real question might be if you are shooting in the dark, why don’t you just get out a flash? But then like I said, it was a test.
From a practical standpoint my greater concern is shooting with ISOs in the 2000 to 4000 range. Situations where there is low light, not in the dark, and I want to have a reasonable high shutter speed and a bit of depth of field.
Again here are a couple of shots with the unprocessed image first, followed by the Lightroom processed image. Really not too bad.
When I am shooting from the Moto, I typically shoot in burst of 3 to 5 frames and then as part of my edit process I select the image with the best biomechanics. With the 1DX Mark II, I was initially shooting in 5 to 7 frame burst. Certainly overkill, part was the sensitivity of the camera and I am sure part was attributable that I sort of lost the feeling in my hands in the cold rain. Either way the camera is sensitive to the touch. You can adjust the maximum frame rate in the settings but why give up the speed, I am sure by next week, I will get the hang of it.
I was really quite impressed with the quality of the images, particularly the color depth particularly on a fairly dark and grey day. Following are a few shots from the course.
Late Sunday morning, I loaded up the Moto and headed out for 3 days of riding through the spectacular terrain in Utah and Colorado. Some rain, some sunshine, some snow and hot and cold weather is the short version of the story. My final day had to be re-routed due to snow in Monarch Pass.
Here are a few snaps from the road trip, all shot with the Canon 1Dx Mark II and the 24-105 mm, f/4.0 lens. You can judge for yourself.
Tonight we have the USA Track and Field Road 1 Mile Championship and the off to Ironman Texas in the morning.
Now 36 hours into the ownership of my new 1Dx Mark II body, I have yet to have time to take it out for a real test, but after sitting with it for a bit on Tuesday evening and just a few shots this morning, I do have some initial impressions to share.
The set up, both physical and the menu content is virtually the same as the 1Dx. Please keep in mind I haven’t been through everything yet, nor have I opened the manual. I will likely find a few differences, as I get deeper into it.
The first noticeable impression is that 14 fps is really fast and that shooting with Live View at 16 fps is REALLY, REALLY fast. I did hold the shutter down to see how many shots I could fire off in a row and it slowed down at about 140 frames.
Having a burst mode of 140 + frames goes into the category of just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. To translate that into a practical use, as I am shooting in 3 to 5 image burst from the back of the moto, I truly believe that I will never be inhibited by the transfer rate to the CFast 2 card.
Since I have a couple of hours to kill here at the Las Vegas Airport before my ride arrives to go to the race in St. George, this is a good opportunity to check the high ISO capabilities.
The above images are full frame and as shot, with NO post processing and to me they all look pretty good.
To test a bit more, here are some higher crops of the same 3 images.
Again, except for the crop there has been no post processing to these images. Yes 20,000 looks a bit edgy but not too bad and I think the 5,000 looks pretty good.
Now you may be thinking why is this guy shooting at 1/800 in such low light? I sure hope he can hold the camera steady. The fact is that I shoot sports and if I want to stop the action I need a high shutter speed. High ISO and a tripod will not work for me.
In the final image in each series. I dropped the shutter speed to 1/400 to accommodate the reduction in ISO, but still pretty fast.
Finally here is an image where I have done a bit of post in Lightroom.
Just some minor post and it cleans up quite well.
Will I be shooting at 20,000 ISO? Probably not too often. The last time I did was at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
It’s not really about being able to shoot in the dark, which I could probably do, it is about shooting in low light. This whole photography is really about the light. The light reflected off of your image, as well as how much image noise is inherent in the image and what you in post.
Although this is very preliminary, I am pretty impressed. I am looking forward to the pre-start shots at the Ironman St. George 70.3 this weekend for the real test.
In about 36 hours I leave for four weeks of travel, which will include 3 National Championship events in 3 different states in eight days, one of the most challenging Ironman races in the world the following week and by my estimate about 17,500 miles of travel, 14 flights and several days on my motorcycle.
I start off with Ironman St.George 70.3, which is the North American Pro Championship, then ride my motorcycle from St. George (May 7) to Boulder, weather permitting, shooting landscape photos for three days. Then a flight home to Minneapolis to shoot the USATF Road 1 Mile Championship (May 12), followed by Ironman Texas (May 14), which is the North American Pro Championship. My final race of this stretch will be Ironman Lanzarote in the Canary Islands (May 21).
After a couple days of editing in Lanzarote, I plan to take a few days off to go to Marrakech and since I will am routed through Dublin, I plan to take an extra day there as well.
Needless to say I am pleased that my long awaited Canon 1Dx Mark II arrived today. Many thanks to Julie Murphy of National Camera Exchange who kept me well informed as to the delivery date and allowing me once again to get the first one in the Twin Cities.
I do wish I had a bit more time to learn about the new camera, but I do have a couple days to figure out what is different from the Canon 1Dx.
I know I am not alone when people ask, Paul – why do you need a new camera? Sure it is alway fun to have new gear to use, it becomes a practical matter. I always shoot with two camera bodies. The current generation and the prior generation. For me this has meant my Canon 1D Mark IV from early 2010, which I love and has served me very well and the Canon 1Dx, which I received immediately prior to leaving for the 2012 London Olympics.
The Mark IV has about 500,000 shutter actuations and then 1Dx is not far behind. These are tools that have well used and appreciated, as is Canon Professional Services, who keep my gear in great shape.
This blog is not an Unpacking the Box Blog. You can go to the Canon Website if you need to know what’s in the box. It will be more articulate and accurate than I will be.
This blog is the kick off a four great weeks of travel and amazing events and venues to shoot, which should be an amazing test of the new camera!
Just one performance note, when set to live view the sound of shooting 16 fps, is a constant whir!
I plan to get something posted every few days with some details of the events, race images and impressions of the new camera – Stay tuned.
In the vein of The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In yesterday’s blog, I gave my thoughts on what are critical attributes about shooting from a motorcycle.
One thing that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog was that at Oceanside on April 2nd there were only two other motos for the media. One was for a photographer and the other for a spotter. Only having two photographers on the course is pretty rare and while there were marshals on the course, there really wasn’t much traffic for us. More common would be six or more. At the major events, sometimes they are hard to count.
Here is a common view at major events.
In the first image above, there are race marshals, still photographers, NBC videographers, and Ironman Live (streaming) videographers. The 2nd image has much the same but without NBC.
I hope this gives you a better idea of what it is really like and the driving skills required. As well as how badly things might turn out if there is someone without appropriate skills in the moving gaggle at the front of the race.
Oh yes and then there are the crowds.
The above portion of the Challenge Roth for is restricted to the TV motos and the Polizei. My driver dropped me off about 1 km from that point and to get the shots I wanted, I walked and then using a back road, he met me at the top of the hill. FYI – this image was also selected by Triathlon Business International as the Top Published Photo for 2015!
One thing I neglected to mention is that I cannot do my voodoo without a great partner. In addition, since I sit backwards, I only see the race and not really the roadway. To really have the right feel for what it is like to be out there, I have asked Bruno Desrochers, who has been my primary driver for the last 5 years to share some comments, as well as David Ashe who was a first time driver for me at the Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 in March.
I have lost count of how many races Bruno and I have done together, but our range of events is from ITU events in San Diego, USAT Age Group Championships in Milwaukee and the 2015 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Zell am See, Austria.
As luck would have it, we were able to find a 2015 BMW F700GS to use in Zell am See.
Here Bruno and I are just coming down out of the Alps and back into town to get ready to shoot the run. Although my preference is to sit backwards and shoot from the moto, on this course there simply was not room on the road and particularly the descents to do so. We had driven the course each of the two prior days to pick out our planned locations and to familiarize ourselves.
As we moved from spot to spot, we hit 115 km/hr and in fact dragged our foot pegs a couple of times on our BMW F700GS. I may be frowning on the outside but on the inside I am screaming, holy shit this is so much fun I can’t believe it!
The following shot of 70.3 World Champion Daniela Ryf should give you can idea of the extreme nature of the course.
Now that I hope I have sort of established the environment that we work in, my hope is that comments from Bruno and David will have greater context.
First from Bruno, although he does have a side job as an aerospace engineer, he is as close to a professional driver as I have ever met.
Bruno – I started off by volunteering for the Oceanside 70.3. The beginning of my experience with this type of driving was for race marshals. It wasn’t until the 2011 Ironman Arizona that I met Paul. I’ve read about being a moto driver in these events and spoken to professionals. Part of my motivation was by driving it provided me a way to be involved while my wife Chris was competing. Being a spectator is actually quite hard on the mind and body, especially on full Ironman events
Much of the experience is about riding with a passenger and reacting to what the passenger does. If the passenger moves a lot, this will limit how close I’m willing to get to an athlete. It is definitely more difficult to ride slowly, keeping up with a cyclist or a runner while keeping the bike stable at these speeds. Other aspects of the experience are; what’s expected from me as a rider; and what I have to do during the event – where can I go – knowing the course.
Finally, it’s about knowing the rules:
Don’t put you and your team in a position that will result in an accident for anyone;
Anticipate where the others will be around you. For Age Group athletes, you have to expect the unexpected;
Let the athletes go first – don’t crowd them particularly in the turns;
Get off the course if possible if your position is threatening to others;
Take the time to do what you have to do, but don’t drag along. Give the space to other motos when you’re done;
Know what your role is
Abide by the rules
Anticipation is a key to safety. One time, riding downhill and keeping pace with the cyclists at about 30 mph, I was keeping a fair amount of distance all around between us and the athletes. I didn’t know what was going to happen, if anything, and even though the reaction times are the same, the time it takes for events to happen are longer, as we all know. Next thing I know the cyclist, who was about 30 meters in front of us crashed. Although surprised, I was ready and had plenty of time to swerve around without impacting those behind me. I also had time to see the poor man sliding quite a ways, but didn’t see him stop.
From my perspective, having ridden all types of motorcycles, the best is a relatively upright, not a high performance machine, easy clutch, responsive throttle, and 2-wheeled motorcycle, as opposed to a 3-wheeled Trike models. It also helps to have a short shift lever on the transmission, but obviously not necessary. A more upright position helps relieve the pressure on the wrists. Also, I often find myself slipping the clutch while maintaining slightly higher revs to maintain a really slow speed.
Finally, if a specific course was provided for this purpose, I would gladly take it. One can never have too much training and ultimately, if all moto drivers knew what to do, it would make everyone’s job so much easier and safer.
As Paul pointed out, it all starts with the motorcycle. After all, this is the tool that enables the ideal experience between the driver and the passenger. This team should be comfortable both physically and for communication purposes regardless of the passenger’s job. In addition, the moto is there because of the event, so having a loud motorcycle is not a good feature. The reason is twofold; the first being that if the passenger is a marshal, there’s no point in advertising to the cyclists that the marshal is coming up being them; the second is that even if the passenger is not a marshal, there’s no point in freaking out the cyclist when riding by at greater speeds. So considering that these events are usually half-Ironman or Ironman distances, the moto team will be there for a long time.
I’ve had the opportunity of riding for marshals and photographers. Often times, I have seen volunteer marshals that have had little to no experience on a motorcycle or even as a marshal. I think it’s obvious that this is not advisable. Personally, I am perfectly happy to teach a person on how to ride behind a motorcycle, but doing so at an event is not the place to do so. In this case, the passenger could misinterpret what they were told, and do something inadvertent that could lead to an potentially tragic accident. I’ve also seen an inexperienced person climb onto a motorcycle only to end up on the ground, along with the motorcycle and the rider. However, as these events require volunteers, you don’t get to pick and choose the rider/moto or the marshal.
I agree with Paul’s statement that the moto driver is responsible for the safety of the crew and everyone around it. Having Paul ride backwards is actually a boon as he becomes my eyes-in-the-back-of-my-head, and since we communicate through an intercom system, he can advise me of the status from his perspective. This results in an increase in safety. But the reason I’m there is to help Paul get the perfect shot. Yes, safety is number one! So I will evaluate Paul’s requests and if I can do it, I will. And since we’ve known each other, Paul has acquired his ideal motorcycle for these events and we’ve modified it a lot to help his effort. After all, this is basically his desk while at work.
One point I would like to make. I see the volunteer marshals/spotters, who are often athletes themselves, come to these events. I applaud these folks since without volunteers, there likely will not be an event, and it’s a way to give back to their sport. However, these volunteers should be made aware that dressing appropriately for motorcycle riding is preferable. I’ve seen folks in T-shirt, shorts and sandals. I know that it can be hot at times, but having at least a pair of jeans and a decent jacket with shoes could mean the difference between a road rash and a serious injury. I personally have lost many pounds in water as a result of the gear I wear. Loose/floppy clothing is not a good idea. It is always best to bring your own helmet, a small investment in the most secure and safest fit.
Having experience with both marshals and photographers, I prefer photographers. The simple reason is that the photographer usually wants to shoot as many of the athletes as possible, so we’re not limited to observing a few of them, and you get to see more of the action. Of course, they are usually more experienced passengers, so they are more likely to know what to do and what is expected of them on a motorcycle. I remember driving for Andrew Loehman at Lake Tahoe who liked to stand on the pegs while taking pictures. It wasn’t until the third or fourth time that I realized what he was doing. Although I would have preferred him telling me, he was so well balanced that I just didn’t know he was standing up.
We can be riding along with the pros and are just as likely to see age-groupers, especially on the run. One should note that there are no marshals on motos during the run, but with the right photographer, it is possible to ride with the runners. I must admit though that this is usually the most stressful time of the day. Some photographers like to stop more often and take pictures from different vantage points, which could also be interesting. All in all, for me, this is the best seat in the house.… and I usually get to see my wife somewhere along the way and encourage her, woohoo!
Paul – Thanks to the expansive world of Social Media, I was able to connect with David through the Facebook page for the BMW Club of Puerto Rico. Not unlike Bruno, David has a side job. He is a Private Equity investor, and is currently running one of his portfolio companies in the specialty consumer finance arena.
Remember the moto reserved for the media that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog – the BMW S1000RR? Here is David on his double R, doing what it is made to do.
David – I have been riding motorcycles since I was ten years old, but I have been a motorcycle fanatic since much younger than that. My first tricycle as a toddler was a just a stand-in for the real thing; I just added the engine noises myself. Many years ago, I caught a glimpse of the Tour de France coverage while surfing TV channels. What caught my eye were not the alpine views and the superhuman fitness of the riders, it was the motorcycles. Dozens of motorcycles, carrying photographers and also support crews for the teams, sometimes with several bicycle wheels on hand, weaving in an out of the crowds and the athletes, speeding up to catch the next “peloton”, or stopping to get a shot, or aid a competitor. Now, that looked like a lot of fun, I wondered who these people were, and marveled at their control of their large (mostly) BMW motorcycles, at slow and high speeds, and almost always at close quarters.
So it was a welcome surprise when Paul found me in our local BMW Club Facebook page, and inquired about finding volunteers to serve as his “moto” during the Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3 triathlon. Since my current ride is a BMW S1000RR sport bike (not at all suited to riding with passengers, much less as a photo moto), I cast a net to try to find him a rider with a BMW R1200GS, perhaps the best platform for this purpose. Well, I got caught up in the net, though I didn’t put up much of a struggle. At the end of the day, our local dealer offered up one of their demo bikes, so long as I was the rider.
It was a ton of fun. Most motorcycles with ample passenger seating will do just fine; even one of those large scooters will probably work. As it happened, the R1200GS was a great mount, combining low-speed maneuverability with the power to quickly get in position, to quickly cover ground when needed, and with the brakes to haul two large adults to quick, safe stops when needed. Since part of the time Paul was sitting facing backwards, the rear top case (the side cases will just get in the way and are not needed) was a bonus, allowing him to rest his elbows on it and also giving him additional protection when accelerating hard. And accelerate hard we did, allowing him to get shots of the rear and middle packs of bicycle riders and then speeding off to get to the leaders. This required bursts of speed, at one time reaching 100 mph on the gratefully closed roads, no sweat for the big boxer twin. After chasing down the lead bicycle riders, we then transitioned to the running section, which required some slow-speed riding in tight quarters. This time, the big GS tiptoed her way through the event like the all-around champ that she is.
Do not try this if you are not experienced in carrying passengers your own size and weight, and who will be moving around on the back seat. In fact, this is a job for very experienced riders, as we had to accelerate, brake, and turn, under conditions that might have been taxing to riders with lesser skills. But the real key to a safe and fun day is the quality and quantity of communication between pilot and photographer. It helped greatly that Paul connected his Sena bluetooth communicator to my helmet, and this allowed us to coordinate every move much better than through shouting, tapping, or however else we would have had to manage. In addition, Paul made it very clear that every decision regarding driving the motorcycle would be up to me, and only me. If he said “go”, and I didn’t think it would be safe, we didn’t have to go, even if it meant missing a shot. We also met the day before, went over the route, practiced with Paul sitting backwards and reviewed the plan for the day, which started at 5:00 AM. Having clear expectations up front, and not feeling any pressure to perform made it fun, and safe.
I strongly recommend pitching in and acting as a “photo moto pilot” in an Ironman, or similar event. You will get a chance to be a part of a fun event (without having to swim/bike/run for 70.3 miles!), and feel the electricity generated by these large gatherings of like-minded people. It’s yet another riding experience, and one I look forward to repeating sometime soon.
Paul – In conclusion, I hope yesterday’s blog and this one will provide some insight as to the requisite skills, equipment and safety measures that are necessary on the course, and what the media and drivers deal with.
One final photo, it really doesn’t have anything to do with the blog but it is a shot of me riding my BMW F800R and loving it!
Zalusky Advance Rider School – Thanks Tina Kelly for the snap
Here we are well into 2016 and the year has gotten off to a great start.
Not that I am into resolutions but one of the things I wanted to spend time on again in 2016 was my blog. My last entries are from the 2014 Sochi Olympics and while that took some recovery time, I know two years is a bit ridiculous. After Sochi I moved pretty quickly into my normal running & triathlon shooting schedule, which was great.
My knees, which have undergone years of abuse really started to give trouble in June 2014. Without going into the gory details, in August I began the process of having my left knee replaced. In mid-November at the end of my 2014 race season, I had surgery.
Recovery was going great until 8 weeks when my right knee locked up. From there, the rest of the 2015 season was just managing to get through the travel, the day, the event and back. I had great support from my PT’s at Orthology and my docs, Aimee Klapach and Scott Anseth.
I was able to get where I had to be, but there just wasn’t anything left in the tank so to speak for anything extra. Finally 52 weeks to the day after the first knee was repaired I received my 2nd bionic knee on November 16th. Although I am still not quite at 100%, I am so much better than I was a year ago; it is really exciting! And, I am 5/8ths of in inch taller.
With all of that in mind I have been excited to get the 2016 race season moving. I was in San Juan at the Puerto Rico 70.3 last week and on Wednesday I leave for the California 70.3 at Oceanside.
If you happen to be interested here is my full schedule. (Cue the Indiana Jones Music, I am hitting the road for a season of adventure).
I don’t want to give the impression that I suffered and barely made it though the last couple years. I have been able to have my normal travel schedule and a couple of great cross country moto trips shooting landscape photos.
Finally, this January and for the second time one my images was selected by Triathlon Business International as the Best Published Photo for 2015!
Thanks to my friend Dr. Allan Torres, I have a couple of shots of me in San Juan and indeed I am back in the saddle.
I was able to arrange an amazing driver, David Ashe and the BMW Dealer in San Juan loaned us a new R1200GS for the weekend.
It was a great race and we were able to get some great shots.
2015 Winner Sarah Haskins along the water front.
2016 Winner Tine Deckers – putting time on her group.
Tim O’Donnell returned to the top of the podium for the 3rd time in 2016.
In January 2013, we started to the Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest. The goals were fairly simple with the thousands of triathletes racing every weekend and the hundreds of thousands of photos that have been shot; we hoped this would be an opportunity to show off the amazing efforts and spirit of the all of the athletes involved in our great sport, as well as the photo efforts of the athletes many supporters.
It’s time for the 2nd Annual Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest
As the submissions arrived and I started reviewing images in my blog, an additional goal presented itself. Using real world examples, I could offer comments and critique on how to enhance your race images with some relatively simple solutions and provide you added value to your photo and race experience. While the athletes you are supporting are out for hours at a time, you can work on your photo skills at the races. Not only telling their story, but doing a great job of preserving the memories of their amazing accomplishments.
ENTER HERE and after you enter, tweet your photo with the tag #SpiritOfTri
Athletes, supporters and bloggers, here is your chance to show off your favorite triathlon photos, have it published and win a great prize! Images may include Professional, Age Group, Youth and Challenged Triathletes, Action Photos, Venues, Human Interest and other images that exemplify the Spirit of Triathlon.
The numbers of triathletes and events continue to grow at an amazing rate with no let up in sight for 2014. In addition, we are approaching a billion photos posted each day on Social Media – it is time for some great shots and their photographers to get the attention they deserve.
Our top three images will again receive prizes provided by my friends at ThinkTank Photo. This year I am adding a Grand Prizeas well!
As every triathlete knows a great coach can make a huge difference in your performance, it is true of sports photography as well. The Grand Prize winner will have the opportunity to join me at one of my 2014 events. Although I cannot guaranty that you will be able to be credentialed for the event, I will work with you to plan your shots, angles and locations. In addition, I will do a pre-race review and critique of 20 of your images via email & Skype, so you can start working on optimizing your shots and practice prior to our event. I am shooting all across the US so hopefully, my schedule will be close to you so you can join in the fun!
The contest will begin today, January 9, 2014 and conclude on March 9, 2014.
In addition, each week I will review three photos in a blog offering comments that I hope will benefit all triathlon photographers.
Every event that I shoot I rely on my ThinkTank gear to have my critical equipment close at hand. In addition to having your image published in an online Triathlete.com gallery, the first place photographer will receive a Retrospective 30 camera bag – great stuff, trust me, you will love it.
Just a personal note about the ThinkTank Retrospective series. No matter what event I travel to and how much gear I take with me, I always, ALWAYS bring my Retrospective bag with me. It is the PERFECT bag for walking around shooting. Easy access and unobtrusive! You will love it.
We are currently gathering up a list of other Tri related prizes to be included hoping that each of the top 20 images will receive something. More details will be available on a future blog post, but we currently have commitments from Training Peaks, Profile Designs, K-Swiss, TriTats and Castelli.
A Couple Common Questions
Last year there were a number of questions about the contest that popped up on social media and I am sure there will be more this year. In the meantime, I will try to respond to a few of the questions.
Who owns the images after they are submitted? You do! Although the top 20 images will be presented in a gallery on Triathlete.com and perhaps in a print issue, you will still own the images and all of the rights to the use of the images beyond the single use presentation on the web and in print will be controlled by you.
Why is there an entry fee? There are two primary reasons for having an entry fee. The first is simple, I use outside software to administer the contest and process the entries, and there is a real cost for each entry submitted. Second and more importantly, reviewing, evaluating and blogging about the entries takes a substantial amount of my time. Although I enjoy this process, this contest is not about having thousands of cell phone images or post race selfies to look at. I am serious about the contest, and I hope you will be too.
Here is the fine print so to speak! The Contest Rules!
The sole contest sponsor is Competitive Image, Inc. PO Box 19174, Minneapolis, MN 55419 (“Sponsor” or “CI”).
Duration of Contest
The 2014 Competitive Image Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest begins January 9, 2014 at 9:00:00 a.m. US Central Time and ends March 9, 2014, 11:59:00 p.m. US Central Time (the “Contest”). Information on how to enter and prizes form part of these official rules (“Official Rules”). By submitting an entry, each entrant agrees to the Official Rules and warrants that his or her entry complies with all requirements set out in the Official Rules. This is a skill-based contest and chance plays no part in the determination of winners.
WHO MAY ENTER
Contest is open only to all amateur sports photographers who are 18 or older at the time of entry and is void where prohibited. For these purposes we will define Amateur as those individual who do not make a significant portion of their income from photography. This will allow individuals who maintain blogs and have periodic sales to participate.
HOW TO ENTER
Each Entry consists of an entry form, a single image, and an entry fee. The entry fee is US $12 for the first image entered and US $7 for each image thereafter. To enter, complete an ENTRY FORM with the required information, including your name, address, telephone number, email address, and photo caption; and submit along with your photograph and fee in accordance with the instructions that follow.
Submitted images may include Professional, Age Group, Youth and Challenged Triathletes, Action Photos, Venues, Human Interest and other images that exemplify the Spirit of Triathlon.
Photographs must be in digital format. Only online entries will be eligible. No print or film submissions will be accepted for entry into this Contest. The photograph need not be taken with a digital camera; scans of negatives, transparencies, or photographic prints are acceptable. All digital files must be 2 megabytes or smaller, must be in JPG, TIF, PNG or BMP format, and must be sized to 1,280 pixels on the longest side.
Photographs must have been taken within three (3) years before the date of entry and may not previously published.
The photograph, in its entirety, must be a single work of original material taken by the Contest entrant. By entering the Contest, entrant represents, acknowledges, and warrants that the submitted photograph is an original work created solely by the entrant, that the photograph does not infringe on the copyrights, trademarks, moral rights, rights of privacy/publicity or intellectual property rights of any person or entity, and that no other party has any right, title, claim, or interest in the photograph.
The photograph must not, in the sole and unfettered discretion of the Sponsor, contain obscene, provocative, defamatory, sexually explicit, or otherwise objectionable or inappropriate content.
The caption must be complete and accurate, sufficient to convey the circumstances in which the photograph was taken. Disguising or misrepresenting the origin of your content is cause for disqualification.
Watermarks are not acceptable. If Sponsor does not receive a non-watermarked version of the entry within ten (10) days following its request, the entry will be disqualified.
If the photograph contains any material or elements that are not owned by the entrant and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the photograph in the manner set forth in these Official Rules without additional compensation.
The top 20 images will be published in an online gallery on Triathlete.com. The entrant provides Competitive Image, Inc and Triathlete Magazine / Competitor Group the royalty-free right to publish the images on line and in print for a single use of each.
Grand Prize – On location shooting and coaching with Paul Phillips, award winning triathlon photographer and Olympic Photographer, London 2012, Sochi 2014.
The First Place winner will receive a ThinkTank Retrospective 30. Second Place winner will receive a ThinkTank CityWalker 10. Third Place winner will receive a ThinkTank Photo will receive a Think Tank Retrospective Laptop Bag. All prized are provided courtesy of ThinkTank Photo.
Everyone who knows me or has read my blog understands that I truly believe that every shot is a lucky shot.
No matter how great your equipment, how spectacular the venue or how good you think you are; if there is no action there is no shot. But to paraphrase Luis Pasteur: ‘Luck favors the prepared mind.’
Sometimes with a lot of planning and some help you do get lucky, really lucky.
In preparing to shoot the ITU World Triathlon Series Race in San Diego in April, my driver and partner in crime for the weekend, Bruno and I checked out locations, backgrounds, access and the time it would take us to get from one location to another.
During the Men’s race on Saturday we knew we would miss the leaders at our first stop, they were just going too fast to make it there in time, we headed right to our second location. When the men had passed us, we move to our other spot, waited about 1 minute for their arrival, shot for less than 3 minutes and the went back to our other location. Arriving only 2 minutes later, we had already missed Ali Brownlee who was running away from the field.
I spent the next two minutes shooting and headed to the finish. When I arrived at the finish the other photographers were already on the photo stand. I was the only one who had gotten out on the run course to try to get some a few shots, which I could have never done without the help and skill of my driver/partner Bruno.
As luck would have it, not only did I get some cool shots, I got two cover shots, both in the span of 11 seconds!
Just for good measure, here is one more that was also published on May 28, 2013!
One constant question about shooting sports is Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Automatic, or What?
I don’t know that I can provide the definitive answer but I can give you a framework about how to think about your shooting.
I will go on record that Automatic is NOT the right option. As the photographer, you want to make your own creative decisions. Using the Automatic / Programmed mode on any camera means that you are turning over creative control to some engineer sitting in a cubicle in Asia. Ok, it is likely a really smart engineer, but nonetheless, whoever set up the parameters of what automatic means in your camera does not have the benefit of seeing what you are seeing, nor what you are thinking just as you get ready to press the shutter!
As I tell my students, friends never let friends shoot on automatic!
Don’t assume that just because I am a professional photographer that I always shoot on Manual, making an individual decision for every shot that I take. I do use manual mode on occasion but much more often I am shooting in either Shutter or Aperture Priority mode.
Choosing between Shutter and Aperture Priority is really situational for me. Since the majority of shots that I am making are in a sporting environment, my go to setting is Shutter Priority. It is simple – in sports, things move and I want to control how the action is conveyed. Do I want a sharp, crisp, freeze the moment image with a high shutter speed or do I want something more fluid with a lower shutter speed?
Although I do have a technical background, I try not to let the numbers drive my decision-making; thinking in terms of the visual outcome enhances my ability to capture what I am seeing inside my head (although some say there is not much up there to see).
If I am not in a race mode, I often switch to Aperture priority, this may be at a pre race meeting or expo, but I set the shutter speed to what ever I know I can easily hand hold (depending on the lens). In addition, when I am out touring, I typically shoot aperture priority. As a side note, when I am out touring I typically use my 5D Mark III, since it is just a bit less conspicuous than my 1Dx. Also to discipline myself, my general rule is 1 camera, 1 lens and 1 shot at a time and every shot with intention.
Even when I use Shutter Priority, it does not mean that I ignore the aperture. It means the shutter speed is my primary consideration. From there and to the extent that I want to change the depth of field, I will increase or decrease the ISO.
I am sure there will be a few people reading this who are looking for numbers, so I will give you a few numbers!
Let’s say it is one of my typical days shooting and I am sitting on the back of a moto.
I will have two camera bodies, one with my 70-200 f2.8 and the other with either the 24-70 f2.8 or a 16-35 f2.8. I also have my 300mm f2.8 over my shoulder.
If I am at a Triathlon and shooting from in front (about 20 meters) of the cyclists or runners and using my 70-200 at 200mm with an aperture of f5.6, I know that my total depth of field is going to be about 3 meters, which is wide enough to get the entire bike and rider in focus and narrow enough to have it drop off pretty fast to isolate the rider. On the other hand, if I am still at the short end of that lens at 70mm, still at f5.6, I will have a total depth of field of about 40 meters. Keeping the aperture at f5.6 and grabbing the other camera with a shorter lens, if the focal length is about 50mm or less, pretty much everything is going to be in focus.
I use f5.6 as sort of a target aperture, again using the 20 meter example and my 200mm lens, my depth of field at f4.5 is about 2.5 meters and at f6.3 is about 3.5 meters. This is a nice range to work in and gives flexibility as the light changes.
As you can see, shooting from 20 meters away, you really have a great deal of flexibility in your aperture, just keep an eye on your ISO to make sure it doesn’t drop too low and drop your aperture, unless of course you want it to.
As you get closer to the subject and your depth of field narrows, you need to pay more attention to the aperture, but still for me shutter speed is my driving consideration.
Similarly when using a longer lens such as a 300 or a 400mm. As you increase the focal length of the lens, the physics dictate that the depth of field, at any given f-stop will be narrower compared to shorter lens.
I have been lucky, many of my shots have been used as covers both domestically and Internationally. These are typically fairly tight shots with the athlete visually isolated – this translates to using a longer lens and low aperture.
OK, I have talked enough about the concepts, let’s look at a few photos.
Here is Melissa Hauschildt on her way to winning the 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. Caroline Steffen is just slightly out of the depth of field but still in the frame. I was shooting from the moto, 200 mm lens at 1/1600 and f5.6.
With the spectacular background of Snow Canyon at the Ironman St. George 70.3, it would be a shame to have too narrow of a depth of field, and yet you don’t want to have it look like a bunch of cyclists rode through your landscape photo. This image is a 115 mm, 1/2000 and f6.3.
Now off of the moto and laying on the side of the road with my 16 to 35, this shot of Sebastian Kienle, Ironman 70.3 World Champion was shot at 25 mm 1/1600 and f7.1 which gives almost an infinite depth of field.
Off of the moto again on with some bigger glass, here is Tim O’Donnell at the 2013 Ironman San Juan 70.3. Tim was the 2 time defending champ coming back for a 3-peat, when he had a crash on the bike. Here he is in Old San Juan, shot with my 300 mm, at 1/800 and f13. With the beauty of Old San Juan, I wanted to isolate Tim, but also give some context!
Due to the nature of an ITU event, I really don’t shoot that much from the moto, but it is critical to use it to get from to the best locations. With the help and skill of my moto pilot Bruno, we had the San Diego course planned out. Here is Olympic Gold Medalist Alistair Brownlee in his first ITU event of 2013 running away from the field.
Not much of a background here so I shot it at f2.8. Since I am off the moto, I knew I would get a really clean shot at 1/800 and I just lowered my ISO to 320 so I could get the aperture wide open.
Running hard to catch Brownlee was South African Richard Murray, just 11 seconds later. No time to check the back of the camera or change the settings – just focus on getting the shot!
Now that our Spirit of Triathlon Contest has wrapped up and race season has begun, it is a great time to go over a few of the basics of shooting triathlon. Well not just the basics, anyone can take triathlon photo – all you have to do is look at Facebook on any Monday morning to see thousands of shots from the weekend of races and training. There will be iPhone self portraits, taken at arms length while riding, and shots of spouses 100 meters in the distance appearing as a speck on the horizon. These are all fabulous ways to share an important personal and emotional moment and a great way to remember the day.
However if you are reading my blog, my guess is that your interest is going beyond the snap that looks like everyone else’s shot and want to do a bit more. Whether you are shooting one of the top pros, elite amateurs or your spouse, partner, parent or child, you want a shot that highlights the intensity of the athlete and shows off the beauty of the venue.
My 2013 race season began with the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon. It is really a great race, with an amazing pro field in a one of a kind venue. Two weeks later, I was in the Caribbean at the San Juan 70.3, another great field and a great venue. Now I am in between trips to San Diego; first for the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside and next week for the ITU World Triathlon Series events and the USAT Hall of Fame Dinner.
In San Juan, we had the advantage of being able to connect with my friend Ramon Serrano. Although Ramon is currently living in Miami and working for American Airlines, he was back in San Juan to watch, photograph and offer unending help to whoever needed it. Having access to Ramon and his knowledge of the locations on the island, I almost felt like I was cheating. Ramon drove us around while I tried to learn the course and gave us some fabulous local restaurant recommendations.
If you follow any of the pro triathletes on Facebook or Twitter you have likely seen some of Ramon’s photos. He makes it to quite a few events (working for American helps with that) and he works hard to get his shots. While driving around I asked Ramon, whom I officially address as the Prince of San Juan, if he had any photo questions we could talk about. Ramon said, ‘you know, just the usual stuff, ISO, shutter speed, f-stop, angles.
With that in mind – the usual stuff, I thought it would be time to have a review of some of the critical factors in getting a great triathlon photo. Not much new here but think of it as a cheat sheet before you head out to shoot your first race of the season.
The first and critical issue has nothing to do with photography and everything to do with getting the shot! No equipment to lug around, no exposure to worry about! It’s Planning!
Here are a just a few things you must know before you shoot a Triathlon (the day before!):
What time does the sun come up? (Yup, there are is an app for that, lots of them);
What time does the race start?
How many waves are there and what interval will be between waves?
What is the expected swim time for the leader?
If you are following a specific age group athlete (friend or spouse), what time do they start and what is their expected swim split?
What are the locations you can use for the swim start? For the swim exit? This will vary if you are credential or not credentialed. Remember, just because you can get access to a certain spot, doesn’t mean there is a good shot there.
The same level of planning is true for the bike and run portions of the course.
What access do you have to the course?
How are you going to get there? By car, by bike, by moto?
What time will the athletes by approaching your shooting location?
Does your location have a great background?
Does your location provide the athletes an opportunity to look good? (If you are shooting the run on a steep uphill, the answer is no.);
How many shot locations can you cover?
What time to you have to be back at the finish line?
If you do not have credentials and finish line access, where else can you tell the story? Even if you do have finish line access, is that the spot to get the best shot?
Now you are probably asking yourself if I do all of this before each race? You bet I do and then some. Since I am often shooting from a moto, I drive the course at least once, as well as meet with my driver. We talk about safety, drafting rules and how I shoot. In addition we work together to find spots on the course where we can get great shots off of the moto.
Now that you have your plan and have it written down, it’s time to think about shooting.
Just think about it at this point – pick your lens, camera bodies, flash – make sure all of your batteries are charged, your equipment is all cleaned and you have plenty of formatted memory cards. Cleaning it before the last race is not sufficient – clean it again! Nothing frustrates me more than having something on a sensor that I have to edit out of each image.
RACE DAY – I am going to try to keep my suggestions as practical and non-technical as possible, which should be pretty easy to remember.
GET THERE EARLY – At the Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, I arrived at the race site at 4:45 AM and the real benefit was that I got Rock Star parking!
SHOOT WITH INTENTIONNow repeat it 3 times, Shoot with Intention, Shoot with Intention, Shoot with Intention! This means you have to be thinking – I know you started the day before Starbucks was open, but still you have to be thinking!
ADJUST FOR THE TIME OF DAY – In the film days we could only change our ISO every 24 or 36 frames and even then our range was very narrow compared to today. With today’s amazing technology, you can start the day with a fairly high ISO and then work down from there. Depending on the age and level of your camera, you can sometimes start the day at 4000 ISO and be shooting in very low light. Be sure to check your ISO a least every 30 minutes and decrease it accordingly until the light is relatively constant.
Here is a shot of smiling Heather Jackson getting ready in T-1 shot at 8,000 ISO.
At the end of my day in Oceanside is a venue shot which was at 400.
The good news about high ISO is that you can shoot in situations you never could before, the bad news is that there may be a lot of noise in the image which will need to be cleaned up in Lightroom.
DON’T JUST STAND THERE– As I have mentioned in prior posts, if you are always shooting from a standing eye-level position, you will only be capturing the view that any spectator can see, which is really a pretty mundane view. To make your shots more interesting move around, lie down on your belly for a low angle, stand on a bench for a high angle, or move of the course to provide some additional context.
Here is a low angle shot of Heather Jackson’s coming in to the final stretch. (I love that this girl knows how to celebrate!)
Another low angle shot of Mirinda Carfrae in San Juan.
PICK THE BACKGROUND AND LET THE ACTION HAPPEN – This is my Rule #4. Avoid visual noise in the background; this includes the porta-potties, rental trucks around the venue, or lots of road signs.
First we have a shot of the chase group at Oceanside with Andy Potts on the hunt, with rolling hills and towering palms as the background.
Next is Leanda Cave at San Juan 70.3, riding by one of the few unobstructed views of the ocean.
Here is a shot of the run course rolling through Old San Juan.
CONTROL THE ACTION– I typically shoot shutter speed priority, because I want to control whether I get a clear crisp image or a blurred. If you shoot on any of the automatic settings you have turned over your control to some engineer in a cubicle somewhere in Asia. For bike shots use for a 1/1600th and 1/640th shutter speed on the run for stopping the action; for a panning, use 1/160th or below.
First we have a shot of Andi Bocherer shot at 1/2000th.
Here we have Omar Nour riding through the Arabian Desert shot at 1/100th.
WAIT FOR THE SHOT TO COME TO YOU – Patience is critical, as the athletes are approaching wait until you can tell who they are! Otherwise, it is really a context shot.
SHOOT IN BURSTS – Shoot in bursts of 3 to 5 shots and then ultimately use the image that shows off the maximum intensity and the best biomechanics.
NEVER LET THEM SEE THE BAD STUFF – Keeping in mind that that photons are free, it is easy to get carried away and shoot a thousand or more images in a single day. At a typical long-distance race, I shoot around 4,000 (all raw files). Edit brutally and never let anyone see the bad shots. Take a look at my early blog post about optimizing work flow.
Follow me on Twitter @CompImagePhoto and see our #PhotoOfTheDay and some handy advice!