2nd Annual Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest

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.

Take a look at the top images from 2013 featured on Triathlete.com

Our top three images will again receive prizes provided by my friends at ThinkTank Photo.  This year I am adding a Grand Prize as 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.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CompImagePhoto and check out the Competitive Image Website.

Just to get you started here are a couple of my 2013 Kona shots that show the Spirit of Triathlon.

Age Group Athletes enter the water at Dig Me Beach - Kona 2013
Age Group Athletes enter the water at Dig Me Beach – Kona 2013
Frekerik Van Lierde and his father at the finish  Kona 2013
Frekerik Van Lierde and his father at the finish Kona 2013
Minda Dentler becomes the first female Wheel Chair finisher - Kona 2013
Minda Dentler becomes the first female Wheel Chair finisher – Kona 2013

ENTER HERE and after you enter, tweet your photo with the tag #SpiritOfTri

In the spirit of triathlon, a portion of the proceeds from each entry will be contributed to the Blazeman Foundation for ALS and to World Bicycle Relief. In 2013  30% of the proceeds from entry fees was contributed!

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.

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 30

Second Prize is a CityWalker 10 and third prize is a Retrospective Lap Top Bag.

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.


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.


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.

Two Cover Shots in 00:00:11

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!

220 Triathlon - July 2013 Issue #287 published May 28, 2013
220 Triathlon Magazine – July 2013 – Issue #287 published May 28, 2013 – Olympic Gold Medalist Alistair Brownlee running away from the field.
Triathlon Plus Magazine – July 2013 – Issue #55, published May 28, 2013 – South African Richard Murry running into second place.

Just for good measure, here is one more that was also published on May 28, 2013!

Triathlon Plus Magazine - Kona Supplement - Published May 28, 2-13. Pete Jacobs on the way back from Hawi and on his way to becoming the 2012 Ironman World Champion.
Triathlon Plus Magazine – Kona Supplement – Published May 28, 2-13. Pete Jacobs on the way back from Hawi and on his way to becoming the 2012 Ironman World Champion.

Keeping Your Priorities Straight

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!

In my last post, How To Take A Great Triathlon Photo V2013, I talked about controlling the action. In today’s post I will carry that thought quite a bit further.

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.

Paul’s Office – thanks to Matt Moses for the snap.

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.

2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
Melissa Hauschildt at the 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

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.

Luke McKenzie leading the chase group at the Ironman St. George 70.3.
Luke McKenzie leading the chase group at the Ironman St. George 70.3.

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.

Sebastian Kienle at the Ironman  St. George 70.3
Sebastian Kienle at the Ironman St. George 70.3

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!

2 time defending champ Timothy O'Donnell, USA, at the 2013 Ironman San Juan 70.3  March 17, 2013
2 time defending champ Timothy O’Donnell, USA, at the 2013 Ironman San Juan 70.3

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.

Olympic Gold Medalist Alistair Brownlee running away from the field at the 2013 World Triathlon Series race in San Diego.
Olympic Gold Medalist Alistair Brownlee running away from the field at the 2013 World Triathlon Series race in San Diego.

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!

Richard Murray on the run at the ITU World Triathlon Series San Diego
Richard Murray on the run at the ITU World Triathlon Series San Diego

More soon!



How To Take a Great Triathlon Photo V2013

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.

2013 Ironman San Juan 70.3
Ramon & Allan Torres at the start of the Ironman 70.3 San Juan ready for their day.

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!):

  1. What time does the sun come up? (Yup, there are is an app for that, lots of them);
  2. What time does the race start?
  3. How many waves are there and what interval will be between waves?
  4. What is the expected swim time for the leader?
  5. If you are following a specific age group athlete (friend or spouse), what time do they start and what is their expected swim split?
  6. 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.

  1. What access do you have to the course?
  2. How are you going to get there? By car, by bike, by moto?
  3. What time will the athletes by approaching your shooting location?
  4. Does your location have a great background?
  5. 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.);
  6. How many shot locations can you cover?
  7. What time to you have to be back at the finish line?
  8. 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 INTENTION Now 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.

Heather Jackson preparing for her day in sunny Oceanside
Heather Jackson preparing for her day in sunny Oceanside
The Oceanside Venue as the age group athletes are finishing their day

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!)

Heather Jackson taking the W - this girl knows how to celebrate!
Heather Jackson taking the W – this girl knows how to celebrate!

Another low angle shot of Mirinda Carfrae in San Juan.2013 Ironman San Juan 70.3

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.

Andy Potts leading the chase group nearing T-2
Andy Potts leading the chase group nearing T-2

Next is Leanda Cave at San Juan 70.3, riding by one of the few unobstructed views of the ocean.2013 Ironman San Juan 70.3

Here is a shot of the run course rolling through Old San Juan.

2013 Ironman  2013 San Juan
Pros on the run course at the Ironman 70.3 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.

2013 Ironman California 70.3
Andi Bocherer leads on the bike at the 2013 Ironman 70.3 California

Here we have Omar Nour riding through the Arabian Desert shot at 1/100th.

2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon
Omar Nour riding through the Arabian Desert at the 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

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.

2013 Ironman California 70.3
On his way to his 5th Oceanside win, Andy Potts leads the gang of 4 chase group.

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!

Now go out, shoot and have fun!



The Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest – The Envelope Please !!!

In January our Spirit of Triathlon Contest began with:

Everyone who spends time around triathlons and triathletes understand there is a special spirit that surrounds the sport. Thousands of triathletes are racing every weekend and tens of thousands of photos are brilliantly shot showing off their amazing efforts.

Now two months and over 100 entries later it is time to reveal the top 20 images.

But before we even get to how well an image portrays Spirit of Triathlon, the first level of review must be based on the quality of the photograph.

A successful photo must tell a story, be visually appealing and emotionally stirring. The image must immediately draw the eye of the viewer to its key element and must leave a lasting impression.

There are three critical elements in achieving a successful photo – Content, Composition and Color.

Content is capturing a peak moment, which may be a spectacular sunrise, a close up view on the bike or a battle for the finish line. This is the story, it is not an image of random activity; it has direction, flow and meaning. Content may also convey a sense of place or time.  This is what the viewer will relate to and remember.  Keep in mind, if you are able to capture this moment and it is out of focus – admit it, you missed the shot!

Composition is a key element of a great photo. As spectators we see everything from eye-level, but from a photographic standpoint most photos from eye level tend to be fairly mundane. The best way to view something is from an angle nobody else gets to see. It is important to have a nice clean background to avoid distracting the view from the image.

Color may be the tonal variations in the literal sense, but should also emotional color. I have galleries on my website dedicated to Celebrate and Suffer – these images are for pure emotion.

With this in mind, here are the top three photos!

The winning image is entitled Swimming into the Sunrise and was submitted by Debbie Faulkner, from Nottingham, England.  A sunrise start is one of the most inspiring times in triathlon. It is the only time during the race when you have a substantial group of athletes together. Here the group has one lead swimmer, captured between strokes. Adding to the context is an earlier wave swimming back with much greater distance between the swimmers. The slight fog rising from the lake adds to the atmosphere of the morning environment so you can almost feel the chill in the air. The image is visually very pleasing drawing the viewer in to have a closer look at the group.

1 - FaulknerDe_1
The start of the 2012 Vitruvian triathlon in Leicestershire, UK. An open water swim into the sunrise, by Deborah Faulkner

The number 2 image is entitled Anticipation by Dave Martinez from Atlanta, GA and is from the Mountain Madness 70.3 race in Ellijay, GA. This is clearly a view that cannot be seen by a spectator. Hats off to Dave for being able to shoot the athletes’ view of the start.

Anticipation at the Mountain Madness 70.3 race in Ellijay, GA. by Dave Martinez

Rounding out the podium is Second Place Suffering by Terry Van Oort from Ankeny, IA and was taken at the 2013 HyVee 5150 Championship. This images features 4-time Olympian Hunter Kemper wearing is USA Triathlon race kit with its Red, White and Blue side panel. Hunter is leaning over a stanchion covered in Red, White and Blue fabric, perfectly mimicking his race kit. Those who know me know that I believe that Every Shot is a Lucky Shot. No matter how great your planning, there was no way to anticipate that Hunter will stop and rest at exactly that spot setting up the perfect background for the shot. Terry did a great job in recognizing it!

Second place suffering for U.S. Triathlete Hunter Kemper at 2012 HyVee Triathlon, by Terry Van Oort

Your Think Tank Photo gear will be shipped out to you shortly, CONGRATULATIONS!

The remaining 17 images are presented in the slide show and are in order of the photographer’s last name.

Thank you all for participating! Race season is starting and it’s time for more photos!

Spirit Of Triathlon Photo Contest – What’s Next?

At the deadline on Thursday, we had 105 photos entered which have all showed the Spirit of Triathlon!

Ranging from youth to pro photos, and race directors to challenged athletes, I am really thrilled with the response and especially the quality of the photos!  Now my job is to pick the top 20 for the Triathlete.com gallery and from there to pick the top three!

Over the next two weeks, I will be going through the images and on or about March 7th, an article commenting on the top photos and the full gallery of the top 20 will be posted.

I will also post a blog discussing all of the top 20 images.

In the meantime, I am off to the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon and I will see you at the races!

Follow me on Twitter @CompImagePhoto as our Photo Of The Day begins the 2013 race season!

Spirit Of Triathlon Photo Contest – Week 5 Review

This is the fifth and final review blog for our 2013 Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest. As of this time we have 100 entries and I am pleased that we will have a great 20-image gallery for Triathlete.com to post.

There is still time to send in your entries – here are the full Contest Details

Entries can be submitted until midnight Thursday, February 21.

Enter your images here and after you enter tweet your photo with the tag #SpiritofTri

This week I want to show a shot that has been submitted and how with a bit of cropping it can be really improved.

One of the things that I often speak about in my photo class is that we want to show the viewer of the photo something that is different than what can be seen by the spectator. Sometimes this is a high angle or low angle shot, both of which I am fond of; and sometimes this can be as simple as how you crop the image.

Run at Kona 12 – by Jason Falk – uncropped

This first image was submitted by Jason Falk, and well it captures a critical moment on the run at Kona, with French Pro Cyril Viennot cramping up and kneeling near him French Photographer, Thierry Sourbier. Theirry is a good friend and carries even more gear than I do. The issue with this shot is that a special moment is trapped within a lot of visual noise. Now with some simple cropping we have dramatically increased both the intimacy and intensity of the image. This shot could have  been even better if it has been shot at a low angle.

Run at Kona 12 – by Jason Falk – cropped

The next image is by Matt Moses. I am so pleased that Matt included a few of his images in our Spirit of Triathlon Contest. Matt is a good friend who lives in Northern Minnesota and while by day he is a software guy, he is a really fine photographer!

MosesI know Matt and I know that he shoots in bursts and as such is able to pick out the individual frame where the bio mechanics are the best and in this case, at the peak of the athlete’s celebration!

Finally, here is a shot by Lee Gruenfeld, sunset on the run at Kona – always a good parting shot!

GuenfeldAlthough the contest is ending on Thursday night, we are still finalizing the timing of when the images will be published on Triathlete.com. I head off to the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon on Sunday and will be reviewing images while I am gone.

Thank you all for participating in our first Spirit Of Triathlon Photo Contest. I hope our next one is bigger and better!


Spirit Of Triathlon Photo Contest – Week 4 Review

I admit it, I am more than a little bit behind on this post.

However, in my spare time I did shoot three Alpine Ski Races and one Nordic race. From the Nordic race, I flew to San Diego to both thaw out and to attend the Third Annual Triathlon Business International Conference.

In my four days of races, I shot, edited approximately 15,000 images. I know it sounds crazy, but you can do this too. Check out my Work Flow Blog Post.

In the Spirit of Triathlon, I am often asked by people outside of the sport why do I shoot triathlon, I think this photo says it all.

6″ of Snow – 25 mph winds and 2 hours on a snowmobile

Here are the full contest details.

Enter your images here and after you enter tweet your photo with the tag #SpiritofTri

Also, I have extended the contest deadline from February 19 to February 21st, so I can do one more review blog!

I am again really pleased with both the number and the quality of the images that have been submitted.  We have received images of challenged athletes, kids, age group athletes, and volunteers. We have also received a number of great shots of pros.

This week I have selected images of 3 pros to discuss. It is always a challenge to get sufficient access to get a good angle for a shot of the pros (as well as any other athlete).

As I mentioned in my initial post of about the contest, it is open to all non-professional photographers. There are hundreds of bloggers doing a great job covering our sport while maintaining a family life, full-time job and training for races! Depending on the blogger, indeed they sometimes can gain better access than some others, but that isn’t necessarily the deciding factor on getting a great shot.

This first shot is of Matt Russell at 2012 IM Arizona and is by Jason Falk. I happened to meet Jason at the event and I know he did not have any special access. I like this shot because of the low angle and although Matt is racing hard, he had time to reach out to a young fan.

Matt Russell at 2012 IM Arizona by Jason Falk

Mirinda Carfrae is one of the toughest athletes I know, having battled herself into a podium spot finishing third at Kona and then collapsing. Since I was sitting on the floor of the finish line that time and also had a shot of Rinny, I know that Charlie Abrahmas must have been in the photo stands behind me.

You can see my shot of Rinny in my Suffer Gallery on my website. My image was also featured in Triathlete Magazine’s Kona coverage.

Mirinda Carfrae at 2012 Kona collapsing at the finish by Charlie Abrahams

The final image for today’s review is of 4-time Olympian Hunter Kemper at the 2012 HyVee 5150 Championship by Terry Van Oort. Hunter ran himself into 2nd place and a great payday.

Hunter Kemper 2nd Place at HyVee – by Terry Van Oort

Keep sending images – one more week until the contest ends!

Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest – Week 3 Review

Three weeks in and three weeks to go in our Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest and we have had some great entries.

Here are the full contest details.

Enter your images here.

Visually one of my favorite parts of any Triathlon is the swim. While it is always a challenge to get a cool shot, but this is the only time of the race when as a group.  Check out my  January 2012 post about swim shots.

This is the only time when there are a large number of athletes together. There is always great energy from the start group, whether it is a beach or in water start.

Debbie Faulkner in the UK submitted this shot she titled swimming into the sunrise. In addition to the wonderful color of the sunrise, you can see the lead kayak and the stroke of the lead swimmer. Sunrise startCharlie Abrahams also submitted a swim start photo from Ironman Lake Placid 2012. Charlie’s shot is a bit further back in the pack and seems more like a washing machine than a race!AG StartGenerally people will tell you not to shoot directly into the sun. I do all of the time, you just have to be careful about your exposure. This sounds like another great blog topic for me to add to the list.

Lee Gruenfeld has submitted a swim exit shot from the Hawaii 70.3 – as if a 70.3 wasn’t a sufficient challenge for most of us. Here is a Challenged athlete coming out of the water and up the beach!

swim exitI look forward to more great images.  Three weeks to go in the contest and I will write another blog next week.

Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest – Week 2 Review

As I had hoped, but without any certainty a batch of new images were submitted for our Week 2 Review.   The best part is that the images keep getting better and better and my initial fear of not having a set of 20 great images for our Triathlete.com gallery is now gone. The challenge, which is a great thing, is how to select the 20 most meaningful images for inclusion in the gallery AND we still have four weeks to go in the contest.

Here are the full contest details

Enter your images here!

At the 2012 Triathlon Business International Conference, Rob Urbach, USA Triathlon CEO, upon completion the multi-media presentation that opened his keynote speech turned to the audience and said ‘I never get tired of looking at Triathlon Photos!

I completely agree with Rob. I love looking at great Triathlon Photos and lucky for me Rob had included a bunch of mine in his presentation.

I love shooting and just seeing great photos, whether they are mine or not.

We are so lucky that we participate in a sport where race directors work to have the best venue and manufacturers are always moving forward to have the most aerodynamic and ascetically pleasing designs, to say nothing about the thousands of triathletes who are pushing themselves through their daily training, just to put on a great show for the rest of us.

Again, the images I selected for review this week are solely based on what I wanted to comment on and have no bearing on the final outcome of the contest or what will be included in the final gallery.

We all know that competing is a family event.  Very few of us could ever be involved without the incredible support and understanding of our family and friends and most would never make to the starting line.

In this first image, we have a Dave Schutz and his son both wearing number 2613 at about the 18 mile mark of the Ironman Cozumel, with dad sitting on the ground and the next generation triathlete offering encouragement, support and love at a very difficult part of Dave’s Ironman.

Mile 18+ at Ironman Cozumel
Mile 18+ at Ironman Cozumel

Photographically, I have always loved the repeating geometric patterns and one of this week’s submissions did not disappoint. Molly Mullane of Wisconsin submitted this really cool run shot from the Ironman Louisville.

Ironman Louisville
Ironman Louisville

Even though this is a very cool shot, it could have been even better! As I have mentioned in prior blogs, I always shoot a series of shots to really try to show the athlete at their best point from a biomechanics standpoint. In this image, the athlete is at the bottom of their stride and although he looks incredibly fit, he looks much heavier than he could have if the photographer has caught them at the top of the stride.

Finally for this week, we have the light at the end of the tunnel, both literally and metaphorically. This image is from the Ironman Hawaii 70.3 and was shot by Lee Gruenfeld.

Ironman Hawaii 70.3
Ironman Hawaii 70.3

Lee is a well-known author who occasionally shoots to supplement his stories. If I could write like that, I wouldn’t have to carry so much equipment.

I look forward to more great images, I will post another blog next week.