Happy “Hump Day!”
I thought I’d throw this quick mid-week post up about a very specific type of swimming photo, as I got asked how I managed to shoot one last week.
This was the first “bending” photo I think I ever took [January 2015]…
It’s not technically the best image ever, taken at ISO 3200 on an older crop sensor body, but it’s still a relatively “cool” image. I was shooting down from a diving platform during a 100 yd backstroke race.
Then compare that to this image, taken in November of 2015, that resides in my current portfolio:
Basically, what I’ve learned, can be broken down into a couple simple tips/steps.
This effect is caused by a person getting ready to “break out” and start swimming, and the water bends around the top of their body as the surface tension fights a losing battle to keep the swimmer underwater.
The first thing I’ve found is you need to be either really low, i.e. level with the pool, or you need to be pretty high up. Normal eye-level just won’t cut it.
**[EDIT! I think it’s important to note that here (^above^) I was literally LYING on the pool deck, and in the other images below, I was sitting on the deck, craning over so the camera was only 10-12″ off the ground]
The second helpful thing, is you should probably try to shoot with the longest focal length you have. For me, that’s currently 340mm with a teleconverter included. For the portfolio image, that was 400mm on a rental lens. Swimming is rarely kind enough to you to have the athlete close to the side of the pool…
Don’t be afraid to spray and pray. Focus systems struggle tracking swimmers underwater – even on pro-level bodies. I usually shoot anywhere from 10-20 images on one breakout, and it usually takes me anywhere from 3-5 tries now to get a good one.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to crop! I cropped in a good bit on the shot above!
But really, as with all sports, it boils down to knowing the athletes: where are they going to break the surface of the water? If it’s far out, be prepared for that. If they aren’t as talented, it’ll probably be closer to the side of the pool. Long glass helps capture the far away action, and lots of frames ensures you have a better chance of getting the shot you want. Focusing takes a bit of luck, especially the lower to water you are, but when you get the shot…MMMMMMMM it’s awesome.