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Author Topic: Marathon Photo Advice?  (Read 3307 times)

RustyTheGeek

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Marathon Photo Advice?
« on: October 01, 2013, 12:12:45 PM »
My church is hosting a marathon in a month or so.  I've been asked to shoot some photos.  I'm not a pro (since I don't get paid) but I consider myself a 5 year DSLR advanced enthusiast.  I shoot a lot of outdoor scout events, camping, school swim meets and church activities.  I own a 5D3, 6D and several decent L lenses, flashes, etc.  So with that said, I'm looking for advice gained from other forum members' experience shooting marathon/running events.  Logistics, composition ideas, pre-planning, lens choices, lighting challenges, possible dual body use, etc.  I might even get a photog friend or two to help me cover more locations.  I love picking up new skills and experience but I prefer to be as prepared as possible when time permits.  All constructive thoughts appreciated!
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Marathon Photo Advice?
« on: October 01, 2013, 12:12:45 PM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2013, 08:55:56 AM »
If you're the 'designated photographer' (even if unpaid), you should have the opportunity to shoot at the starting line and the finish line, and possibly in between (I presume you'll have access to a car, and know the marathon route).  Since the runners will be bunched at the start, consider standing a ways back from the starting line with a telezoom to get a nice perspective compression of the field of runners.  If there's a starter pistol shot, try to frame with that in the shot and fire as it goes off, you'll likely catch the puff of smoke.  Then move to the side with a wide/ultrawide and capture the group with a wide lens as the runners as the go by, possibly from a low angle. 

If there's a spot on the course where there's  tough uphill climb followed by flat or better yet slightly downhill, you can position yourself a short distance after the hill with a telezoom, catching facial expressions as they crest the hill, then full-body shots as they increase pace toward you (servo tracking with the 5DIII).  For body shots, try shutter speeds fast enough to freeze motion, but also slightly slower so face/torso are frozen but you capture motion in the arms and legs.

At the finish line, catch the winner breaking the ribbon (duh), and other runners as they cross.  Helps to have other photogs so some can catch the winner and early finishers cooling down, while later runners crossing the finish line can still be captured.

Good luck!
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RustyTheGeek

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2013, 10:42:47 AM »
Great advice neuro.  Thanks for the input.  As for being the 'designated photographer', normally I would be but in this case, the church hired a firm to promote the race since it's their first race and that firm has a pro photography firm they use.  (Everything is done for free but they want us to buy pictures from their photographer instead of shoot snapshots of our own.)  So even though I take a lot of pictures for the church, I might be a bit of a fly in the ointment in this case since a pro will be present.  Hopefully I will simply blend in with any other freelance or journalism photographers that may be present.
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dryanparker

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2013, 11:35:17 AM »
If it's a smaller event, and unlikely to have thousands of runners like an established city marathon, I'd consider finding a single, more specialized shot to capture. This lets you be creative without the pressure of capturing the volume of images you hope the pros will grab.

I did something similar for a breast cancer awareness run last year. It was hosted at TPC Sawgrass during the week of THE PLAYERS Championship, so I framed up the start of the run in a way I thought might tell the story of the event in one frame. (5D2 with 24-105, somewhere on the wide end.)

Above all, enjoy the day!
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Don Haines

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2013, 11:45:38 AM »
As for being the 'designated photographer', normally I would be but in this case, the church hired a firm to promote the race since it's their first race and that firm has a pro photography firm they use.  (Everything is done for free but they want us to buy pictures from their photographer instead of shoot snapshots of our own.)  So even though I take a lot of pictures for the church, I might be a bit of a fly in the ointment in this case since a pro will be present.  Hopefully I will simply blend in with any other freelance or journalism photographers that may be present.

As a representative of the race, you should get better access than most people. The "pro firm" will be looking for pictures of individuals that they can sell to the runners and will be focusing of individual shots. What about race shots of the crowds and the general action? Find a good vantage point and take some nice shots of the crowd at the start line as the masses are gathering.... An 8 or 10' stepladder gets you high enough up to get some wonderful shots.... scout your location beforehand and get set up well in advance of the race.

The finish line is usually fairly close to the start line so it should be easy to get from the start to the end. Intermediate points are a problem as with road closures and lots of pedestrian traffic it will be difficult to get around.

Expect there to be few finishers before 2 1/2 hours.... the bulk from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours....

Watch out for your camera bag.... it is easy for it to disappear during all the excitement when your concentration is elsewhere. If you bring a tall stepladder, figure out a way to clip it in place up at the top... out of people's reach and close to you for easy access.

An orange safety vest helps mark you as "staff" instead of "crowd"......
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RustyTheGeek

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2013, 01:07:01 PM »
LOVE THAT SHOT dryan!!  Thank you for the good advice.
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RustyTheGeek

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2013, 01:21:25 PM »
Thanks Don.  The orange safety vest is a great idea.  Ditto for the camera bag.  I have always had a personal rule of trying to keep my stuff in a backpack or within reach when in public and not out of sight for the very reasons you state.  I really appreciate the input.  I'm still waiting for the route info, then I'll scout out the area to see what kind of light will be present.  The available light at the starting/finishing area is a concern of mine.
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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2013, 01:21:25 PM »

Don Haines

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2013, 02:08:59 PM »
Thanks Don.  The orange safety vest is a great idea.  Ditto for the camera bag.  I have always had a personal rule of trying to keep my stuff in a backpack or within reach when in public and not out of sight for the very reasons you state.  I really appreciate the input.  I'm still waiting for the route info, then I'll scout out the area to see what kind of light will be present.  The available light at the starting/finishing area is a concern of mine.

I have shot a couple of bicycle races.... at one race (criterium, round and round a couple of city blocks about 70 times) the organizers had rented a cube van to carry all the barricades and the stands.... I talked them into parking it off to the side, just down from the start/finish line, and spent the race on the top of the truck....It was a great vantage point and nobody to get in your way!

Don't forget to bring some water and a snack...
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RustyTheGeek

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2013, 02:33:09 PM »
Ah yes!  Water and snack!  I usually remember this since I'm typically doing more remote and 'outdoorsy' stuff like camping, scouting and hiking.  Man, you really did luck out with the big truck!  Thanks.
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Jerome

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2013, 09:21:22 PM »
The number one rule I would tell you is try to know the route and how many laps they are doing. If it's many laps that give you more chances to get great shots. If it's only one laps than you really have to be prepared. I usually try to arrive early the morning of the races to try to find interesting places to be. If possible I try to ask the race organizer for access to restricted area (usually inside the barriers if their is any) so I can have clean shots and not be behind the crowd taking pictures. If I don't know where to stand to get the good pictures, I usually look at what pros are doing. Also, watch the position of the runners. I find the best photo is when the runner is mid-air or just about to take off (like only toes touching the ground). The worst pictures in my opinion is when the runners starts to land, for women it's usually then moment when the breasts are the lowest which is not very flattering.

As far as gear goes, I usually try to pack as light as possible. I would suggest you use your 5d3 as your main camera with a 70-200 2.8 if you have one and take your 6d as the second camera with a wide angle lens (between 24 an 35mm would cover most of what you need). I would not bring a ladder because it's to cumbersome. Instead try to find anything you could stand on like Don did with the van.

For the water and food that's a very good tips. I suggest you left those in your car if it's not to far to keep the weight as low as possible. They usually have some snacks for the athletes after the race and sometimes volunteer (you could ask if you can have something). Water is usually easily available everywhere during a sporting event.

Again try to be prepared, be creative and capture moment with your shots and mostly have fun.

RustyTheGeek

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #10 on: October 05, 2013, 12:04:20 AM »
Thanks jerome = That's another jewel of advice, how to shoot the runners as they run.  Yes, I agree that sagging breasts are unflattering.  Thanks!!
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corpusrex

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #11 on: October 05, 2013, 05:26:23 AM »
Hi Rusty,

I shoot our local athletic clubs Trail half marathon regularly, mainly for fun and because I have friends competing in it.  I don't know exactly what type of shots you are looking for but a couple of things that have worked for me are as follows.

I try and shoot the start of the race and then get as many shots of individual runners as I can.  People love having semi decent shots of themselves competing.  Because I am not the official pro photog I don't tend to worry about getting them as they finish,  I am not treading on anyone's toes then.

To that end once I have shot the start I find a place nearish the finish of the race where the pack has pretty much spread out and so getting shots of individuals is much easier.

When I pick my spot I want it to be in the full shade so I don't have to contend with harsh shadows or blown out highlights on sweaty skin etc.  Dappled light is a PITA too.

I like to be able to see a good way ahead.  This helps especially when  a clump of runners are approaching so I can estimate in which order I will try and shoot them, individually or in a group if they are keeping together.

I pick a target mark on the ground where I will start shooting once a runner crosses the mark.  Or earlier if there is more than one runner together so I am not panicking trying to catch everyone if they get too close.

I always shoot in burst mode and take 3-4 shots of each runners.  This means I should always have some nice and sharp shots of everyone.  It also gives me more leeway to pick the most dynamic shot.  I also try to make sure the runner is not looking terrible as Jerome suggests (tho sometimes that is really really hard after a long run).

Oh and having a monopod is awesome! 

Hopefully this is of some use, and good luck with the shoot. :)

Here is a link to the last lot I shot so you can see the results that I get with these techniques.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/94681368@N00/sets/72157635146674571/

Cheers

Angus

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2013, 08:53:51 AM »
Some really good advice above so am not going to repeat any of that.

Sometimes it is better to get around on a motorbike than a car. This depends on the course though, but the flexibility and speed of a bike can be an advantage.

Do sit someone on the finish line. People travel at such different speeds you do not want to miss that shot and neither do you want to be constantly worried about the timing etc.

Oh and try and work out what you will do when people ask to buy your pictures of them. Really, you can make money like that.
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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #12 on: October 05, 2013, 08:53:51 AM »

TeenTog

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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2013, 10:21:23 PM »
As a Cross Country runner and photographer, I've found that its good to shoot the start immediately after the gun, but avoid shooting anything in the first mile or so as the runners are all bunched up, and typically don't make very good photos (although there are some exceptions). I like shooting in places where you can see the crowd/route behind the runners, as it tells a bit more of a story. Remember that the last mile or so of a race, participants are often fighting down vomit and cramps, and it shows on their faces. this makes for some VERY interesting images. And, if you are the "official" photographer, I should hope you have direct access to the finish line, as those are some images that are often expected from the main photographer. Good luck!
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Re: Marathon Photo Advice?
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2013, 10:21:23 PM »