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Author Topic: Photographing Tips for Running Events?  (Read 1217 times)

Cory

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Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« on: October 12, 2013, 11:55:37 PM »
     I answered the call of my running club to be their photographer for the Winter Series which is every Sunday from December to February in very wintery weather through a very hilly park.  Starts with a 5K and culminates with a half marathon.
     My gear is a T1i, 17-55, 100 2.0 and 200 2.8.
     Figured I'd use the zoom for pre-race shots and at the starting line using a smaller aperture and then maybe the 100 at 2.8 or so as it thins out.  Maybe the 200?
     Anything to consider when surrounded by snow and ice where everything's white? 
     Any other tips, etc.?
     Thanks in advance for any discussion.
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Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« on: October 12, 2013, 11:55:37 PM »

Jim Saunders

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2013, 12:01:51 AM »
If you have sun and snow for background a circular polarizer is probably a good idea.
I'd probably do better to invest more time and less money.

helpful

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2013, 01:16:28 AM »
Your ideas for pre-race photos and starting line photos are good.

For the rest of it, remember that the difference between an average photo of someone just running, and a great photo of a runner often depends on something else in the picture, like breaking the tape in the case of the winner, or for most everybody else, the background. Careless photographers have terrible pictures with telephone poles sticking out of people's heads, crooked buildings, cut-off arms or legs, etc. But a sports photographer worth his salt will always think about these things in a running photo, especially the background which may include other runners as well as whatever else is in the field of view. (Unfortunately, except for steeplechase, there's not usually something there that you'd want to put in the foreground of a running picture besides the finish line.)

For race photos like the one you are describing, I would scout out the running trail to find a spot with a good background as it would be seen through the 200mm lens when facing the runners. If you carefully pick the spot you can get a beautiful background, like a patch of trees or some water (or snow-covered hillside as the case may be), even in the middle of a mostly ugly/drab environment. Take pictures of as many people as possible as they pass by that point in the race, while still leaving you a chance to move to the finish line and take pictures of the winners.

If you want more race-like photos, you might have to pick a spot within a mile from the start. You could get pictures with strong leaders and and closely-following packs of runners. This will also help you have time to get a picture of almost everyone and still have time to get to the finish line, but there is the risk that someone will be right behind someone else and you can't get their photo.

If you want mostly individual pictures and want to minimize the chance someone is blocked by other runners, then pick a spot farther from the start when runners will be much more separated. The cost of this is much less dramatic photos, more like an isolated person going for a jog. But at least the background will be nice if you choose your spot well.


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Valvebounce

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2013, 03:57:19 AM »
Hi Helpful,
Reading your post I'm trying to work out if you mean a good background using a smaller aperture longer depth of field back ground in focus or a background that will look good as bokeh with a larger aperture shorter depth of field?
I'm thinking background in focus as you say interesting.
My suggestion for the pics is take a short burst, as mentioned before in other posts runners seem to like pics of themselves airborne.

Also really important to know how long from where you are to the finish line for the leader and yourself, I suggest you start a countdown alarm when the leader passes to alert you when you need to move, if your using a tripod or extras that need packing down allow time for that too. Do not miss the winner crossing the finish  ::) or you will not be the official photographer next race!  ;D

Cheers Graham.

Your ideas for pre-race photos and starting line photos are good.

For the rest of it, remember that the difference between an average photo of someone just running, and a great photo of a runner often depends on something else in the picture, like breaking the tape in the case of the winner, or for most everybody else, the background. Careless photographers have terrible pictures with telephone poles sticking out of people's heads, crooked buildings, cut-off arms or legs, etc. But a sports photographer worth his salt will always think about these things in a running photo, especially the background which may include other runners as well as whatever else is in the field of view. (Unfortunately, except for steeplechase, there's not usually something there that you'd want to put in the foreground of a running picture besides the finish line.)

For race photos like the one you are describing, I would scout out the running trail to find a spot with a good background as it would be seen through the 200mm lens when facing the runners. If you carefully pick the spot you can get a beautiful background, like a patch of trees or some water (or snow-covered hillside as the case may be), even in the middle of a mostly ugly/drab environment. Take pictures of as many people as possible as they pass by that point in the race, while still leaving you a chance to move to the finish line and take pictures of the winners.

If you want more race-like photos, you might have to pick a spot within a mile from the start. You could get pictures with strong leaders and and closely-following packs of runners. This will also help you have time to get a picture of almost everyone and still have time to get to the finish line, but there is the risk that someone will be right behind someone else and you can't get their photo.

If you want mostly individual pictures and want to minimize the chance someone is blocked by other runners, then pick a spot farther from the start when runners will be much more separated. The cost of this is much less dramatic photos, more like an isolated person going for a jog. But at least the background will be nice if you choose your spot well.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2013, 04:06:21 AM by Valvebounce »
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paul13walnut5

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2013, 04:42:09 AM »
5 shots around the course are more useful in telling the story than 500 at the start or finish line.

Plan your day.  Decide on the shots you want and set about how to acheive them.  You probably want to be at the start at the start, and at the finish at the finish (sorry if this sounds very obvious) it's how you plan your shoot in between.

Arrive early, walk the route in reverse (I take it the 5k and half marathon are circuits of the same loop?) as this is the way you'll be pointing your camera.

Take a smart phone with TPE or similar.  It will tell you where the sun will be in relation to your position at any time...  side on or behind the subject is great, some nice profile light or rimlighting.   Into the sun can be trickier... you need to watch your own shadow and folk squinting into the light.

I would say look for opportunities for telephoto compression (groups of runners from slightly above, this may be easier at the group start)  look for contextual / enviromental shots, so if there is an obvious landmark, find a shot that gives you runners close and the context behind.

Folk running is great, but so are things like the refreshment stand... a shot of an outheld glucoze drink, somebody taking a break and fixing their shoes.

And of course the all important finishing shot.  Cheer as they pass the line, get a reaction from them, thumbs up them etc.

Think about a variety of partcipants... all ages, are there disability athletes taking part?

Think fun.. are there whacky costumes?

Camera settings....

You have great lenses at your disposal.

The 100mm f2.0 works very very well from f2.8 (I find it fringes wider than this)

The 200mm no problems either.

Select the centre AF spot (this will get the absolute best out of your camera with these lenses)
Set the camera to AiServo
Set the frame rate to burst.
I would consider shooting jpeg only as this will give you greater buffer depth your camera.
If you don't have a class 10 card then pick one up, it really will help keep things moving.
Shoot lots and lots.

Keep an eye on your WB preset.  If the suns behind them use shade etc.

I would be tempted to use TV mode or M mode.  Decide on the shutter speed you want (maybe at least 1/250th, maybe faster if you are hand-holding the 200 -effectively 320) and juggle your aperture and ISO to suit.

Cory

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2013, 10:14:55 AM »
Much appreciated.  Is there an "ideal" shutter speed for runners?  I like the idea of TV and then adjusting the ISO or Av when I want to stick with 2.8.  Is 1/250 enough?
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Cory

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2013, 11:01:07 AM »
One other thing - do you think I'm good with my 100 and 200 or might something like a 70-200 4.0 non-IS maybe be ideal? 
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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2013, 11:01:07 AM »

paul13walnut5

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2013, 12:30:57 PM »
Its a taste thing, too fast a shutter and it could look artifically crisp, too slow a shutter and it could look too blurred.

It will also depend on the pace of your runner.

You have two great lenses there.  I would treasue the extra sensitivity of the fast apertures over the flexibility of a slower zoom..

Your body has fairly basic AF, the fast primes will get everything they can out of it.  An F4 won't.

Cory

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2013, 01:07:43 PM »
In that case, in the name of spending money - Canon 70D?
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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2013, 01:19:00 PM »
For individual athlete shots, choose your backgrounds carefully.  Get rid of distracting elements in the photo.  Often this means moving to less populated areas of the course. 

Use the 17-55 at 17mm from a really low angle to make the runners look like super heros. 

Use the 200mm f2.8 on high speed with ai servo.  Shoot sequences of 3-5 shots and you will have one with peak action...both feet off the ground or otherwise.  Also, when shooting women, you'll want the series so that you can select the shot where "everything" is NOT moving south.  No woman wants to see shots of her cheeks and other parts sagging toward the ground.  Men don't either, but it's less obvious.

Try some panning shots with the 100mm if you can get the distance.   I've tried them with the 17-55 when I had that lens, but the focal length is too short to get much movement in the frame.  200mm works even better, but you'll need a heck of a lot of space on a crop sensor camera to get the shots. 

If you have remote flash capability, try shots with the sun behind the runner coming over one shoulder and light from the opposite side on their front.  These are fantastic shots and will separate you from the run of the mill. 

Polarizers are your friend in snow, sand, and other bright light.  In early dim light, though...you'll struggle to freeze action with the lost shutter speeds.  It's a balance.

Back to the background...even with the 200mm, you'll want to find ways to incorporate elements of the race course to make it recognizable for the athletes.  A memorable turn, or open expanse cresting a hill with spectacular view...something.  Give the viewer a clue to the action besides just the runner if at all possible.  Sometimes you can't do that, like in industrial areas along some run courses.  In those, I just try to set up so the background is well off the runner in order to melt it away. 

Unless I just can't avoid it, I never take shots of runners from a standing position equal to the runner.  Those are almost universally boring and usually end up with background or other issues.  My style usually is from the ground, trying to get the runner's head(s) above the horizon.  Super hero.  Everyone wants to feel like one when they are doing something like that. 
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paul13walnut5

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2013, 05:15:39 PM »
No real need to buy a new camera, use the settings I suggested and you'll be fine.  A 70-200 f2.8l non-is might be a more versatile upgrade, and shouldn't be too costly if you trade your 100 and 200 in?

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Re: Photographing Tips for Running Events?
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2013, 05:15:39 PM »