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College Swimming Photos...etiquette.

Nathan Gardner , Feb 18, 2011; 12:01 a.m.

I am shooting a college indoor swim meet tomorrow and am loking for some pointers. I've shot plenty of basketball games before so I know all the high ISO, high shutter, fast lens, center AF, blah blah blah. What I don't know is the etiquette for swimming. I know fast and long is good for swimming; I have fast with a 85mm f/1.2 and 70-200mm f/2.8 and I have long with a 400mm f/5.6, but its not fast, all on a 1D II. Can I use flash indoors at the swim meet or do you think it would be frowned upon. Also, if flash is okay, has anyone ever tried a 400mm + on camera flash combo for indoor swimming? Does it work well, or should I save the weight and leave the 400 and flash at home? Thanks everyone.

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Michael Harris , Feb 18, 2011; 01:35 a.m.

I never use flash for college sports, some may but I don't. Do you have a media pass? if so the 85 will be fine as well as the 70-200. the 400 may not help at all. you would be surprised what you can do without a flash:

http://www.palousephoto.net/Sports/WSU-Volleyba/9443365_ARqZc#690408063_RT6v9
(link)

Michael Harris , Feb 18, 2011; 03:00 a.m.

Nathan, I also wanted to add that always be respectful of the images you retain, especially in swimming. Protect the privacy of the student athlete because, with swimming especially, the athlete can be captured in compromising positions.

Steve Hopkins , Feb 18, 2011; 07:57 a.m.

I recently shot a HS swim meet, Used an 85 1.8 & the 70-200. the zoom used most .This was my first time shooting a swim meet so I'd have to work at getting my timing right for really good shots,
Like any sport, it takes a few runs to get in-key with the actionm and knowing/watching the sport to find the 'high' points that need to be captured.
I have on my flickr page: 'shoppix'
It's humid in there as you must know. I would not advise changing lenses in the pool area. Go in the locker room perhaps. Keep your gear warm, as much as possible, before you get there. Took me about 15 min before I could shoot because of foggy lenses!


HS swim meet

Michael Harris , Feb 18, 2011; 09:17 a.m.

Also, watch out for the "splash the photographer crowd" I remember that being big at college meets a while back

Bryan Cochran , Feb 18, 2011; 09:27 a.m.

Flash is very frowned upon in two specific aspects - during starts and with breaststroke / butterfly head on shots. As a former college swimmer, the last thing you want when coming up for a breath is to get flashed in the face, also the starting systems use a flash in addition to the “beep” – so no flash during the starts as well.
As for lenses, the pool is 25 yd/m – so the 70-200 will be plenty of reach. Pools are known for being lit about as well as dungeons, so all the low light techniques come into play. I have shot a few meets as well and wish I had remembered to bring the monopod.
Another suggestion – bring a towel and wear shorts, you will get wet.

Henry Posner , Feb 18, 2011; 12:08 p.m.

I've done several hundred high school and college swim events. I never shoot diving during competition with flash but, after talking to the divers, have always been able to shoot their practice and warm-up dives with flash. Unless the venue is remarkably well illuminated I've always used flash for all races, throughout the race regardless of stroke. I have never received a complaint from a competitor, coach or official.

Henry Posner
B&H Photo-Video

Dick Arnold , Feb 18, 2011; 08:47 p.m.

I shoot swim meets in large natatoriums such as Harvard and Boston U. BU is difficult and so are parts of Harvard because of high contrast on the finish ends of the pools. There is a large set of windows that glare into the background of pictures of swimmers coming to the finish at BU. The brightly lit water and the underexposed faces of finishing swimmers get out of the dynamic range of the camera on occasion. I do use flash in those cases to lighten the swimmers and bring the contrast within range. I do not use flash on starts. One of my favorite pictures is a hard swimming female breaststroker laughing at me just after I flashed her. She loves the picture. I have deck access because I also swim in these meets that have upwards of 600 swimmers. In a couple of thousand pictures I have never had a complaint about flash. It is better in my opinion not to use it because flash recovery is too slow but I don't hesitate to use it if I need it. I use a 5D a lot because I get good enough resolution at ISO 1600 and have also made 13X19 pictures to post at pools at 1600 and 3200 that have decent color and resolution. I cannot get the same high ISO resolution from a 1.6 crop body. Indoors I have an 85mm 1.8. DoF is an issue with this lens but it sometimes gets pictures that I could not get otherwise. I mainly use a 70-200 2.8L which works well most of the time. Outdoors I handhold a 100-400L. We use a 50 meter pool in the summer and the extra reach really helps but you have to have good light. I like to use a minimum of a 500th of a second but I would really rather be over a thousandth if I can get it. I like to use ISO 800 out of doors and a 2000th. Some pictures are great at slower shutter speeds if you can get a face in tight focus and an arm that is somewhat blurred trailing water. There is one of those in my PN gallery taken indoors using ISO 3200. I confess that I shoot a lot more pictures than I use because all I get is foam sometimes. I do a lot of single shot pictures because, say, in the case of Fly, as I swim the stroke, I start pumping up and down with the swim strokes and try and anticipate the apogee of the stroke. It works. I would check with the meet officials about flash but I see flash used by other photographers at the meets I shoot. Nathan I do not use my 100-400 indoors. If you cannot get deck access It may be difficult to get enough reach for a 70-200 and you probably would be out of flash range if you shoot from the stands at 400mm. You may be required to go barefoot or use deck shoes of some kind in you go on deck. A number of pools require that. Watch your white balance. I assume you will shoot raw. Some pools have ghastly yellow lights and if you shoot flash you sometimes wind up with a swimmer with a yellow back and normal face where the flash got her. I just did a large blow up of a swim team from a balcony using flash as it was after dark with the BU pool in the background. The white balance for the team was perfect under the flash but the blue water behind them was a sickly green. I had to mask the swimmers and take the yellow reflection out of the pool to make it blue. It made a very nice 13x19 blowup.

Dick Arnold , Feb 18, 2011; 08:52 p.m.

If you have a 400 fixed focus you will miss a lot of pictures if you are on deck as I get a lot of closer pictures particularly when standing right next to a starting block.

Nathan Gardner , Feb 18, 2011; 11:56 p.m.

Thanks for all the tips folks. I didn't use the 400mm or flash, and started out with the 70-200mm f/2.8. It never held me back and I got away with ISO 1250, which produces manageable noise, so I never took the 85mm f/1.2 out of the bag. Here's one of the shots from today if anyone woul dlike to see.

Oh, and you guys didn't warn me about the whistling. Geez! I will be bringing earplugs next time.


Canon 1D II EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS ISO 1250, @f/2.8, 1/800

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