Saturday, October 1, 2005

Secrets for getting great action shots


By James Booth

Great action and sports photography comes from being in the right place at the right time, with the right equipment, and knowing what looks good. While reacquainting myself with cycling, I recently took the opportunity to attend a local bike race. While meeting some members of the DICE Racing Team, our local bicycle racing team, I also got some excellent action shots.

As I share these shots with you, like the one in Figure A, I'll also share the secrets of how I got them.


Here you see the start of the day's final race. (click for larger image)


Just like covering a wedding, when covering a sporting event you'll want to get there early. Not only does it ensure you don't miss anything, but it gives you the opportunity meet participants, and get shots of them preparing for the event. In Figure B, you see Iowa Cyclocross champion Bruce Grell preparing for the day's events.


Shots of the participants getting ready help tell the story of the event you're covering. (click for larger image)

So what is cyclocross? Cyclocross is like cross-country for bicycles. It generally involves a paved portion for the start and finish, with the majority of the race being on grass or dirt. Cyclocross is a timed race with switchbacks and sharp turns, hills, and obstacles such as hurdles (short ones as you'll see, not track hurdles) wherein the rider must dismount and carry their cycle.

When taking shots of individuals, like the shots of Bruce above, and the shot in Figure C of DICE (Double "I" Iowa/Illinois Cycling) coach Donnie Miller warming up, make sure you get their permission first.


Here you see coach Donnie Miller warming up on a cycling trainer before his race. (click for larger image)

A simple, "Do you mind?" or "Can I take your picture?" will go a long way with participants, as it gives them some degree of control not only over whether you take their picture, but how it's taken. And in this case, it allowed me to meet the team's coach, get invaluable training advice from him, and further establish a relationship with the team I hope to be able to ride with.

Sometimes, showing the sheer volume of equipment and preparation involved in an activity can give viewers a better understanding of the sport. Figure D shows three separate shots, one of equipment that one participant brought just for this race, one of a racer registering, and finally, of the racers in the Beginner's race being briefed just before the start.


Racing involves a lot of preparation and equipment before you make it to the starting line. (click for larger image)