This past winter, I began taking pictures for my track and field team so that I could fulfill the general desire of an athlete to have a photo of themselves competing. What began as a simple idea of helping the team, turned into a fantastic learning experience, a great social tool, and my first step into exploring photography more seriously.
I should mention that I typically shoot with a Canon EOS 70D, and fairly standard lenses. I’m an aspiring photographer after all, and therefore currently classified as an amateur. Some of the frustrations I express could be resolved with $500+ quality lenses, but I’m not looking to break the bank just yet.
Learning – indoor track and field is a pain in the butt. Trying to find a balance between high shutter speed and exposure with the subpar lighting is particularly annoying, especially when you’re trying to capture a moving target. Can’t forget the idea that most people want photogenic photos, which are far and few between for runners to begin with. They’re downright nonexistent for throwers, jumpers, etc. I hoped endlessly for better lighting, but was let down every time. After some tinkering beyond the standard aperture/focus/shutter speed, I found the AI Servo and high-speed continuous modes. AI Servo allows the autofocus to shift to capture a moving Target (and therefore not need as high a shutter speed) and high speed continuous let’s you pick and choose the perfect moment to share! Think about burst photos on iPhone, it’s the same idea. This simple step led me to watch videos and find a manual for my camera – being a photographer is less about knowing what to do but rather how your camera does it.
Social – the distance squad and the rest of the track team don’t often interact. We’re different social creatures – the distance runners enjoy solidarity but function best as a group, thanks to the bond we’ve developed through 1000s of miles run together. We have some relationship with the throwers, as we both eat ravenously after our competition. The throwers eat to build mass and grow stronger, we eat because we just ran 25 laps on a track. Sprinters and other field event people, I can’t even really describe (proving my point further). Their events are about a single moment or a short burst of power, so our sense of competition is different. They require finesse and power, we require mental strength and endurance. As I began taking photos for the team and uploading links for my peers to access the pictures, there was an appreciation for it. And the absolute best part was getting to know the rest of the team a little better and appreciating their events even more. I might have been miffed now and then when they offered tips on how to take their picture, but they were right. Most of the time. Overall, getting to develop this bond and insight into the other members of my track team was a fantastic experience.
Looking Forward – after this experience, I wanted to move forward beyond shooting nature and landscapes. There’s a vulnerability during competition that makes you more open to people, and they accept you a little easier when they see you trying to get their good side. I no longer feel so awkward taking pictures of people, even people I don’t know or have just recently met. I learnt about how the knowledge of the camera itself makes a photographer far more skilled than their knowledge of photography as an art form. During the experience I even spoke with our athletics social media department and managed to get an official position to take pictures for the team. This simple set of experiences gave me the tools and knowledge I needed to pursue photography more seriously, and the knowledge of the tools I needed for the path I wanted to pursue. I’m looking forward to the path that I’m on now and what kind of experiences, like this one, will initiate a similar transformation.