Thursday, March 15, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes

Clearing the Bar by Wayne-K
Clearing the Bar, a photo by Wayne-K on Flickr.

It's high school track season again. Last year was Kevin's first year in track and my first year shooting track. After today's track meet, I think we agree that we've both improved since last year.

One can spot a freshman pole vaulter rather easily. The freshman vaulter flings himself over the bar in an uncontrolled manner and flails his arm and legs in a non-graceful manner as gravity pulls him back down to Earth. That was Kevin last year. This year, he looks like a pole vaulter. His form and grace have improved dramatically. It's like poetry in motion.

After a single track meet, Kevin is already happier with my photography this year. I think it's for a couple of reasons. Last year, I tended to capture the pole vaulters hitting the bar. I loved the emotion and look of anguish in their faces. To me, the photos of them clearing the bar were boring. At the year end banquet, Kevin didn't select any of my photos for the slide show. In retrospect, I guess I can understand why. Who wants to see themselves not clearing the bar? At today's meet, I focused on the vaulters clearing the bar. Perhaps I'll also capture the thrill of victory, rather than just the agony of defeat.

I also think the technical quality of my photos has improved. Last year, I shot the track meets with my Nikon D80 and Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6 lens. I don't shoot a lot at the longer focal lengths and never invested in a nice telephoto lens. The lens has a maximum aperture of f/5.6 on the long end, which forced me to shoot at high-ISO during the late evening hours when the vaulters typically compete. The D80's image quality isn't very good at high-ISO. This year, I'm shooting the 70-200mm f/2.8. Shooting at f/2.8 gives me a two stop improvement over the 55-200mm lens (at the long end), allowing me to shoot at much lower ISO, resulting in cleaner images.

Here are a few more photos from today's track meet. It was an overcast and drizzly day today. Fortunately, the lens hood did a nice job keeping the rain drops off the front element of my lens.

Kevin looked at this picture and had the "now why do I care about a Cal High vaulter?" look in his face. I explained I was practicing, so I would be ready for when it was his turn to vault....

Cal High Flying High

This is what a freshman looks like....sort of like a baby bird falling out of the nest.

Gravity is Such a Strange Thing...

Here are a few more shots of Kevin showing his improved technique.



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