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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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March 24, 2008 10:36 PM

Just Another Hurdle, But Not Just Another Hurdler.

Posted by Rod Mar

Was assigned to shoot one of the top high school hurdlers in the state yesterday for our Prep Focus page.

Garfield High School's Stephone Jordan won multiple state titles as a junior and is going after state records this season as a senior.

The assignment told me it was going to be published as a color photo, even though it was inside the section. It's a weekly page that is devoted to prep sports, and the display space is pretty good.

One great thing about hurdlers is that their sport is photogenic.

Shoot long with a telephoto lens of 300mm or 400mm, and you can compress the hurdles around your subject as he flies over them.

That's the image we often get at track meets. But much in the same way I like to shoot angles that are impossible to get during actual competition, for this practice photo I chose to use a wide-angle lens very close to the subject.

I considered having him hurdle right over the top of the camera, but the way he pumps his arms as he runs was covering his face.

In an effort to add some depth to the shot, I also chose to use fill-flash and to balance it with the sunny ambient afternoon light.

I always like to get a "safe" shot in the camera, so I can feel comfortable taking risks. In this case, posing him by the hurdle and adding some light to his face established the safe shot.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 100, 1/300th sec., f9.0)

So I would not make him hurdle more than a dozen times for me, I made tests while he warmed up, jogging by, then lightly hurdling a low height. This way, he could do his warm up and I could do my testing.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 22mm, ISO 100, 1/300th sec., f11)

By the time he was ready to shoot, so was I. I really try to respect the subject's time, whether it be a high-schooler or pro. They have goals they want to accomplish during every practice, and if they're kind enough to share their time, I don't want to overstep my bounds and take too much advantage.

While I was shooting I was messing with various shutter speeds, experimenting as I went along. The great thing about shooting digitally is that you get instant feedback with the preview screen. The important thing to remember is to check the histogram that tells you your exposure, since the screen always looks good, even if the exposure is off.

Some tries were too close:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 24mm, ISO 100, 1/50th sec., f22)

And others were imperfect like this one, where I realized his arm was swinging in front of his face:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 21mm, ISO 100, 1/50th sec., f22)

In order to combat the arm in front of his face, I had to get a higher angle, and I found something I liked:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 22mm, ISO 100, 1/30th sec., f22)

I applied a tighter crop and this was the result:

(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 22mm, ISO 100, 1/30th sec., f22)

He only had to hurdle about eight times for me, which both he and his coach assured me wasn't a problem.

Of course, I edited and transmitted the photo back to the newspaper and when I saw the print version today it appeared in black-and-white (as they used to say on Seinfeld, "not that there's anything wrong with that").

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