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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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June 29, 2008 11:38 PM

Olympic Trials: Maybe They Should Call it "Field Town, USA".

Posted by Rod Mar

So much is made of Track, how must Field feel?

It doesn't seem fair at all.

Everyone comes to watch the sexy events like the 100m dash, where the winner at the Olympic Games gets to call himself "the fastest man in the world".

Meanwhile, events like the shot put, the pole vault and the discus go largely unnoticed.

However, this week in Eugene, which bills itself as "Tracktown USA", fans appreciate all the events at the Olympic team trials -- even the field events.

As my assignment here is to give good coverage to athletes with local ties, Sunday found me tracking pole vaulter Brad Walker and discus thrower Aretha Thurmond.

Photographers here at the trials are divided into two groups as far as getting access to the infield. We are all allowed to shoot at the end of the finish line. Bigger publications get blue vests which are "permanent" -- they can use those vest to access the infield all week. Smaller publications (including mine), are subject to sharing red, "temporary" vests, which allow us into the infield for an hour at a time.

I had to time my red vest session in order to shoot both the pole vault and the women's discus, which were occurring simultaneously.

Being a rookie here means I'm learning a lot every day. Today's lesson is that at the trials, you can put a remote with a wide-angle lens in the discus area. This is great because otherwise you're left shooting through the protective netting. It's not great if you hadn't done any proper planning and questioning like I failed to do, and were left shooting through said net.

I took my lumps, did my best, and made some frames of Thurmond during the discus competition.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 200, 1/2000th sec., f4.0)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens + EF 1.4x extender = 560mm, ISO 200, 1/2000th sec., f4.0)

I got lucky, as I sometimes do, and she won the event, ensuring her trip to Beijing and also a sweet victory lap around Hayward Field, which would give me more shots of unobstructed photos of her.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/1250th sec., f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/800th sec., f2.8)

Over at the men's pole vault, Brad Walker and some of the others were having a tough time with the wind, which was alternately blowing down and across the runway. Walker, of whom I need to make many photos, not only for daily coverage but also for Olympic preview stories, only made one successful jump all day. He missed on another and failed to get to the bar on the rest of his attempts.

I made a nice photo of Walker that I'm sure will run sometime between now and the opening of the Olympics in August. This one goes into the file.



(Canon EOS 1 Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/4000th sec., f2.8)

Later, he seemed to struggle, and I shot him both during and after one of his misses.



(Canon EOS 1 Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/4000th sec., f2.8)



(Canon EOS 1 Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/4000th sec., f2.8)

My best frame of the event came when Derek Miles celebrated his successful pole vault as he defeated favorite Brad Walker to win the event with a height of 5.80 meters.



(Canon EOS 1 Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 200, 1/4000th sec., f2.8)

Meanwhile, everyone at Hayward Field was waiting for the finals in the men's 100 meters, in which favorite Tyson Gay was running. Gay blew away the field in 9.68 seconds, the fastest time ever recorded in that event. However, the time was "wind-aided", meaning that the wind was measurably high enough that his record will not be official.

I was positioned well past the finish line, hoping to catch the runners after the finish as they burst into the sun with the shadowed part of the stands in the background. The planning worked out and I was able to catch all the runners glancing up at the amazing time. Gay is in blue, second from the right. It's a good frame, not a great one, and I'll be aiming to improve before the Olympics.



(Nikon D3, VR 70-200mm/f2.8 lens @ 200mm, ISO 250, 1/3200th sec.,f2.8)

So, on a day where I focused on the field events, a man ran faster on a track than anyone ever has before.

Field just can't catch a break.

Maybe someplace, someday will be called "Field Town, USA".

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