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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 30, 2008 11:25 PM

Olympic Trials: Splashes and Flashes.

Posted by Rod Mar

Today was a pretty short day here in Eugene at the U.S. Olympic team track and field trials.

Going into the day, there was only one "local" athlete of note -- distance runner Bernard Lagat, who attended Washington State.

His race, the 5000 meters, wasn't scheduled to go off until 9:40pm, and the powers that be decided that was too late to make the newspaper.

I found it interesting that we didn't want to put his race on the web, as conversations at ours and other papers across the country talk increasingly about becoming websites without deadlines as much as we are traditional papers.

Already I'm stepping out of my area of expertise (should you call it that), photography.

By the end of the day, however, there were two local athletes who earned trips to Beijing. Along with Lagat, who won the 5000 meters, javelin thrower Kara Patterson, who attended Skyview High School in Vancouver had won the javelin.

I began my night by photographing the women's steeplechase, which will debut as an Olympic event in Beijing. There were two semifinal heats. Like many of the other photographers, I placed a remote camera with a wide-angle lens near the pool of water that the runners have to navigate on each lap after the first of the race.

The light was gorgeous in the first of the two heats and this photo was made on the first of the laps where the runners faced the water. In subsequent laps, the water that splashed onto the lens made for an interesting effect, but the composition and golden light in this image made it stand out for me.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35mm/f2.8 lens @ 16mm, ISO 800, 1/1000th sec.,f10)

I was triggering the remote by shooting a camera with a 300mm telephoto attached, and found an image that showed the difficulty of the race as a runner nearly fell in as she took her final lap.



(Nikon D3, VR 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 800, 1/2000 sec.,f2.8)

As the week goes on we're seeing more final events in which the top finishers punch tickets to Beijing. This makes for nice celebration pictures.

Reggie Witherspoon reacts after winning his semifinal heat in the men's 400 meter dash. At right is Calvin Smith, who did not qualify.



(Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 400mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 640, 1/1250th sec., f2.8)

Bernard Lagat won the men's 5000 meters as expected, and flashed the "number one" sign as he crossed the finish line. He's trying to win gold in the 5000m and the 1500m in Beijing.



(Nikon D3, VR 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 2500, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

At the end of the 5000m, bronze medalist Ian Dobson collasped at the finsh line.



(Nikon D3, VR 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 2500, 1/640 sec.,f2.8)

I mentioned splashes, now here's the flash.

The men's 800 meters was the highlight of the night, where three runners with Oregon ties all qualified for the Olympics. There was a dive/crash at the end for third and fourth place, which happened just out of the reach of my remote. Bad luck for me.

Nick Symmonds won the race in dramatic fashion, charging from behind to take the lead in the final stretch for the victory. As he crossed the finish line he struck a pose, and another photographer who was apparently using on-camera flash shot at the exact same time as I did. The result is that Symmonds is lit by the flash, adding just a touch of added contrast and drama. Oregon's Andrew Wheating, wearing his school uniform, took a surprising second place, and you can see his reaction at right.



(Nikon D3, VR 300mm/f2.8 lens, ISO 1600, 1/1000 sec.,f2.8)

I'm off for a couple of days as there is no racing on Tuesday or Wednesday.

(Thanks to all who have inquired about the Nikon brand appearing alongside some of the photos. I'll be posting about that soon.)

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