Commack High School Boys Varsity Swimming
Here are some tips on photographing high school swim meets. If you're just here for the photos, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on any thumbnail to open the gallery.
- A 70-200mm full frame equivalent lens (50-140mm on an APS-C sensor) is pretty much all you need. It helps if it has a wide aperture (f/2.8 is fine) because the lighting in most pools is not great. For safety reasons they usually only light the perimeter of the pool; no lights over the water.
- If your pool has no windows feel free to make a custom white balance, otherwise Auto white balance is your best bet if you're dealing with mixed light.
- Take lots of images. Spray from the swimmers is your number one enemy. It will fool your auto-focus into focusing on the spray instead of the swimmer so you'll end up with a lot of soft images. If your pool lighting is very bright, stopping down your aperture will fix this but I have yet to shoot in an indoor high school pool that bright.
- Bring a microfiber cloth to wipe the spray off your camera.
- You'll probably have to dial in 1/2 to 1 full stop of positive exposure compensation due to the reflections off the water.
- If you have credentials and can shoot poolside, check with the officials to see where you're allowed to be. They'll be walking up and down the long sides of the pool following the swimmers and you don't want to get in their way.
- Watch the swimmers during warmups. Note which side they turn to breath. Some alternate sides; some don't. See if they all have the same trunks and/or caps; this will help identify them in the water. Also, take photos during warmups. They'll be swimming more slowly and these photos might come in handy if you miss them during competition.
- Get the events, heats and lanes from the coach or officials before the meet starts. This will let you know where you need to be and which lanes your swimmers will be in.
- Photograph the breast stroke and butterfly from the short end of the pool with the swimmers coming toward you (getting down low makes for a cool shot). Photograph the freestyle and backstroke from slightly behind the swimmer. This will help insure you get their face in the image.
- One event, the 50-meter freestyle, is very frustrating to photograph. The swimmers are going all out, huge amounts of spray is flying everywhere and they rarely come up for air. Most will take a breath near the end of the lap so position yourself there, if possible.
- Don't fall in. This will definitely ruin your day. Some pools have very narrow walkways around the perimeters and these are the pools you want to avoid if possible.