Commack High School Boys Varsity Swimming
Caught the boys swimmers from Commack High School at an individual competition at Half Hollow Hills West. Multiple individual competitions are held throughout the winter season for schools that don't have enough swimmers to field a team. Photographing individual competitions can be tricky for two reasons - they don't usually last long and the swimmers are difficult to identify because they don't wear team caps and swimsuits.
As with many other indoor sports, you're better off shooting in manual exposure mode if the light is fairly even around the pool. Reflections from the water will drive your camera's exposure meter nuts. Dial in your exposure by taking a wide shot of the entire pool area and use this exposure for the rest of your shots.
The most prevalent complaint I hear from folks trying to photograph swimming is that many of their photos are slightly out of focus. They blame the autofocus on their camera and they're right, but not for the reason they think. Their camera's autofocus is not bad; it's actually too good. In fact, it's so good that it's focusing on the flying spray in front of the swimmer. So, how do we solve that problem? First, by taking lots of photos. Sooner or later you'll get a frame without spray in front of the swimmer's face. Second, experiment with your camera's autofocus settings. Many cameras allow you to adjust the focus tracking to briefly ignore obstacles in front of your subject. Try turning this feature off and see if that improves your percentage of good photos.
Here are a few more tips when shooting individual competition swimming -
- Get there early so you can take some photos of the swimmers warming up. For some swimmers, especially those that only swim the 50 meter freestyle, this may be the only time you'll get a decent shot of them. Many 50 meter freestyle swimmers only come up for air at the turn and they generate a lot of spray, so getting their face in the shot is next to impossible.
- Use a zoom lens long enough to reach the opposite lane from the side of the pool you're shooting from. I use a 40-150mm on my Fuji XT-2, which would be a 70-200mm equivalent on a full frame sensor body. You also want the lens to have a fairly wide maximum aperture (f/2.8 would be nice) since the pools are relatively poorly lit. Most pools don't have lights over the water for safety reasons.
- Take photos of the swimmers doing stuff other than swimming - at the end of their race looking up at the time clock, speaking with their coach, talking with their friends during the warm up, etc. Your percentage of successful photos for these types of shots will be much higher than the ones during competition.
- If you're lucky enough to have your swimmer in the nearest lane, get low to the water for some shots. This also works well for the breast and butterfly strokes if you can position yourself at the end of the lane.
- Leave the flash at home. You're not allowed to use flash when the swimmers are on the blocks or during diving competitions and shooting swimmers in the water with flash just reflects that much more light back to your camera. It's just not worth it.
- Bring a microfiber cloth with you to wipe spray off your camera.
- Take lots of photos.