Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Assignment : Atlanta Track Club Hearts & Soles 5k

Going back a bit to catch up on the blog. This year is flying by. I shot this assignment in February. I remember it being around 30º F that morning. The most difficult thing about shooting in cold weather is operating your camera with gloves. I've tried using regular gloves, but they get in the way of pressing buttons to adjust settings on the camera. I've been using thin cycling gloves. They provide the tactile feel I need to work the camera. They don't provide sufficient insulation to keep my fingertips warm, but it's better than no protection at all.
We had a nice sunrise with clear skies and I wanted to show that at the start of the race. Looking at some of these guys in the front, you'd never know how cold it was.

Because I was shooting into the sun, I needed to use a camera mounted flash to help fill in the shadow areas. Without the flash, the runners would have been silhouettes or the sky would have gone completely white.
I typically shoot with my flash in manual mode, but when you have a lot of action an subjects moving in and out of frame, I need to rely on the TTL mode to make adjustments to the flash output. I used a CTO gel to balance the warm sunlight with the flash.

This was a 5k (3.1 miles) and the lead runners would be coming in soon after the last runners crossed the start line. Luckily the finish line was only 50 yards away. When the start and finish are close in proximity, I alway grab shots of the first couple of men and women that cross the finish line.
The first couple of finishers came in a little over 15 minutes.

I like moving along the course to grab a variety of shots and from various angles. It provides a greater selection of shots when used in the Atlanta Track Club's Wingfoot magazine.
Since this was a Valentine's Day themed kind of run, there were some runners that dressed up for the day. I saw most of them at the end of the course during the awards ceremony.

The most difficult part of shooting an event like this is the lighting. As you can see from the previous images, the sun is low and casting long shadows. There are still no leaves on the trees and no real area for shade. Nothing worse than taking a shot and half their face is in shade and the other is in full sun. I typically try to find a patch of open area with no shade. It allows me to shoot at a faster shutter speed so that I can freeze the action and get sharper images.

I also have to keep an eye out for interesting visuals. If I'm constantly looking through the camera, I'll miss an opportunity coming my way.

I saw this boy running and noticed he was running in minimalist type shoes. I'd seen adults wearing them, but hadn't seen kids wearing them.

I'm constantly changing position and angles even if I'm in the exact same spot for a while. With the image above with the boy, I got low to shoot at his level. It makes for a more interesting shot than if I had shot from above.
For this shot, instead of shooting down the road, I shot across. I rotated 90º to my right and and got low, giving me a nice blue sky as a background. One of the things that I've learned because it's been drilled into my head, is to keep the head in a clean spot. It's used primarily for portraits, but also works for action shots. Which is why I got low, trying to get the blue sky behind the runner's head as much as possible.

As exciting as it is to see the lead runners come in, sometimes the best images are the ones that don't finish first.
I saw this boy running in and I knew it would make for a cute picture. I got this shot as I made my way back to the finish line before the awards ceremony.

It was at the awards ceremony that I got a few shots of those that had dressed up for Valentine's Day.

Several images from this race made it into the April issue of Wingfoot magazine. It's always a nice surprise to see my images in print. I don't think I'll ever get tired of that.

I want to share a story from the race regarding a runner that was unhappy with an image I had taken. He contacted me via e-mail to let me know that he was disappointed that I got an image of his fiance (or wife, recently married maybe? Wish I'd kept the e-mail) but that I didn't get him as they ran the race together. Clearly there was no way I would know who was running together and who would want an image from the race. It's not easy taking criticism for your work. I decided to reply, but instead of telling him it wasn't my fault for not knowing they were running together, I apologized for missing the shot. I went on to explain that I shoot primarily for the Atlanta Track Club and the images are for their use. I post the images up to a gallery and every once in a while someone may purchase the images. I also offered to take their picture at a future race and to find me either along the course or at the end during the awards ceremony. I didn't want him to be upset or for that matter have a negative opinion towards the Atlanta Track Club. Since I'm photographing for the Atlanta Track Club, I'm a representative for their organization and should remain professional in my contact with participants, volunteers and anyone associated with the club. I didn't expect to hear back from him, but got a reply within a day. His response was no longer of disappointment, but understanding and he actually commented that he liked my work. A day later, his fiance (wife?) purchased the print from that race.

So what started out as a not so positive experience ended up being a very good customer experience. It just goes to show you how good customer service can leave both sides feeling pretty good. I'm glad I responded the way I did. It taught me a lesson in how to provide good customer service. In photography, sometimes it's not about the technical aspects & lighting, it's about people and how you treat them.

If you're looking for a portrait photographer in the Atlanta area, visit my portfolio.

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