Field events in "Track and Field"

A couple of weeks ago I shot my first track and field event, with a second one last week. I used to run track as a kid, but haven't been to a track meet since then. Heading over to the stadium, I was trying to figure out what I was going to take.  Isn't it just a bunch of people running?  That will get old, right?


I forgot about the "field" part of "track and field."  And wow, those did not get old.  At all.  

This shot is cool because it's just as the discus is leaving his hand.  The sun was also behind a cloud so I didn't have to worry too much about where I was standing. For the record, I was out of bounds on the field, just far enough up so the fence on my right by the athlete wasn't in the way.  Make sure when you shoot discus or shotput and you're on the field you keep one eye open in case a stray implement comes your way.  I almost got hit twice by a discus.

Now granted, the "running" part of track actually wasn't as bad as I thought.  There were relays, sprints, hurdles, and longer distances like the 2-mile run.  If I started looking for things to shoot, I found them.  

But this post is about the field events.  Those...will...not...get...boring.  Every single person has a different stride or a different jump.  One person's triple jump doesn't look like the next.  There's pole vault, discus, shotput, high jump, long jump, and triple jump.  For both boys and girls.  Lots and lots of different options.

What were the main problems I ran into?  The biggest one....the sun.  Yup, our old friend, the thing that gives this planet life...the sun.  The first track meet it was in a horrible spot, and I quickly realized that for a few of the events, my best shooting spots were actually on the track. Unfortunately, that just wasn't possible, so I did what we all do - the best I could.

I got lucky on triple jump. The sun was roughly at my left shoulder, and since I wanted to take a head-on shot, it worked.

Another issue was with anything with a pole - pole vault and high jump. The camera would sometimes switch focus from the athlete as they ran, and jump towards the pole.  You can prefocus if you want, but I found that actually focusing on the athlete right before they jumped, kept the focus from switching.

What else?  Look at this shot.

It's a decent high jump shot.  Athlete is in focus, you can see his body curve to make it up and over, but HOW HIGH IS HE JUMPING??  I have no idea, and neither do you.  Closeups are fine, but shots where you can see the landing area are good too so you get some perspective.  I was shooting with a 70-200, and horizontally there was no way for me to get the landing mat for high jump.  My back foot was already at the edge of the grass and I couldn't move back any further.  So I switched to vertical.

Obviously you still don't necessarily know how high he's jumping, but this gives you a little bit of a better perspective.

Lastly, background, background, background.  There was never an angle on a lot of these where there wasn't something in the background.  Discus and shotput have fences.  The jumping events have people.  The best thing to do is walk around and minimize the background distractions if you can.

Ok finally, have fun!  If there's a lot of teams, field events go on for a long time.  In fact, I was at last week's meet for 2 1/2 hours before I had to leave, and with 19 teams, a lot of them had just finished 10 minutes before I left. There's time to get the standard shots, but there's also time to just play around and try and get the non-standard shots.