Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2002/11/21

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Swimming! NOW: How to!
From: Adam Bridge <>
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002 16:36:03 -0800

Ted has lots of good observations.

Your head-on start is a challenging shot best used for big powerful athletes who
SNAP off the blocks. For a brief moment these athletes will have their backs
arched and their heads up (not all but most) and that's the moment you have to
shoot for. You'll need to study the athelete you want to photograph either
during warmups when they are doing starts or in  a pervious heat to know if
their starting technique is suitable.

Swim coaches are subtle people, but there are often moments of true intensity
between a coach and an athlete before the finals of a big race. In college dual
meets you won't see this very often. In conference championships there WILL be

Swimmers before they compete slide into their own space. It's the moments AFTER
a race where emotion is most often found. If you are shooting distance swimmers
you'll find that they are not as "blown out" at the end of their races as the
sprinters who completely deplete themselves in the 50 or 100s, not breathing at
all in the 50s and only rarely in the 100s. They have a few moments after they
finish where most are just letting their bodies catch up before the meaning of
what they have done latches in.

Some athletes swim to make your photo #1 a great shot because they tuck their
heads way back and almost are looking backwards in the pool.

I find photo #3, which I assume to be the breaststroke, to be interesting, his
canted style is distinct. Shoot to catch the hands just as they begin to thrust
forwad or just as the head is about the begin its downward motion into the

I find the shallow depth of field in the two butterfly shots to be distracting.
You don't have the luxury of huge strobes mounted on the ceiling in order to
catch the swimmer with tons of light so you don't have to be shooting wide-open.
Maybe let the athlete get a little closer.

Turns are fascinating - lots of water motion going on - sometimes you can make
an abstract from the froth as the barely-visible swimmer turns.

Coaches on distance events (1000, 1650 in short course events 800 and 1500 in
long course) can be fascinating. In virutally all other races the coach doesn't
communicate with the swimmer but in distance events they whistle, jesture, use
body languge, facial expressions, the works. It's a gruelling experience because
while the athlete has tons of aerobic capacity the muscles of legs, shoulders
and arms are being seriously depleted. You won't see many gasping at the end,
but some of them struggle to get out of the water, especially at pools with
international ends that rise a half-meter or so above the surface of the water.

If you take the time, watch, and look for the quiet moments of drama longside
the pool I'm sure you'll find them.

College swimming is a GREAT sport. The longest lasting record on continuous
championships is held by the men of Kenyon College in Div III which is decades

Good luck - keep us (I can't resist it) posted on your efforts.

Adam Bridge
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Replies: Reply from Ted Grant <> (Re: [Leica] Swimming! NOW: How to!)