Hooray! The Swim Season is Upon Us.

 I grew up in a pool.  Started swimming on a swim team in elementary school.  I lived with the wonderfully clean scent of chlorine wafting thru my nostrils twice a day from age 14 to age 22.  And I loved it.  After a long hiatus I got back into swimming in the early 1990's with a master's swim team here in Austin.  Masters swimming provides coached workouts for ex-college and high school swimmers, triathletes and just regular people who want to get into really, really good shape.  If you've done triathlons you've probably found that the people who excel and win are the ones with the best swim performances.

Our club has 14 coached workouts over the course of a typical school year week.  We have a 7am, an 8:30 to 9:30am (which I have dubbed "the executive workout" because you pretty much won't get to work until after 10 am....), a noon workout and then longer workouts on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  While most people hit a workout a day and then one of the two weekend workouts there are some "motivated" people who cram in some "two a-days".

This ain't a pokey group of seniors either.  We've got four recent gold medal winning Olympians who swim regularly, a bevy of recent NCAA All Americans (mostly from my Alma Mater, UT Austin) and, even some retired professionals from other endurance sports on the roster.

We had a fun workout this morning at the executive session.  We started with a 400 yard swim, a 300 yard pull, and then six 75 yard swim/kick combinations.  Our main set was something like this:

200 swim
8x50's on :45
200 pull
6x50's on :50 (with times descending from the first set of 50's.)
200 swim
6x50's  kick on a minute
200 swim fast
200 warm down

That's about 3200 yards.  A little short of two miles.  We plowed thru it in about an hour.  I love finishing workouts because that means I can go and get coffee and... that I made it out of the pool, alive.

I've never photographed my master's group but it seems like a project just begging to happen.

I put my son, Ben, in the water at around six months.  He joined the Rollingwood Waves Summer League team when he was five.  Of course I was there with cameras around my neck.  He's on his tenth year now.  Somewhere at the beginning of his swim career the parents on the team found out that I was a photographer.  Since every family has to do a volunteer position at five of the seven swim meets they invented the position of "official team photographer" just for me.  My real responsibility is to produce a slide show for the end of the year awards picnic.  I go to every meet and try to get good shots of every single kiddo.  Belinda is my editor and she keeps track of what goes into the slide show.  The slide show last for about 12 minutes.

I also upload images from each swim meet onto a private Smugmug gallery and the parents can order (and pay for) prints or downloads for personal display use.

I've been looking forward to this Summer's season ever since I bought the two Canon 1dmk2 cameras.  I love the way they lock in focus and I love the way they nail exposures.  My Lenmar aftermarket batteries chug right along and give me enough juice to shoot 1200 exposures in each camera, per charge.  I love the frame rate.  I love the split second response of the shutters.

Our first meet was an evening meet.  And, unusually for Austin, the temperature was in the upper 70's for most of the time.  It dropped into the 50's later in the evening.  I left the swim meet around 9pm.  Ben's events were over and the light had faded to a soft glimmer on the horizon.  I could hardly wait to get back there the next morning at 8:15 for the Saturday morning workout.

What's the benefit of shooting swim meets?  You get to work on your timing.  You get to meet your kid's friend's parents.  You get to photograph great looking kids achieving and smiling and working on goals.  It re-energizes my optimism.  The world may be falling apart but these kids will have the discipline to excel.

And what's the benefit to a photographer of actually getting in and swimming hard six days a week?  Lower blood pressure, optimum weight, better endurance for those long shoots, the discipline to work toward long term goals.  A bitching set of abs. :-)   And the ability to eat lots of food and not gain weight.  Seems like a good trade off to me.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to find that you have enough energy just to write the blog, much less swim and shoot and write other stuff. Must work for you....

Bold Photography said...

Swimming is what GIVES that energy... :-)

Anonymous said...

Kirk, Could you publish a few more pics from the swimming? I would like to see the results of using the 1d's and lenses you used. Thanks1

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I fell into this same position with my nephews' baseball team since I was always at the games. Do you only charge cost for the prints, a little markup, full market value? I'm curious to know how the parents react to having to pay for prints.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

$5 for a 4x6, $10 for a 5x7, $20 for an 8x10, $2 for a 2mb download for personal display use only. Not what I would charge for a regular job but there are 180 swimmers and it's a very affluent neighborhood so there are lots and lots of orders. It's all done automatically by Smugmug. My time is my volunteer contribution.

Here's a question: Why on earth would I give away prints? Why would parents expect not to pay for them? Why should I train people to expect free photography?

Oops. That's really three questions.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely. I plan on charging, just wanted to get your perspective on how parents react. I have a feeling some will confuse "volunteer" to mean "free digital images for all".

James.M said...

"Hear, hear!" - from another photographer/swimmer (though in my case insert "amateur" and "rather lazy" before each). From my current location in the UK I envy you the outdoor pools and sunshine. There are few things better than early morning swims with the sun on your back.

Someday I'm going to follow Roger Deakin's swimming trek through the British Isles (chronicled in his book Waterlog) taking photos as I go.

mbka said...

Kirk, lucky you. I have done some work of this kind for my son's preschool and it is very hard to charge people for this kind of non commercial, private photography. I'd certainly not dare $5 a 4x6 print, hey people know it "costs" just $0.13 at the store right?

For the preschool we'd do one shoot at year end. We'd offer personalized CDs with about 60 personal and small group shots for each of the one dozen graduates, and another group CD with about 100 larger group shots of all 50+ kids, not personalized. The whole production with kids in various gowns, year end concert attires, costumes, etc, would take about 5 shooting days (mobile studio, outdoors, concert hall), shooting 2.5k frames or such total, and a week of editing. The school sold these at prices of $10 per group CD and $25 per personalized CD, and that already led to teeth gnawing with some parents. And for the group CD that's not personalized a handful people would buy them and then someone will duplicate it or post it all on Facebook and that's it.

Of course there's fun in volunteering and I enjoyed it, I gave some of my time and the school gave me reasonable compensation for it (they took the sales risk on their end, thankfully). But anyhow - no one got rich here, I'd be surprised if the school broke even for that matter. Now, this is not the US, this is Singapore. But, this is a private preschool. These parents are all in the $100k+ income bracket. It just doesn't matter, people think anyone can snap a cute pic. No one has any idea of how much work it is and how much know how goes into it (not that I am that brilliant but I think my craft does hold up).

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

I used to think most people were honest but the web has changed all that. Now I just set a price that I know I can live with for this kind of work and put it out in the universe. The average family income in our club is probably close to $250K. They seem to understand that they are paying for the image, not the paper it was printed on. If they don't they they needn't buy the print or the file.

I don't volunteer for fun in this case. If you have kid on the swim team you are required to volunteer for a position. I would just rather take fun photos than be a timer or an age group parent, or a stroke judge. I've done all those things and the photography is more fun. Thank goodness I have local recognition. I'd hate to have to compete for the position....