8.26.2011

Pro goes amateur for the day. Just another dad with a camera...

I was worried about Ben this morning but it turns out I didn't need to be.  But isn't that what worry is all about?  You pay the price now for something you may never get...  Anyway, I was worried because he abandoned swimming this year to take up cross country running.  He started at the beginning of the Summer and as you may have heard this is the hottest Summer in history in Austin, Texas.  How hot is it?  Well tomorrow the meteorologists are predicting 110(f).  And it isn't like the dry, refreshing heat of the desert; the air today was laced with moisture creating an atmospheric soup that saps your energy and your will to live.  I was worried because Ben was competing in his first cross country meet.  Today's distance was three miles and by the time his heat started running at 11:00 am the thermometer had already crept over 90.  

The meet was an invitational with tons of high school kids from five or six local high schools.  It was held out at the Decker Lake Park in far east Austin. The park is famous for it's lack of trees, lack of water fountains and lack of amenities.  But they have a decent long loop course.  Two laps makes three miles.
I got Ben up at 6:15 this morning and fed him scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast.  Normally he has only a teaspoon of honey before an early morning run but we knew he wouldn't be running until after 10:30 and a bit of protein would keep him from bonking during the race....or before.

I dropped him off at the school at 6:45 because the team all goes together on the bus.  That's non-negotiable in his coach's eyes.

Then I clicked into the "dad mode" and started thinking about what camera to bring to photograph the boy with.  I decided on the Canon 7D and the 70-300 IS lens (the latest version).  A lot of reach, great image stabilization and half the weight of my 70-200L.  I figured I'd go light and blend in with the other dads and moms who would, no doubt, be clicking away.  I set the ISO to 320, the aperture to 5.6 and let the camera meter lead me by the hand.  I used the 1/2 size raw file setting and I used servo AF set to the center, large group.

Nothing else photographic in my pockets or over other shoulders.  And that worked out well because you need to go from the starting area to the middle of the race to the finish a couple of times to get all the photos you want and if your kid is fast that means you have to move fast to effect the rendezvous.  Can't imagine doing that while porting around extra bodies, lenses and bags.  

It's easier to photograph swim meets because everything is confined into the boundaries of a 25 yard or 50 meter pool.  Find the side with the good light and you can spend a few hours shooting without much distraction.  Distance running is different.  It's a lot more acreage.  And you have to move to come home with stuff to send to the grandparents.....

So Ben did really well and finished ahead of the middle of the pack.  Not bad for a first go.  I did okay with ten or fifteen decent shots.  It was odd for me in a few ways.  The last time I shot a distance running race I was freelancing for the people who hold the Capitol 10K.  There were 20,000 participants and they ran the race on closed, public streets.  Not only did I have endless press credentials I also rode in the truck that led the race and gave me a platform from which to shoot stuff from a primo perspective.  This morning the guys started with their backs to the sun and finished with their backs to the sun.  Back lit was the name of the game.  But being a dad and not a professional photographer you take what they deal you and stand where they tell you.  But next time.....I'll scout that course in advance, get them to 180 the start and the finish,  maybe bring some big lights for fill......Naw.  I think I'll stay with this plan and just enjoy the whole process.  Seems like the right thing to do.

I think over photographing your kid's sport stuff, festooned with tools of the trade (three camera bodies a bunch of lenses, some Profoto battery systems, compass and reflectors), might be just as embarrassing to your high school boy as showing up with a banner that says, "Go Fast Sweatheart!!!!  Mommy and Daddy Love You."  That's always something to keep in mind when they start growing up.
 
After a few hours at Decker Lake, in the heat, I think I chose wisely.  The pool is the place to be.  At least until the first frosty day.  But right now that seems a long way off.

Final observation:  Before I left the house for the meet today I read in the paper about America's obesity epidemic.  Seems that we're on a curve to have 50% of the population really, really fat in the next few years.  If that worries you come out and see the kids at a cross country meet.  They're putting in 6 to 8 miles a morning on the week days and doing much longer runs on the weekends.  No fat kids here.  They all look pretty much like Ben.  Lean and moving.  Come to think of it we don't have any overweight people in the master swim team either.  Oh my gosh.  I think I've found the cure to obesity!!!!  Move.  And then move more.

What does this have to do with photography?  Come scamper up an embankment with me sometime in the middle of the Austin Summer, with a full camera bag and a couple of sandbags and we'll talk about the photographic benefits of staying in good shape.  Can't take the photo if you can't get in position.....

18 comments:

Michael Clay said...

I'd love to go outside and shoot, but after 10AM if I go outside, I straight burst into flames... :-D

Michael B said...

Earlier this year, my son trained for the Southern California Special Olympics. I took one camera and lens to the practices (sometimes a prime lens) and had a great time practicing and getting a nice visual record of the athletes in our group training. At the Special Olympics I took a D300 with a 70-200 f/2.8 and a D700 with a 24-70 f/2.8. I am very happy with the photos, but boy was I tired by the end of each day. I think that next time I will just go the dad route and go light.

Sean said...

I'd agree with Michael Clay, but I'm trying. Our baby sitter is on the track team at her school and is out their logging the miles every morning in Houston, amazing in this heat.

One question, why did you use the half sized raw file on your 7D?

Steven Alecxander said...

My son Benjamin ran his first marathon earlier this year.
I too worried after all he is a member of AARP. See it never ends.

kirk tuck said...

Hi Sean. The 1/2 size file is still nine megapixels and big enough to make nice prints from but most of the use is sharing with other parents and most people are content to see them on screens. This way I don't take up as much disk space, they edit faster and they still look really, really good.

kirk tuck said...

Michael, I'm right there with you. Sometimes it's nice not to carry around all the weight. And going minimalist really focuses you into the strengths of whatever you've chosen.

The D300 and the 70-200 is a great sports combo.

kirk tuck said...

Mr. Clay,

Seven spectators DID burst into flame today. But we were able to extinguish them quickly with some lemon-lime Gatorade....

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Well, good on you, Kirk; not the photo stuff, but that Ben gets support even though he's dropped a sport you do. My daughter quit a 10 year involvement with dance to take up ... skeet ...? Tennis and cheer leading as side dishes. I had photographing dance all worked out, too.

Brent said...

Using exercise to combat obesity? Absurd. I suppose you also recommend consuming less calories.

Why ISO 320? Does it produce particularly clean files?

kirk tuck said...

Brent, I've heard some urban legend that Canon cameras do their best noise and sharpness at multiples of the ISO 160 setting. 320 means that at 5.6 I never have to worry about too slow a shutter speed and I never have to worry about too much light. It's a great compromise for full sun and mixed sun and shade.

Now, back to obesity: If you go from using 1500 calories of energy a day to using 5,000 calories in a day I would say that you don't even need to think about reducing calories to achieve prodigious weight loss.

But you might think about less McDonalds and more Jason's organic salad bar........just saying. Broccoli beats SuperSized french fries every time.

Chris said...

The best thing my father ever did for me was to get me involved in sports at an early age. From that I learned what exercise does for the body and most importantly, how it makes me feel. I hope Ben enjoys cross country. Good cardio is good for the soul.

acolyte said...

Heheh, just had to comment on your last paragraph. You won't consider me thin, and I have bad stamina, but yup, when it comes to photography, I had to exercise myself running around. I refuse to hold on to a tripod and am used to go solo and try to take from different angles.

And as the number of lens I bring around grows, yup, the more exercise I get. A warning to myself at the same time.

acolyte said...

At the same time, there are some events which I'm glad I didn't bring my camera, and some I wish I didn't bring.

Some important things in life should be preserved.
Some important things.. should be enjoyed.
It's not easy enjoying something that you're trying to preserve memories of. The limits of the human mind.

Your child growing up vs. your child in a competition (dance competition in my case, or marathon in yours) is one comparison..
The latter, while you can make the photos look cool and stuff, you may miss the support and excitement you could give while you're busy fiddling with the camera controls..

Kurt Klimisch said...

Being a dad of 4 kids in multiple sports - my daughter ran cross country all through high school I have to highlight one of the best parts of carrying a lot of camera gear. You usually can get yourself into areas that "normal" parents are not allowed in... For example, my sons play lacrosse and I am "allowed" to be on the players side of the field and on to the turf out of the stands just because I have an expensive camera. No one ever questions me!

Jim said...

My, ten year old, daughter starts her second season of soccer this Thursday. Last year I only took pictures at one game! to her delight and mine! I actually watched and cheered and saw her participate through the eyes of a parent- not a photographer trying to cover a sporting event! It was great! Now this year I plan to do the same since i dont have a long lens for my Nikonos and I'm sure it will be drenched in water! my sweat that is! Keep up the great columns!
Jim

Alan said...

In a few years I see you photographing him in triathlons. You'll be shooting in square format with a 5mp EVF hooked up to your 'Blad!

John F. Opie said...

I started swimming when I had difficulties carrying my equipment. Back in my younger days (hah!) I lugged around up to 40 pounds of equipment (Pentax 67, 45/105/300 plus extender, film, tripod, bag: it adds up very quickly!) in a big Domke all day, at one point in an f64 backpack that now holds the P67 kit under a layer of dust.

Going digital helped enormously: E510+14-45/40-150 in a hip pack made me feel like I was out without any equipment at all, since it was all carried on the waist. Then came the 12-60, then the 70-300, and I was back to a large shoulder bag. Then I really went over the top and added a gigapan robotic head, ending up with a backpack again weighing 30 lbs. But what a difference in photographic tech!

But you don't stay the same age, and while I was managing it, there came a point where I was seriously contemplating car-only photography because I was hitting my physical limits, where at the end of the day I was barely able to lift my camera without having fatigue shakes set in that even the Olympus in-body stabilization couldn't handle.

My problem was that my day job is sedentary (and 60 hours a week at that), resulting in middle-age spread that wasn't going away.

So I started swimming, slowly crawling (literally: it's my favorite stroke, since it's also good back exercise) to the point where I can swim a kilometer at lunch time (the pool is five minutes away by car) and get back within an hour, even showering. I now do three kilometers a week, sometimes four or five, and two of those are at 7AM before work.

The difference is undeniable: while my weight still needs to come down further, I can manage the CyberPack8 loaded with a Gigapan Pro pre-loaded with the E30+70-300, an EP1 with the kit lens, a GF2 with the 14 (Japanese-only body, now that's a challenge: my daughter picked it up when she was in Japan and didn't notice it was Japanese-only, since she can read and speak Japanese...), as well as various legacy lenses. Oh, and the Monster, a Manfrotto 028B tripod for the gigapan. After regaining stamina, I can carry that all day in 90° New York city weather and as long as I keep hydrated, I can do it.

My goal is to hit 2km in the same time period within the next 5 years so that I can be one of those really obnoxious retired folks who walk the young folk into the ground without breaking into a sweat. :-)

kirk tuck said...

Way to go John!!!! Welcome to the club of seasoned citizens who can kick ass instead of just haul a big one around. My always goal is to make sure I can out lift, out run, out swim and out photograph everyone half my age. My secret? No TV. No sedentary job. Lots of swimming. And a love for photography that makes me want to get out there every day.

Hoping the same for everyone. We can all do it if we want to.