Anticipate the moment
As Andy suggests in Capture the Moment, putting in the research and being prepared is key to getting the sharpest, peak-of-the-action shots: “Just as sport is about practice and performance, the keen sports photographer can’t expect to just turn up, point his or her camera and hope for the best.”
Nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to taking pictures of swimmers, as you only get brief glimpses of each of the competitors above the water.
“Details all help in planning your shot,” advises Andy. “Learn in advance, for example, which side a particular swimmer breathes on. This is important as faces are only visible during the fraction of a second when swimmers come up for air. The rest of the time the swimmer spends head down in the water for maximum speed. It’s also helpful to know a competitor’s routine at the end of the race. How does he or she celebrate? Which way does he or she look, and from which side do they exit the pool?”
The most important consideration is deciding where you’re going to sit. Rather than set up camp next to the straight of a racing track, would it be better to position yourself close to a bend, where competitors are likely to be moving more slowly, allowing you to focus more easily on them?
Finally, make sure you keep checking your camera settings. It’s easy to lose track of which focus mode or AF-area mode you’re in duing the heat of the moment. Develop a default camera setup for action that you can return the camera to after you’ve finished shooting.
Andy on… research “Be aware of who the favourite is, who’s likely to win and who’s not, where the favourites line up, where the best side of the track is and where not to go. It’s important to involve yourself in the rhythm of the game rather than just turn your attention on and off; only by doing this will you see the opportunities.”