Daily Photo – Human Race 10k Austin

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

I’m never quite sure how to shoot running.  I mean, you can only take so many pictures of individuals running past with an exhausted, out of breath expression on their face.  Nevertheless, my friend Lennis encouraged me to join her shooting the Nike Human Race in Austin last fall, particularly since the course ran within a few blocks of where I live in downtown Austin.  Here’s a shot she took of me, which gives you an idea how I usually trudge around sporting events, strangled by my cameras (the actual photo I’m going to talk about in this post follows):

Anyway, here’s the shot I want to cover:


  • Shutter:  1/2500
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO:  800
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM


Composition and Processing

  • There were three things I was trying to pull together in this shot:  the leading motion of the runner’s leg, the nice clouds overhead and the shiny wet pavement.  I was a little concerned about capturing both the clouds and the mostly side/backlit runner in the exposure, and in fact lost some of the clouds closer to the sun.  It turned out that was ok — I found that once the exposure was increased for the runner, leaving the background darker around her face looked a little weird (which is why I processed to lose even more of the clouds than originally planned).
  • As a color shot, it’s lacks impact.  Too much distraction in the background.  In high contrast black and white it has a grittier feel that matches better with intense athletic activity.  Plus, in the final shot, she’s moving from the darker to lighter half of the frame, which reinforces the feeling of motion (pushing into the light).

January 12 2009 06:51 pm | Photography

One Response to “Daily Photo – Human Race 10k Austin”

  1. Gordon McGregor on 17 Jan 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    I always struggle with this with race shots myself. The main thing I’ve found that can help is getting a different perspective on things – shooting off bridges, or high up, that sort of thing, trying to make the runners become more of a graphic composition. That or abstracting things and shooting the fact that they are moving, blur, panning, etc

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