Daily Photo – Runners on Congress

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.

Runners take off down Congress Ave at the start of the Nike Human Race in Austin, Texas.


  • Shutter:  1/2000
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO:  400
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM (at 95mm)

Composition and Processing

  • Here’s a challenge:  100 yards in front of these runners are three pace vehicles, a motorcycle and half a dozen other photographers (see the additional shots below).  Then on top of that is some clown on a bike who decides he’s going to ride out in front of everyone.  Getting this shot meant running out into the street the second the cars had passed by, waiting for the other photographers to clear, then staying slightly off at an angle in an effort to clip the cyclist from the frame.  Total time to shoot:  1.5 seconds.  This is one of those cases where the 10 fps of the 1D really helps (I managed 15 shots in that span).
  • I might have bought more time with a shorter focal length, but I really wanted the compression of a longer lens (making the already crowded field look denser).  95mm was as far as I could stretch it– I pre-measured how much the runners would fill the frame when they cleared the photographers, how much distance there was likely to be between the cars and runners, and set for that.
  • Did I mention there was one other requirement for this shot?  I wanted the Capitol building in view, but not obscured by the overhead crane or the 5th street stoplight.  I actually planned to Photoshop them out later, but in the final black and white shot, they’re not major distractions (they even help tighten the frame a bit).


Before the start (various obstacles):

Mr. Bicycle:

March 03 2009 06:26 pm | Photography

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