Shooting Pool by Cliff Lawson
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Tuesday, May 06, 2014
By Sandy Puc'
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Cliff Lawson | SPTV Blog

  I took images at swim meets for 9 years. I was fun (and HOT) and I made some good money with it. One of the nice bonuses was that those kids grew up to be high school seniors and some of them chose me for those senior portraits. Austin is one of those. We did his senior portrait session last fall and we knew at the time that we wanted to get some pool time to do indoor swim images at his high school pool. That pool, by the way, is the pool that Olympian Missy Franklin called home in her high school years. In fact, Austin and Missy are good friends. OK—that is my closest brush with fame. So between his schedule, my schedule, and most important, the POOL schedule, we were finally able to get a couple hours of pool time for these images. Having shot swimming for so many years, I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to do. I had been to this pool and knew the lighting was just fair and not so good for a fast shutter speed. But I was pretty sure with my max shutter sync at 1/250 and an aperture that would give me some forgiving depth of field, that a no-flash image would be pretty dark and that would mitigate any ghosting due to any ambient light contamination. I also know if needed, I could use the high-speed sync of my speedlights. It worked.

Here is the setup.

I used four Nikon SB-800 flashes fired with Pocket Wizard Flex/TT5 receivers. This gave me wireless control and TTL exposure. I used four not so much for the power as for a much shorter recycle time. With two—or certainly with one—I was afraid I would only get one shot per setup. Each flash had a Zip-Lock bag over it to provide some water protection if needed. Austin and I went over how we were going to do this. I did not want to wear him out, so I just had him start from about mid-pool, get a few strokes to get the form correct just before he came in range of the flash units.

Then I “Assumed the Position” and got ready for his swim.

As with any sport photography, timing is everything. Thanks to my several years experience, I had very few images in which his face was buried in the water. You need to anticipate where the stroke will look good and lead it by .1287 seconds. Well, I have no idea how much the lead is, but you do need to anticipate it. We got some great butterfly images and to keep his enthusiasm up, I would show him how cool he looked!


Here are just a few more from the session.

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