Sometimes the setup of a shot is simple and classic. We all know how to frame a classic portrait or set up to stitch a panoramic. Most of us have at least a half dozen uses for a neutral density filter and a long exposure. But here’s a new one: Shooting a Marathon. Photographer Andrew Carlin is the creator of this photograph, Chicago Marathon 2012, and it is truly a unique idea of the technique. It’s not only technically cool, but the resulting image is both chaotic and beautiful.
The technique used to create this image is essentially the result of a long exposure, but the specifics behind it are unknown to this writer. In theory, one could accomplish this effect by stacking several shorter exposures together. But I’m going to say that based on what I see, it was a traditional long exposure. Of course to accomplish this during the day, one would need a neutral density filter to peel off the stops to make a long exposure possible. This isn’t a new technique; it is a technique used by landscape photographers to blur moving water to make it look silky smooth. Making runners look silky smooth is not a common application for a neutral density filter. Maybe it should be…check out the waves of people running through the frame here. It’s awesome. I love how the feet are the most prominent feature. It makes sense, because the foot seems to be the only part that stays still long enough to register to the camera. But the result is a nice repetition of feet – the same feet – as they strike the pavement through the shot.
Compositionally, the shot is far more organized than it might appear. The subject is a very chaotic mass of people over time. But their path follows a clear line that converges with the line of the curb. That’s right, this is indirectly a vanishing point photograph. This is a very unique perspective and we don’t often see running races in this manner. They are so often frozen moments in time. We see victories at the finish line, or turmoil and defeat on the course. Rarely are we shown the structure and the stream of people in this way. This is the unique perspective that I”m always talking about. And we can thank Andrew and his daytime long exposure for showing it to us.
Andrew Carlin is a photographer of many talents. His portfolio contains fantastic samples from all corners of the photography world, including all genres. But it is his sports photography that I find most refreshing. I’ll admit, much of his work isn’t stuff you’d find printed in the newspaper. He explores sports artistically, and he blurs the line between reality and fantasy with his clever framing and use of long exposures and multiple exposures. So if for no other reason other than to view his inspiring take on sports photography, you should visit Andrew Carlin’s photostream over at Flickr.