Sports photography is perhaps one of the most demanding of all photography genres. In an effort to get up close and part of the action, sports photographers spend tens of thousands of dollars (and that’s a small estimate) on fast cameras, long lenses and dozens of gadgets and accessories. The results are often so incredible and stunning – it almost justifies spending all the money on such equipment.
Or does it?
Laura Casner is a professional photographer, but she didn’t use expensive equipment to create the photograph, NY Marathon B&W 24, above. She used a pocket camera, a Canon Powershot S95, and still managed to get you right into the action. Of course the secret behind the photograph is that Laura participated in the New York Marathon and so she really was part of the action. We of course want to congratulate Laura for completing the marathon – a feat in and of itself. But we would also like to thank her for capturing and sharing this photo with the group. It is yet another case of great photography taken without incredibly expensive gear.
While participating in such a race, there’s a lot going on and dozens of people immediately around you. These water stops certainly add to the confusion with volunteers handing out cups, runners ahead slowing or even stopping and so on. Yet Laura was somehow able to focus well enough to capture this great shot. That alone deserves admiration. But there are are two elements to this photograph that, in my opinion, serve to make this such a fantastic shot: The orientation and the blur. The slightly tilted downward facing angle of the shot disorients the viewer – much in the same way someone running such a race might feel. The angle provides just enough context: the street surface, the discarded cups and the feet of a few runners ahead. No sky, no faces, no building facades…only the elements that are necessary. The angle also allows the traffic striping to carve a nice diagonal through the photo, and as we all know: Diagonals are more interesting than vertical and horizontal lines.
The blur in this photo is interesting and teaches us all a valuable lesson. I’ll get to the lesson in a minute, I’d like to discuss what the blur does for the photograph. Action – or motion in general – can be captured many ways. But motion blur is among my favorite methods. It’s also fairly simple to do – just slow the shutter (though I admit, I don’t know how much control one has with the Powershot S95). The trick is doing it without losing integrity of the shot – something needs to be rendered fairly crisp or the photo could be misunderstood as out-of-focus. What Laura has done here is to take advantage of the distance ratios. Objects closer will blur more than objects at a greater distance because of the cone of reference which covers a much larger area the farther from the lens. And so, in the case of NY Marathon B&W 24, the runner ahead and the ground around them appears to be fairly crisp, while the motion is implied by the blurry pavement at the bottom of the shot. Laura shows action without losing a crisp, clean shot.
As this photo clearly indicates, Laura is a talented photographer. She has an impressive portfolio and photostream. And so I would encourage you to visit her personal web site, Laura Casner Photography. The photo on the front page is mesmerizing – I cannot help but to stare into that baby’s eyes for long periods of time. So be sure to drop by the NY Marathon B&W 24 page on Flickr and leave a comment. Thanks again, Laura, for sharing your work with the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group.