Category Archives: cross-country

Battling Photo Boredom

Emily runs with the pack at the start of the varsity girls’ race.

When you shoot the same subject week after week, it sure can get boring.

My #2 son and a competitor literally run stride for stride.

Even when you adore one of your subjects.

Kara battles a competitor near the finish.

That’s how photographic life has been for me shooting cross-country. This is my second year of snapping pix at every high school meet that my younger son has competed in, and I noticed that I definitely had the been-there-done-that blahs. After all, there are only so many ways to approach a mostly-individual sport.

Mehran, Emmanuel, and Clay lead our troops at the start of the varsity boys’ race.

So last week when I went to shoot my #2 son and his cross-country companions, I challenged myself to look at the sport in a different way: By taking group shots. I tried to snap no solo photos.

Casey and Tyler (mirror images!) run side by side during the junior varsity race.

This was an easy photographic exercise with most of the runners, who seem to naturally fall in with one or two others.

Clay sprints ahead of his nearest competitor at the finish.

It also helps put the sport into the proper perspective: It’s a race where competitors are trying to beat someone else to the finish line. Few of the runners are ever truly alone while on the course.

I really enjoyed changing up my photographic game plan. I also think it added some needed spark to my photos. But I must admit that my favorite pic of the meet was of an individual.

Abhi puts his all into finishing strong.

Whether running in a crowd or alone, it’s great to capture someone’s passion for his sport. And that, my friends, is never boring.

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Hair-Raising Running

Derrick is easy to spot because of his hair.

When I was looking through my photos of last Friday’s high school cross-country meet, one thing really stood out and made me laugh. Or was it stood up?

Briana keeps her hair in the air.

Hair! It seems like running cross-country really is a hair-raising experience.

Elliott's hair stays out of his eyes.

Most of the boys sport short hair, while most of the girls corral their long locks in a ponytail.

Anita’s hair sails along with her towards the finish line.

But even when kept under control, the tresses of some of the girls fly behind them like a flag. Or a sail. Could that be a windstreaming advantage?

My #2 son keeps his hair under control.

As for my younger son, his hair tends to stay in place, because his mean, old mom makes him get it cut every month. But his good friend Cody’s hair?

Cody will need a comb when he finishes.

It’s the reason that hats were invented!

Turning It On At the End

And they’re off! My #2 son and his teammates start their race.

Let’s be honest: Even though my active #2 son often is on the run, he doesn’t like having to go from the start to the finish in a long-distance race. Specifically, a cross-country race.

#2 suffered through his first cross-country season last year on the freshmen team. Now he’s moaning and groaning through yet another sentence (as imposed by his track coach, because he’s a distance runner . . . even though it’s only 800 meters), which started last week.

My #2 son is NOT thrilled with cross-country during the first mile.

Our high school’s cross-country team isn’t very big, but there are enough boys that not all of them can run on the junior varsity or varsity. That’s where the “extras” race comes in. Designed for the overflow of boys and girls, it gives the additional runners a venue for competition . . . except it doesn’t count.

The best part of the extras race, as far as my younger son was concerned? It’s only two miles instead of the JV’s three. So let’s just say he wasn’t disappointed when he found out he was going to literally be with the also-rans instead of on the JV at this meet.

Chad leads my #2 son and Elliott, who is to #2’s right, as they near the finish.

During 95 percent of the steamy two-miler, #2 seemed content to lope along at a pitiful seven-minute-mile pace and allow our team’s freshmen to outrun him.

Until he got near the finish line.

Eye on the prize! #2 chases down Chad.

Suddenly, as if he had been shot out of a cannon, #2 literally stepped it up a couple notches in an attempt to catch Chad, a freshman who was leading our team’s runners. #2 might not be the fastest runner, but he is able to kick it into gear and get to top speed very quickly.

Elliott tries to keep up with my #2 son as they gun for poor, unsuspecting Chad.

None of our guys were close to the race’s top finishers, but they waged a spirited battle for first place and bragging rights on our team . . . .

#2 drops Elliott and is about to overtake Chad.

. . . which went to my younger son! #2 was able to nip Chad right before the finish line (which was past where I was shooting). He was able to save face and show his competitive nature to his coach and his teammates.

Maybe he’ll be able to do that on the JV team at Friday’s meet!

Looking Back at 2009, Part II

Snack time! (July 14th blog post from Seattle)

Happy one-year blogiversary! It’s hard to type while there are streamers and confetti flying all over my home office, but I’ll try my best!

Today I’m continuing to look back at my 2009 blog entries. Yesterday’s post took care of the first six months. Now let’s check out some of my favorite posts and pix from July through December.

July:

"Palm trees" swaying in the air

I had fun taking photos on the fourth of July in our community: Fabulous Photo Fourth!

Purple hydrangeas on Bainbridge Island

Flower power was in full bloom while we vacationed in Seattle: Flower Fix.

August:

The happy #2 son during a good round.

My #2 son competed in the disc golf world championships in Kansas City: Lessons Learned at the Disc Golf World Championships.

The #2 son and his good friend Marcus talk.

The Mister and I actually managed to embarrass our 14-year-old #2 son: Partying With the Dinosaurs—A Night at the Museum.

September:

"You looking at me?"

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed shooting with my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens until I used it at a disc golf tournament: Visiting With an Old Friend.

Who can resist #1’s baby blues?

A somewhat-heavy envelope addressed to my #1 son left me feeling suddenly blindsided and teary-eyed: A Large Envelope Makes Me Sad.

Our team celebrates a good block.

I shot a lot of high school sports photography this month, from cross-country (documenting my #2 son) to volleyball to football. The toughest to shoot? Volleyball! Photo Friday: Meeting the High ISO Challenge.

October:

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

Readers’ eyes probably were rolling, as I discussed using exposure compensation when shooting a high school play: The Non-Delightful Light Battle; Warning: Eyes May Glaze Over (what a long title!).

The #2 son shows off his team and seventh-place medals.

The #2 son’s high school cross-country team won its first freshman title: We Are the Champions, My Friend!

November:

Victor tries to outjump the defender for a potential winning touchdown pass.

My sons’ high school football team almost won its first game amid the distractions of Homecoming: The Many Facets of a High School Homecoming Football Game (yet another long title!).

There's my boy!

This was the first of a three-day series about giving thanks. Here I was very thankful that my #1 son has a part-time job at the public library: Giving Thanks, Part 1.

December:

Snow in my backyard.

Holy cow! It snowed here in the Houston area; that’s a rare occurrence (it was only the third time my sons had seen the white stuff): Let It Snow . . . For Real!

Both sons smile at the halfway point of Chanukah.

Chanukah lasts eight nights, and I was able to squeeze five blog posts out of the holiday! This one was the second of those five: At the Halfway Mark.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this sentimental journey as much as I have. I really had fun blogging in 2009, and I’m looking forward to even more random snippets and apertures in 2010!

Secret Agent Photographer

#7070-(i-lied-to-brenda)

Brenda caught while listening to friends talk.

Dear Brenda:

Sorry, but I lied. When I said that I wasn’t taking your photo at the district high school cross-country meet with my Nikon f/2.8 70-200mm lens, well, I really was. And here’s the result! It’s a wonderful, natural pose.

I’ve blogged about my beloved 70-200 numerous times (like here, for example). I’ve loved it since 2005 as an action lens. Its crispness and great blurry bokeh help put the “wow” in sports photos.

#7380-(clay)

Clay

But the 70-200 also has a great reputation as a terrific portrait lens. It’s a favorite of wedding photographers also because of that crispness and bokeh.

#7379-(john)

John

I like using the 70-200 at sports events for miscellaneous, natural shots. Natural because the subjects don’t know you’re taking pictures of them! With that zoom of 200mm and a wide-open aperture of f/2.8, a photographer can be a ways away from the subject, enabling them to be sneaky while getting that beautiful blurring of the background.

#7072-(serious-casey)

Casey gets serious with a couple of female teammates.

When your subjects don’t know you’re taking pix of them, you can get some great poses. No fake smiles or primping for the camera with the stealthy 70-200.

#7382-(tyler)

Tyler

Sometimes it’s my favorite kind of photography! The #2 son’s momarazzo strikes!

Until I’m . . . .

#7065-(ashlei)

Ashlei smiles for the not-so-secret lens!

Busted!

We Are the Champions, My Friend!

From left: Greg, Tyler, Erin, the #2 son, and Casey

From left: Greg, Tyler, Erin, the #2 son, and Casey

This is a photo story that tells how five fabulous freshmen boys, including my studly #2 son, won their high school’s district cross-country championship last Friday.

Tyler leads #2 and Casey at the start.

Tyler leads the #2 son and Casey near the start.

It starts with, well, the start, of course. The boys shoot out when the gun sounds for the two-mile race like they know there will be cookie cake when they finish. Which there was, thanks to our fabulous team mom and booster club rep, Eileen (aka, Clay’s mom).

Erin is about to become district champion!

Erin is about to become district champion!

And then it finishes, well, with the finish, of course. Erin, who has been our freshmen’s top runner all season, crossed the line first and was the champion.

NEW-#7342-(tyler-ab-to-finish-2nd)

Tyler is about to finish second overall.

Then came Tyler running his best race of the season to finish second. By the way, bokeh’d behind Tyler is Mir, who attended middle school with most of the boys but now goes to a different high school.

#7352-(greg-ab-to-finish-4th)

Greg, starting to show the strain of fast running, is poised to finish fourth. And who's that in the background? Why, it's the #2 son!

Greg finished comfortably in fourth. And then the real battle began for the #2 son!

#7362-(cj-ahead-of-casey)

#2 is doing his best to hold off Casey down the stretch.

Usually, Casey finishes second or third on our team. But he’s been sick, so the #2 son was able to hold him off and snag seventh place overall.

#7364-(casey-ab-to-finish)

Casey is about to finish.

Coughing Casey hung on for the #8 slot.

With all five runners placing in the top 10, our freshmen blew away the competition! Our junior varsity girls team did the same.

As for my #2 son, he finally broke 13 minutes for two miles, finishing in 12:47 (6:24 pace). He improved his time by a whopping two minutes since his first cross-country meet. The Mister and I are so proud of him!

#7546-(cj-medals)

The #2 son shows off his team and seventh-place medals.

Good thing he’s such a humble guy!

In a Reflective Mood

Reflective cross-country runners

Reflective cross-country runners

When I was reviewing photos I had taken of some of our high school’s runners on my Nikon D700’s LCD during last Saturday’s cross-country meet, I couldn’t believe my eyes: Right there was a photo of Justin . . . and his reflection in a conveniently placed puddle. A happy accident soon become a dogged experiment for me.

The #2 son leads a small pack of fellow freshmen runners.

The #2 son leads a small pack of fellow freshmen runners.

When I’m shooting a sports event, I always remember that what’s important are faces and action, mostly in focus. But once I’m done with the essentials, I free myself to look for the unusual, especially if it’s another photographic way to tell the sports story.

Junior varsity girls float on the ground and through the water.

The runners passed this particular puddle twice. So the first time I moved up the trail and concentrated on capturing their faces and strides. The next time I returned to the puddle, pulled back, and focused on how they looked reflected in the water. It was fun for me! I only wish they had to run through the water; that would’ve made for some dramatic photos.

The percussionist is reflected in his drum.

The headless (oops!) percussionist is reflected in his drum.

I’m  a big reflections fan, so I try to look for those mirror images whenever I shoot. I think they add a touch of drama and flair to a simple photo.

The bell of an instrument mirrors back when it sees.

The bell of an instrument mirrors back what it sees.

Looking at these reflection photos got me to thinking about my own self-portrait.

The "old" me

I had taken the one I had originally put on my About Me page a couple years ago in the bathroom mirror with my Nikon D200. Figured it was time for a change!

Just some of the outtakes of my reflective photo shoot.

Just some of the outtakes of my reflective photo shoot.

So I grabbed my D700, slapped on the Nikon f/1.4 50mm lens, and headed out into the steambath that the Houston area has became this week. Got into my Honda Pilot, rolled down the window, and proceeded to try to capture the real albeit getting-sweatier-by-the-minute me . . . using the side mirror. I even got out of the car to take my self-portrait in the same mirror. It was tough work getting the focus and lighting right!

Sidebar: In all its infinite wisdom, Texas decided that with August being too hot for National Night Out, we would stand alone from the other states and celebrate NNO in October. As in last night. When it was 85 degrees and a million percent humidity. Maybe we need to shoot for December next year?

Sidebar II: While I was sitting in my car snapping away at myself, a guy delivering flyers came up the sidewalk. He saw me . . . and quickly walked away from the house. Did I seem a little crazed or a little crazy?

The real me, fall 2009 style

The real me, fall 2009 style

After about 39 possible photos and a bunch of delete-delete-deletes, I think I found a decent shot that reflects the real me behind the Nikon . . . for now!