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.

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.


"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.


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.


"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.


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!


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.


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


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.



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.



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.


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.



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

Until I’m . . . .


Ashlei smiles for the not-so-secret lens!


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.


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.


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!


#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.


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!


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!

Cross-Country Faces Tell a Tortured, Twisted Tale

Jordan running nice and easy at the start of the race.

Jordan running nice and easy at the start of the race.

Remember Jordan, my friend Donna’s son? Last time we saw him . . . we hardly saw him.

Four high school cross-country meets ago at the start of the fall season, I thought I had taken a great photo of Jordan running. But what I got, you may recall, was a shot of two bodies and six legs. Neither body, unfortunately, was his. Yep, nothing much there to see of Donna’s long-legged, freshman boy.

Fortunately, Jordan’s school is in the same district as that of the #2 son, which meant odds were we’d see his team again. That chance for photographic redemption happened last Friday. I spotted Jordan at the start of the varsity boys’ three-mile race and made sure to snag a pic right away. Then I waited for him at the finish.

Chris grimaces along.

Chris grimaces along.

I had been at the finish area shooting photos of the junior varsity boys and varsity girls, and I noticed something of interest: When the finish line banner appears, the runners suddenly turn on their jets, kick it into fifth gear, and try to pass as many competitors as they can. What made this area a haven for dramatic photography were the looks on their faces . . . only on the boys, though . . . as they sprinted for home. It almost was as if those torturous, twisted features shaved several seconds off their times.

Mark's tortured-looking face

Mark's face shows the torture of sprinting towards the finish line.

It seemed like 90 percent of the runners’ energy that was expended along the course was spent on these last, grassy 25 yards. I must admit it was rather entertaining—for the spectators!

John motors toward the finish line.

John looks ready to finish!

So I got to wondering what kind of faces Jordan would make as he approached the finish line. I didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Jordan rounds the bend, focused on the finish.

Jordan rounds the bend, focused on the finish.

Once Jordan came around a little bend and spied the big, digital clock steadily ticking off the seconds and then minutes, the look on his face totally changed.

"Get out of my way!"

"Get out of my way!"

Jordan was no longer cool, calm, and collected. Nope, he wanted that finish line to be under his feet as quickly as possible. Every runner knows that feeling; it’s just that some accomplish the feat much sooner than others.

"Strain" is the name of the game.

"Strain" is the name of the game.

It didn’t take long before Jordan neared the promised land and a great finishing time (6:37 pace).

Jordan's teammates cheer him on.

Jordan's teammates cheer him on.

All in all, I think I redeemed myself for that earlier photographic faux pas. Not only did I capture plenty of photos of Jordan, I documented his experience at the race. Of course, I also took lots of pics of our high school team in action.

The gorgeous green eyes of the #2 son

The gorgeous eyes of the #2 son post-meet

And one final photo of one of the faces—tortured and twisted or otherwise—I love the best!

Is There a Cross-Country Race Going On?

Come on in; the water's fine!

Come on in; the water's fine!

As usual, while I was shooting last Friday’s high school cross-country meet that the #2 son was competing in, distractions abounded for me. When my Nikon D300 and Nikon 70-200mm lens weren’t zoomed in on the running action, I found myself busy snapping away at what interested me. For a change, most of that was human, not flora, in nature. Guess that’s because I wasn’t using my Nikon 105mm macro lens!

Take the little girl above. She and a friend were busy having fun where the pre-race rain had collected in a small gully. They probably were there to watch older siblings run, but the water was too much of a draw for them. Race? There’s a cross-country race going on?

Soccer time

Soccer time

Even the competitors got into the distractions act. A lot of cross-country runners also play soccer. Where they go, a soccer ball is sure to follow.

More soccer time!

More soccer time!

Everywhere you looked, someone was relaxing by kicking a soccer ball.

Casey warms up for running.

Casey warms up for running.

Even our guys got into the act!

Casey and Greg battle for the soccer ball.

Casey and Greg battle for the soccer ball.

Our team really knows how to warm up to run a 2K race! Race? What race?

Wet and wild!

Wet and wild!

This race! Thanks to the rain, there was some nice splashing for me to capture as the runners neared the finish.

Interesting juxtaposition

Interesting juxtaposition

Here’s Tyler causing some waves. It was fortuitous juxtaposition with the Clear Lake runner, that’s for sure!

No pain, no gain!

No pain, no gain!

Then there was this character, my #2 son. As he neared the finish, the agony of pushing the pace for a mile and a quarter started to get the best of him.

See ya later!

See ya later!

All of a sudden, #2 noticed that there were three runners right in front of him . . . and they were dying, too! He kicked it up a notch and passed all three of them!

Was there a cross-country race going on? Indeed there was . . . right down to the finish line!

Shooting Beauty and Beastly

What in the world?

What in the world?

What has six legs and two bodies? Bad photographic timing resulting in a missed high school cross-country runner, specifically the son of my long-time running friend, Donna. Just plain beastly photography on my part.

Donna keeps up with her son.

Donna keeps up with her son.

Here’s Donna, who was watching her freshman son Jordan during the same cross-country meet that the #2 son competed in last Friday.

Sidebar: Jordan and #2 were at the same meet but not in the same division. That’s because Jordan has incredible running DNA, thanks to Donna and her husband, Darrell, who are both great runners. Donna almost won the Houston Marathon many years ago, and she still posts sparkling times in races of all distances. Darrell, too. That’s why Jordan competed on the varsity for his high school, while #2 ran with the freshmen.

Sidebar II: Jordan is a mere three months older than #2. His older sister and my #1 son are just two weeks apart. The Mister and I endured Lamaze classes with Donna and Darrell with our older kids, because we had the same due date. It was no surprise that Kristen arrived exactly when she was due in late January, while #1 couldn’t be bothered to appear for another fortnight. Our sons are stuck with our DNA, which means that they need a competition for lazy, slow packrats to have a chance at winning a title.

Will we ever see what Jordan looks like?

Will we ever see what Jordan looks like?

When I saw Donna, I felt kinda smug, because I just knew I had gotten a decent photo of Jordan. But I figured I’d need another shot of him just to be sure I had the goods. I moved back up the course (a double loop for the varsity boys), and all of a sudden, there was Jordan! Running past me! Darn it! A side photo was the best I could do. And, as you can see, I didn’t exactly get all of Donna’s baby boy in that first photo. Kinda embarrassing.

Because Jordan’s school is in our district, I’m hoping I’ll get a few more chances to show what he really looks like from the front. That way we can see his handsome face! Yep, Jordan got his good looks from his parents, too!!

The beauty of cross-country

The cavalry is on its way!

The cavalry is on its way!

I hadn’t taken cross-country photos in about 20 years, so I was excited about the opportunity to shoot something new with my Nikon D300 and 70-200mm lens. Cross-country is mostly a vertical sport, especially once the field thins out. But every now and then, there are horizontal photo ops.

I especially like the above photo, because two teammates of the runner on the left can be seen in the background. Almost as if they’re coming to his rescue!

Single-file running

Single-file running

Here’s another horizontal photo that seems to illustrate the basic nature of cross-country on parts of the course: The group is running in single file. They seem to feed off each other’s energy.

In the pink!

Long-time readers know how easily distracted I get when I’m shooting. I started to notice that some of the varsity and junior varsity girls were wearing pink cross-country shoes (which really make a crunching sound on the sidewalk, by the way), and that got me concentrating more on feet than bodies.

Beauty can come into play in sports in many different ways. The athletic movement of bodies and the easy flow of feet skimming over the ground. Especially if those feet are shod in pink shoes!