Category Archives: high school track

TGIF for PWCs!

Michael prepares to vault over the bar.

Focal point tend to wander when you’re shooting high jump or pole vault? Go manual! Check out today’s Photo Friday for PWCs advice.

No Fear of Flying for Long Jumpers

My #2 son flies through the air during the long jump.

What would a track meet be without the field events?


Nick, who also hurdles, looks for a nice place to land in the sand.

I’m partial, of course, to the high flyers plying their trade far from the bleachers. That’s where my younger son spends part of a meet, long jumping or triple jumping.

Justin calmly sails toward the sand.

Last week my son competed in the long jump with his junior varsity teammates, as well as the freshmen boys. Every jumper brings his own unique technique to the event, making it much more interesting to watch.

Michael has his game face on.

But even though they have different facial expressions, mannerisms, and ways of getting from the running start on the asphalt to the sandy landing in the pit, they all share one simple trait:

Alex was the freshmen winner!

They fly through the air with the greatest of ease . . . before suddenly landing with a THUD! And that’s never boring to watch!!

Handing Off

Runners are on the move in the 4 x 100-meter relay final exchange zone.

In one of my Photo Friday for PWCs posts, I wrote about the importance of location and timing in capturing good action photos. That lesson was in play for me last Saturday at our high school’s first varsity track and field meet of the season.

The nature of a track meet—in that it’s like a three-ring circus with field events in different locations and a big, 400-meter track—is that you can’t have it all as a photographer. Choose to shoot your #2 son competing in the triple jump? You’ll miss the 3200 meters and the high jump. Pick a spot along the fence in front of the bleachers for an up-close-and-personal look at the 100 meters? You might get up close and personal with someone’s backside. Random people litter your backgrounds and often steal your focus point.

Fortunately, I was able to maneuver past the—ahem!—security guards and situate myself along the track near the final exchange zone for the 4 x 100-meter relay. This is a lightning-quick event, and I was ever so thankful for my Nikon D300’s burst mode. First, I snapped a wide shot with my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens of the runners approaching the zone, including our third leg, Fred, in the outside lane (above left).

Jalen runs with Fred in pursuit.

Jalen, our team’s anchor, takes off and gets himself into position to eventually grab the baton from Fred.

Jalen, who is leading, is ready for the baton.

As they approach the end of the zone, Jalen opens up his left hand in anticipation of a baton delivery.

Fred starts to hand off the baton to Jalen.

Fred is ready to be rid of the precious metal! And I would love to have the photo showing you how Jalen snatched the baton and powered towards the finish line.

Unfortunately, the exchange-zone judge’s backside was in my way!

No Camelot-Type Weather!

It’s time to bring out the blankets—it’s high school track season!

The high temperature today in the wind-chilled Houston area is expected to be only 45 degrees (that really should be the LOW!). Tonight’s temp? Should go down to about 27 degrees, which will feel much colder due to the northerly breeze.

What does all this mean? Must be high school track season!

Yes, I’m sad to report . . . mainly to myself . . . that my younger son starts life as a junior varsity trackster tonight. Remember how I froze during the first track meet of the year last winter? It’s supposed to be even colder. And, of course, the Mister and I pretty much have to stay the entire time, because our #2 son will compete in the long jump and triple jump early and then run the 800 meters in the middle and the 1600 meters near the end.

The upside? He’s no longer in the final 4 x 400-meter relay. But we have to pick him up after the meet at his high school, so we might as well continue our ice cube imitation and stay until the bitter (no doubt) end.

I can’t wait to salute the sky with my mitt-gloves!

At least this time I’m going to remember to wear my long underwear, plus I found a pair of Thinsulate mitt-gloves in a cabinet that will help keep my fingers from freezing while wielding my Nikon. But don’t expect me to be a happy camper!

A Graceful Segue

A recent text “conversation” with my older son

Lately I’ve had a song stuck in my head, and I think it’s applicable for tonight’s track meet. My older son texted me about a Wii game we’ve promised to buy him for his birthday. When he wrote that Conduit 2 has been delayed, my natural reaction was to text “Fie!” back. Which, as you can see, confused him. But it made me smile.

The Broadway album of “Camelot”

Back in my youth when every teen yearned for a record player and couldn’t imagine an iPod future, I about wore out the grooves on a “Camelot” LP. Mine was the Broadway musical version starring the incomparable Julie Andrews and Richard Burton. How I loved listening to those tunes, which told the story of a fantasy land of might and right.

One of the songs is called “Fie on Goodness,” sung by the knights of the legendary round table, spurred on by the up-to-no-good Mordred, played by Roddy McDowall pre-“Planet of the Apes.” So, of course, when I texted “Fie!” back to my son, in my head I immediately heard that scratchy needle moving through the grooves again.

Naturally, I bought the entire original album on iTunes soon after (I still remember all the words!) and e-mailed “Fie on Goodness” to my #1 son. He never said how he felt about it, but I like to imagine him putting the song on his iPod Touch and tapping his toe to it every now and then.

Talk about a fantasy!

Is there a point to all this blathering, you ask? I’m sure that when I’m at the track meet tonight that “Camelot” songs will be rattling around in my frosty brain, tempting me to put my own special twist on them. What readily comes to mind?

“Fie on Winter!”

Bluer Than Blue

Freshmen (Reid, Sam, Cori, Cody, and my #2 son) just want to have fun!

Monday night was our high school’s spring sports banquet. The Mister and I accompanied our #2 son, who was celebrating with the track team.

After all the accolades had been given, and the seniors had their say (have they met a microphone they don’t like?), I wanted to get some photos (natch) of #2 with some of his fellow freshmen. So we assembled Reid, Sam, Cori, Cody, and #2 for a photo op.

Sidebar: Check out the top photo. Did we not get the memo that everyone was supposed to wear blue? Sorry #2!

Oh, oh . . . #2 pulls “the move” on his good pal Cody!

Cori’s mom, Cindy (who was using her daughter’s Canon), and I had everyone in place when suddenly my #2 son pulled “the move” on Cody. I wasn’t familiar with this particular maneuver until a week or so ago when the #2 son demonstrated it on his older brother for me. Apparently, it’s a popular ploy while walking in the crowded high school halls.

#2 doesn't notice Sam’s subtle move.

Cody laughed it off, but Sam decided that the #2 son needed to be taught a lesson. Cori seems to sense something is up.

Sam causes #2 to move in closer.

Doesn’t Sam look sweet and innocent? Only upon close inspection can you see that he’s yanking #2’s chain shirt.

#2 is held captive!

It was all in good fun, of course. Or was Sam “subtly” letting my #2 son know that he was supposed to be wearing a blue shirt?!?

The 800-Meter Life Metaphor

The opening lap of the freshmen boys’ 800 meters last night: The #2 son is second to last.

Life is like an 800-meter race.

#2 and his teammate Eric still are behind the six other competitors during the first lap.

You can start off slowly but surely, with your legs hurting, feeling like a slug. Suddenly you find yourself falling behind the rabbits who were fast off the start. Your confidence might start to waver as you encounter opponents who seem better than you.

#2 catches up to the pack coming off the final curve of the race.

But then you get a burst of energy, and you remember that just two days ago you came from behind to achieve your goal. Can you do it again?

The three runners ahead of #2 will be behind him at the finish!

So you lift up the pace and start picking off those who are throwing roadblocks to your success in front of you. One by one by one.

Run, #2 son, run!

Until you reach the finish line and see that those who had started so much faster now are looking at your back! You weren’t the best today, but you gave it your all and didn’t give up. In the 2 minutes and 19 seconds that it took you to move from seventh (out of eighth) place to third, you learned a lot about life at 14 years old—that some may be faster and some may really test you, but if you try your best, success often will be waiting at the finish.

And remember that “success” doesn’t have to be a number or a place. It’s also that great feeling after a Herculean effort and ending up with a smile on your face.

Congratulations to my #2 son for finishing his first high school track season by running his best 800 meters at the district meet last night. Love that killer kick! Love the faith that you had in yourself that you would succeed. You are—and always will be—a winner!

One-Take Photographer and Pole Vaulter

Aren’t they cute? Jake and Ben T. at a Houston Astros game 12 years ago.

When Jake was in kindergarten, a new boy moved into our community and was placed in his class second semester. Tall and shy with piercing blue eyes, Ben T. (to distinguish him from Ben N., who just happens to be Jake’s roommate at college in the fall) became one of our favorites. He and Jake were close buddies until they started drifting apart after elementary school.

Sidebar: The above photo, snapped at a Beanie Baby giveaway at a Houston Astros game, was published in “Mary Beth’s Beanie World” magazine. Yep, I used to write about those cute, little stuffed animals. Hey, it helped pay for them!

Captain Ben talks to a lowly freshman (aka, C.J.) at Tuesday’s district track meet.

Ben always was a talented athlete, so it’s no surprise that this skinned-knee young pup has grown up to be a big dog on the high school track and field circuit. Specifically, in pole vault, where he’s one of the best in our area.

I’ve been wanting to get photos of Ben pole vaulting for the last couple years, but I never made it to any of our high school’s varsity track meets. Totally lame on my part. But this week when all our track teams (freshmen boys and junior varsity and varsity girls and boys) are competing together in the district meet, I finally got my chance to snap some shots.

I was psyched! I saw Ben at the meet and wished him good luck. Then he said the words that every sports photographer dreads hearing: “I’m probably only going to jump once.”

Say what?!? Only one chance to capture Ben in action? Unfortunately for me, Ben has been nursing an injury that he didn’t want to exacerbate. He passed on all the heights until there were only two other pole vaulters left in the competition at 12 feet 6 inches, knowing that the top three advance to regionals.

Ben contemplates his vault.

As Ben stood on the runway about to start his vault, I was hopeful for both of us—that Ben would clear the height, and that I would keep him in focus going over the bar. I had been practicing shooting the other pole vaulters and was having trouble not blurring them.

My patented technique of prefocusing on the bar? It didn’t work well with the more-experienced vaulters, because they’re able to bend the pole, and they’re further from the bar on their approach. So their faces aren’t in the same focal plane as the bar.

All I could do was hope for the best! Here’s how we did:

Ben approaches the bar.

Looks like he’s over!

Cleared it!

Success with one take . . . for both of us! Way to go, Ben! Good luck at regionals.

Radar Alert: High Flyers in the Area

My #2 son sails through the air during the long jump.

The true acrobats of the track and field circus are the long jumpers. They fly through the air often with the greatest of ease. Because of that, they’re great to photograph. You’ve just got to make sure no sand gets kicked up into your lens!

My #2 son has added the long jump to his field event roster. Since he’s there at the pits, might as well leap towards one end for the triple jump and the other for the long.

Jacob focuses on the sandy landing.

For this week’s subvarsity track meet, #2 was joined by a couple other freshmen long jumpers: Jacob . . .

Otis looks forward to the sand.

. . . and Otis. The trio had their own distinct styles of launching themselves towards the sand, with Jacob being the most successful. He won the event, while #2 finished second.

Marcus displays great hang time.

Meanwhile, the junior varsity jumpers also contributed to this airborne act. Marcus looked unflappable as he sailed toward the sand.

Christian skies during his long jump.

But as good as these long jumpers were, they were just a prelude to the JV’s top competitor, Christian. This big cat could really sky!

Prepare for landing!

Christian looked impressive while in the air and about to land in the sand. Talk about high flyers—he was like a jet to his teammates’ radio-controlled airplanes.

He was so high in the sky that he might have shown up on an airport’s radar system!

A Fowl Observation: The Discus Makes Me Chicken!

Cameron gets ready to throw.

Sometimes what we put down in writing can come back to bite us.

In this recent blog post about high school baseball, I arrogantly asserted that anyone who includes a fence in their pix obviously is a rank amateur photographer. Bogus pros like myself make fences invisible in photos by shooting through the chain links.

But all too soon I was eating my words at this past Tuesday’s subvarsity high school track meet. At almost every competition, the shot put and discus events are too far from the track for me to snap photos (this meet was an exception). Tuesday, though, the weights were being thrown just past the track’s fence in a grassy area.

Cameron launches a throw.

Because I hadn’t taken any photos of the discus throwers this season, I decided to concentrate my efforts there instead of the shot put. But when I walked over to the fence to check out the action, something made me stop and choose not to walk through the gate and out onto the grass: The discus itself.

As I watched the boys throw, I couldn’t help but notice that the heavy orb (second straight day I’ve used this word!) goes all over the field. I didn’t mind standing in front of the shot putters, because they don’t toss the metal ball that far. But discus? I’ve got to admit that I was scared I’d get hit. Or, even worse, that my beloved camera equipment would get smashed.

No, thank you!

Marshal concentrates on getting off his best throw.

So, chicken that I was, I stayed not only behind the protective netting in back of the throwers but also beyond the metal fence. Cluck, cluck, cluck!

Starting his spin move

Hoping I still could get good photos for my friend Paula C., I pointed my Nikon 70-200mm lens through the fence and started snapping away at her tall, freshman son, Marshal.

Continuing to spin

Hey, I may be chicken, but I don’t shy away from a challenge.

Time for the power move!

As long as I can stay out of harm’s way!

The discus sails off!

Despite the netting, I was pleased with my photos, and I hope Paula will be, too. I think I made chicken salad out of that poultry! Got the pix without being knocked unconscious!!

Next time I have to eat my words, I plan to make them out of chocolate.

Prefocusing to New (Pole Vault) Heights

Jackson prepares to hurtle himself over the bar.

Count me in among the fans of auto focusing. My 56-year-old eyes don’t see as well as they used to, so why not use my Nikon digital SLR’s automatic features to get better photos?

He lets go of the pole.

But there are times when prefocusing on an object is a better bet when it comes to action photography. Like pole vaulting.

Over the bar!

At the #2 son’s track meet last week, I found a perfect position to shoot the pole vaulters. Except that I had trouble keeping them in focus as they planted their poles and soared over the bar.

What goes up must come down!

So I manually focused on the bar with my Nikon 70-200mm lens and let the athletes jump into the f/2.8 focal plane. Success!

Dustin is almost ready to clear the bar.

Pole vaulting looks more like a vertical photo op due to the pole.


The vertical aspect does give more of a feeling of the heights the athletes cleared.

Michael is on his way to the bar. His eyes look closed, but they're really staring at the pole.

I prefer the horizontal perspective, though, because it makes it easier to see the pole vaulters’ faces.

About to clear the height

Unfortunately, sometimes those faces gets obscured by the pole . . .


. . . or the athlete’s hands.

At least Michael’s face is in focus . . . what you can see of it!