Two weekends ago I got an assignment from Southcreek Global Media to shoot the 2010 Foster Grant Ironman Triathlon World Championships, held in Clearwater Beach, Florida (the image above is from the start of the race. As luck would have it, the athlete I focused in on wound up coming in third).

I had never shot any kind of Triathlon before (and honestly, I didn’t know that much about them), so I had to do a lot of research before the shoot to get an idea of what kind of coverage to provide. Even at that, it was a real learning experience, and now that I’ve got one under my belt, I already know all the things I’d do differently next time.

Above: The panning shot above was taken in Manual mode, at 1/50 of a second, so I could blur the background as I panned with the cyclist. Southcreek Global chose this shot, and the one at the top, for their “Hot Shots” gallery (it’s the first time any of my images were chosen to be in “Hot Shots,” so I was pretty psyched!).

The race started just minutes before dawn (at 6:45 am), as the first wave of 1,700+ athletes (including men’s and women’s pros) swam for 1.2 miles, bicycled 56 miles, and then ran a 13.1 mile half-marathon. The shot above was taken near the start of the cycling part of the event. The sun hadn’t been up for too long, so it was still a warm color, and I took a whole series of these slow panning shots directly into the sun.


(Above: This was one taken as the first of the men’s pros reached the beach. I shot this with my 200-400mm f/4 lens on a Nikon D3).

(Above: Here’s the first wave of men’s pros racing for the beach).

(Above: Once the swimmers hit the beach, they run through these showers to get the salty sea water off, but as they’re running through, most of them are already stripping off their wet suits, but even with all the swimming, cycling, and running, the race comes down to literally seconds, so every one counts. This shot was taken with a D700, using the new Nikon 28-300mm lens, out at 24mm. It worked out amazingly well for a daylight shoot like this).

The shot was taken outside the photographer’s area, so I had to fight my way through the crowd to get this shot. Sadly, it was the only one without the guy standing next to me’s arm in it, holding his cell phone out in front of us both, shooting video. And no—unfortunately I’m not allowed to clone his arm out when covering an event like this.

(Above: My brother Jeff was at the race with me—I stayed at his condo the night before which was right near the start point for the race, and since it started at 6:45 am, and I live an hour away, it worked out great. He’s the one that spotted this shot for me. While I was shooting the previous shot, after the runner’s had come through the shower, he was at the other end, and said I should check out the view from the other end because the sun was beaming through the water. I headed down there, got inside the photographer’s area, got down on my knees, and thanks to Jeff got the shot you see above).

(Above: Last year’s winner, Michael Raelert from Germany, was favored to win again this year, except for the fact that not one previous winner had ever repeated, but all the buzz was about him, so I wanted to make sure I got a number of photos of him just in case. As it turned out, he won, and that’s him above, and in the very last image of this post).

(Above: Another panning shot taken on the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge, and key part of the course, and one that connects downtown Clearwater with the beaches. This one’s taken a 1/60 of a second. The sun is fully up at this point so I’m having to shoot at f/22 to keep everything from being way overexposed and totally blowing out).

(Above: I got this shot of the runner getting splashed with Gatorade as he goes through a water station. The thing I like best about this shot, is the reflection of the downtown buildings in his sunglasses, but I also like the way at first you don’t notice the cup, and it looks like he’s got an invisible bottle of water).

(Above: I took a number of shots at the water station, positioned behind the runners heading into the sun, so the water they’re splashing to cool down would be back-lit. Plus, I thought it was cool that he was representing the U.S. Army).

(Above: Here’s Michael Raelert, the two-time race winner during the third and final leg, just minutes before his big win).

The Wrap Up
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect shooting an Ironman event like this, and while I didn’t go in knowing exactly what to shoot, exactly where to be and when, and how to expose for it all, I sure learned a lot this time, and know better what to do next time. I feel pretty lucky to get the shots that I did get (and that Southcreek not only picked those two for their Hot Shots gallery, but picked one for rotation on their home page all week).

Thanks to Kathy and the gang at Southcreek Global for having the confidence in me to send me out to shoot something totally new for me, and thanks to you guys for letting me share my first triathlon shoot with you here on the blog.