Fellow Roanoke Times photographer Jared Soares and I had some free time this past Saturday morning, and decided to photograph the 2009 Marine Mud Run, held at Green Hill Park in Salem. The annual run is a 5k footrace with the last 100 yards bringing competitors through a deep mud pit. We know that mud plus anything has a potential for great photos. We both approached this with the same intensity that we would if we were on a regular assignment for the newspaper. While editing, we showed each other our takes and noticed a few similarities in style and substance.
This is a good chance to talk about what a staff photojournalist at The Roanoke Times looks for when covering a daily assignment.
For all of the following images, Jared’s photos are on the left and my photos are on the right. You can click on them to view the photos in a larger size.
When we have an assignment for sports, we need a shot of the winner. This is the first place finisher crossing the last obstacle on his way to victory. Both of us were trying to isolate the moment. When the runner ducks under the last barrier, it gives the reader a storytelling image with very little distraction. It’s a pretty easy shot to get, but it is nice to have this shot in the bag. Then the work on filling out the story visually begins from this point.
Next, we started to look for emotion, which there was plenty of at the finish line. Jared called this event a “portfolio in the can.” There were lots of happy, emotional people who were not very aware of the camera. This makes for exceptional unguarded moments the viewer can really connect with. The race is not a hardcore running event. The happiness comes for most people from finishing the race. We think that most photojournalists would say that these types of human interaction imagery are more important than the action/finish picture. We like to connect with our subjects.
Jared and I ran into each other occasionally during the shoot, and these pictures are a result of being in the same vicinity. The person on the grass in Jared’s shot (left) is the same person in my picture. One scene, but two different ways of interpreting it. Jared’s shot is a layered, complex picture of the exhaustion at the finish line, and my picture is an unusual take on the same theme, shot from directly over the runner. I tend to take this type of photo frequently, and in this case it made for a nice storytelling image.
Tight face shots are a great way to illustrate that mud was the dominate theme for the day. We both decided to shoot this with our long lens, a 70-200mm 2.8. This long lens allows you to zoom in on the faces of the subject and shoot wide open. The background blurs, and the viewer is forced to look at the subject without distraction. When working with a photo package in mind, these photos are a simple and effective counterpoint to a more complex, layered photo.
This group of photos is an example of what photographers call “filling the frame.” In both of these pictures, there is practically nowhere for your eye to go; the layering from back to front, side to side makes for a beautiful image.
This next pairing demonstrates how a vantage point can change the feel of a picture. Jared’s picture (left) is effective because it puts you right in the middle of the shower. You can feel the mud being washed off the runners. I took a higher vantage point, and this created a moodier picture with the sunlight filtering though the water spray. Also, these picture serve as an “overall,” which in photo terms is a photo that shows not just a participant or two, but gives a larger view of the scene.
Finally, we look for an ending shot to round out our storytelling. These shots are generally detail shots which don’t have a subject predominately featured, but hint at a human element. In both of these shots the viewer is able to tell that it was a muddy, dirty, messy day.
There is no one proven method to covering and assignment. However, there are some similarities that photojournalists look for in terms of event coverage. Moment, light and composition are common themes in visual storytelling that any photographer can incorporate into their own work from a wedding to a child’s soccer game.
- Kyle and Jared