Who’s in Second?

In shooting events like races, like this past weekend‘s Lifetime Fitness Triathalon, there‘s a tendency for most photographers to want to shoot the leader. I know I do. Why not? The one who is winning the race tend to epitomize sport in that they represent the pinnacle, stand for dedication and will.

And let‘s be real. Winners of sport tend to have well tuned, well proportioned and attractive bodies.

In most cases, I‘m still not shooting as a credentialed photographer. That means when shooting race events, I‘ve got to seek a location to shoot that‘s not at the start or finish line. I‘ve got to be creative and shoot from somewhere that offers that unique point of view. Finding those locations takes some pre-scouting and preparation. Once positioned, it‘s all about testing the camera settings, shooting test shots, revising angles for background and lighting. When sitting in a ditch, I‘ve had to relocate to not become lunch for an anthill. In the snowbank, I‘ve carved out a comfy cove. Often these locations are relatively remote and downright peaceful. That means when the subject finally does approach, I actually feel my heart beat quickens a bit from the anticipation of the ensuing shot.

Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.

Leader come. Leader go. Chimp. I review what I shot. If I‘m lucky, there‘s a keeper in there. Hopefully I‘ve captured the one who‘s in first. If I‘ve very lucky, that‘s the same one who finishes first.

The racers who follow offer great opportunities to shoot, starting with the strongest contenders. Might they end up in first time will only tell. They are distinctive in their like coordination of apparel, equipment, form and intense focus on their thin ribbon to the finish.

At some point though, there‘s a pivot. Replacing the focused stare of the highest performers come what I‘d call the “joyful meanders.” These are the competitors who‘s higher numbers flap in the wind on their loose fitted, non-team or logo sponsored attire. They accept the fact that those who finish among the first in the race event are probably putting in post-race cool down paces hours before they will see the finish line. They are competing, but mostly with themselves. To finish or to reach a personal best time.

I often find myself compelled to photograph these many “second place“ competitors. They smile and they struggle. I‘m compelled to keep photographing them as they approach one-by-one, almost in a way that spectators cheer, knowing the next one that follows could use the acknowledgment more than the one before.

So here‘s to all who don‘t come in first. They‘re all in second. They‘re all winners.

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