LOGIN/SIGN UP function is disabled for upgrade and maintenance. It will resume on 22/01/2022 10.30 AM SGT. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.
Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Triathletes in the Rain: 2 Techniques for Expressing Tension and Speed

In sports photography, capturing the tension of the moment is one of the keys to an impactful shot. Here are two techniques that made this particular shot work: see if you can apply them to the situations that you encounter! (Reported by: Shugo Takemi, Digital Camera Magazine) 

EOS-1D X Mark III/ EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/600 sec)/ ISO 2000/ WB: Auto


1. Angle your camera to capture facial expressions

To take this shot, I positioned myself so that I would be facing the triathletes head-on, and waited for them to approach. This was near the end of the biking leg and the heavy downpour had sapped the triathletes’ energy, and they were all looking downward.

Why shooting at eye-level wouldn’t work

The grim expression on the triathlete’s face was important for conveying the atmosphere of the race. If I had shot at eye level, their eyes would have been hidden by their helmets. To capture their eyes clearly, I lay flat on the ground, angling the camera so that I was looking up at them. (You won’t have to lie on the ground if your camera has a fully articulating Vari-angle LCD monitor.)

Tip: Support the tip of the lens barrel with your left hand

I was using a 400mm professional super telephoto lens, which allows me to capture the athletes from a safe distance away. The size and weight of this lens means that it is often used with a monopod to ensure better support, but here, I decided to shoot handheld. I supported the tip of the lens barrel with my left hand as I lowered the camera as close to the ground as I could.

Learn more about Canon’s popular 400mm super telephoto prime lenses here:
For EOS R system users: RF400mm f/2.8L IS USM
For DSLR users: EF400mm f/2.8L IS III USM


2. Focus on an athlete towards the back

In races such as this, it is tempting to focus on the athlete immediately in front of you. But that might not necessarily result in an impactful shot. Here’s what happened when I framed the shot to focus on the triathlete in front:

It looks less impactful, doesn’t it? That’s because all the extra white space makes the shot look sparse and takes away the tension.  

Compare this with the main image again:

In this shot, I put the focus on a triathlete further to the back so that the one in front turns into foreground bokeh. This reduces the empty space and gives the illusion that you are right in the middle of the action. The result is an enhanced sense of tension, excitement, and hence impact.

Tip: Framing the shot so that the triathlete in the foreground is so close-up that they seem to “burst” out of the frame helps as well!

For more tips and ideas for creating impactful sports photographs, check out these articles:
How to Make the Best of an Extreme Sports Shoot
Sports Photography: How to Emphasize Speed by Contrasting Stillness with Motion
3 Steps for Capturing Impressive Close-ups of Athletes in Action
How Do I Make Sports Photographs Look More Dynamic?
How to Use High-speed Continuous Shooting to Freeze Moments Skilfully


Receive the latest update on photography news, tips and tricks.

Be part of the SNAPSHOT Community.

Sign Up Now!

Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Shugo Takemi

Shugo Takemi

Born in 1985, Takemi graduated from the Department of Photography at Nihon University’s College of Art. After completing his studies he relocated to Vancouver in Canada where he worked for a local newspaper, MINKEI NEWS VANCOUVER. After returning to Japan, he was involved in photography activities in various genres. His work included photography for magazines, posters for sports events and programmes. He was also a photographer for the application committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Currently, he is active as a freelance photographer.