31 May, 2018

Footwork: Running and The Heel (part 1)

Foot. Shoe. Ground.

One of the defining characteristics of track and field is the extent to which the athletes stay in close contact with the ground. Even in the field events, the ability to jump or throw effectively relies first and foremost on your ability to use the ground to your advantage.

As a result, the way that an athlete uses their feet has an overwhelming impact on how well they can apply their whole body to the demands of any particular event. And those footwork patterns vary by event, and often, even by athlete within a single particular event.

Now, I'm definitely not an actual biomechanist, but after 2 decades of track and field, I've noticed at least a few patterns. So when I went down to L.A. to cover the Mt. SAC Relays, I tried to spend some time capturing how the footwork in each event conveys a sense of each event's specific characteristics.

28 April, 2018

Slow, Fast, and Slow Again (Moments In Between, part 6)

The morning before the race is a period of acceleration, but it can feel just the opposite. Many teams start off with some amount of anxiety — a thousand tiny tasks remain before the car is "perfect," and it can still feel tempting to try to knock them all out in the dwindling moments before the green flag waves.

But once the race is underway, the mere fact that the car is out on track, turning laps, and away from convenient access makes a lot of those small issues seem to disappear. You're going faster than you were before, but that sense of being overwhelmed with tasks is replaced by a focus on the more singular task at hand — drive smooth, get good track position, run quick pit stops, don't break anything. You light the rocket, and then you do your best to get out of the way and let that baby burn.

29 March, 2018

Momentum (Moments In Between, part 5)

In some ways, an endurance race is a lot like a rocket launch. You put a lot of energy into getting up to speed and getting good track position. During those more aggressive parts of the race, you might make mistakes and have to work even harder to make up for them. You have a plan and a strategy, and you do your best to stick to them.

By the time the sun comes up on Sunday morning, you're mostly coasting on momentum. Track position has already been pretty firmly established, and you're doing your best to just keep things on the straight and level. The race isn't over yet, by any stretch of the imagination. But even for teams that are still trying to make moves, their goal will generally still be to hit a pace that they can maintain through the checker.

10 March, 2018

Survive the Night (Moments In Between, part 4)

A good endurance race is more slow than fast. And in the dead of winter, it's also more darkness than light. One of the unique challenges of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is the amount time that's spent enduring the darkness.

Pit stops in the dark take longer. The growing fatigue of 6+ hours of racing combines with the reduced visibility to delay the most mundane of tasks, and the challenge is magnified for any extended diagnosis or repair. If a tool rolls out of sight, it's that much harder to find. Coordination between teammates becomes more difficult without the aid of hand signals and eye contact. And any dark corners in a cramped engine bay become that much darker and trickier to work in. So a repair that might be a quick fix during the day becomes a bit more of a slog at night.

15 February, 2018

The Waiting Game (Moments In Between, part 3)

There are so many ways to wait. And even when you're going hard, sometimes you're also waiting — for an opportunity… for a break… for something to go wrong…

There are so many ways to wait. They're each a little different, and in 25 hours of racing, you're liable to experience more than a few. That's just how endurance races go. Plus, aside from the times when you're in the driver's seat, an endurance race is a lot like a relay race: when you've got the baton, you can make things happen. But when you don't, you still have to wait for it to come back around.

30 January, 2018

Strategies for Photographing an Unfamiliar Sport

I recently shot a handball match for the first time. Despite spending 15–20 years of my life playing soccer, I haven't really spent much time photographing ball sports before. And regardless, the rules and gameplay of handball are sufficiently different from soccer that I didn't know what to expect. I had a lot to learn, and only the 1-hour duration of the match to find my balance and get some shots. Here's how I approached that challenge.

19 January, 2018

The Calm Before The Storm (Moments In Between, part 2)

There's a gap before almost every competition. After the madness of preparation and last-minute fixes, you pause, take a breath, and get ready to put that work to the test.

At the 25, there's a twist. Once the cars are all gridded up, the spectators are welcomed out onto the track to check out the cars and take pictures of (or with) the teams. It's chaos. But amidst that chaos, there is a calmness to the team's crew and drivers. But beneath that calmness, you can still sense an underlying tension and anxiety: The start is coming. Did we miss anything? Did we forget anything? There are still a few moments left to remedy any oversights.