This last few days I’ve been given the opportunity to shoot the NCAA Division II swimming and diving championships for the NCAA and the Indiana Sports Corporation.  While I’ve shot swimming before, never at such a competitive level as the NCAA Championships.  For me it was mostly lighting folks swimming for advertising purposes (like as in retirement community).  I’ve always said that shooting pro or championship level athletes was the best because they were reliably predictable in some ways.  No you can’t predict who is going to win each and every time, but you can expect them to breathe the same way from heat to heat, dive the same way from heat to heat, and ect.  Having never shot such a high level of swimming and like this I was understandably nervous, but I feel like I did well (although I still have about 400gb of photos to edit through…).  I’ve already got some ideas for if I’m ever given such an opportunity again!


(Nikon D800, 1600ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@24mm, 1/250th@F5)

Part of the assignment is for signage, other parts are athletes, volunteers, and of course the swimming action.  My kit for the week included the following:

Nikon D4s Camera body

Nikon D4 Camera body

Nikon D800 Camera body

Nikon 14-24F2.8

Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2

Nikon 400mmF2.8VR2

Nikon TC20e3 Teleconverter….


(Nikon D4s, 6400ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR, 1/1000th@F2.8)

First off, let me say that you did read that correctly and that I DID in fact take my 2x teleconverter with me to the pool.  Also I had other stuff in my bag with me, but I didn’t use any of it in favor of just carrying it around to make myself more of a lead weight if I fell into the pool… Anyway, one of my photo heroes, Dave Black always says “Go big or go home” and I’m usually pretty determined to find something to shoot at 800mm while I’m there.  It took till the third day out of four, but I did finally shoot some stuff at 800mm.


Sofia Petrenko during her record setting 1:57.94 200m race.

(Nikon D4s, 25,600ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR with TC20eIII making 800mm.  1/1000th@F5.6) (yup, it’s sharp with a teleconverter at 25kISO!)

To be totally honest though a majority of the time my 2x was NOT on the camera as it’s not only super dark for the shutterspeed you need for swimming, but it’s really really right.  I’ll stick with the 400mm and 70-200mm combo any day.


(Nikon D4s, 6400ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR, 1/1000th@F2.8)

Diving was a particular challenge for a number of reasons.  Diving was as such difficult because a shutterspeed of 1/1000th wasn’t really enough in about half of the situations.  Mind you, was it enough to capture a lot of things? sure.  Was it enough for every dive and spin? no, not it was not.  I’ve always wanted a Nikon 200F2, but I’d never found a must have reason for one until now. The light was dark by the diving boards in the evening, and the backgrounds were terrible.  Either names or crowd.  I chose names as you can see below.  The angle I chose made shooting diving difficult because at this angle they not only move fast, but they also nove towards the camera confusing the autofocus a bit sometimes.  From directly on the side, they won’t move  to or from the camera, but from a background perspective it was bad news.

_ML41037(Nikon D4, 10,000ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@200mm.  1/2000th@F2.8)

The entire event was really cool.  By the Third day I had somewhat figured things out to where I knew what to look for, and where to be shooting from to get the shots that I wanted.  Even little things you wouldn’t think about like which ones of the athletes to watch for the best reactions to even the smallest of things.


(Nikon D800, 1600ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8@14mm. 1/125th@F4)


(Nikon D4, 6400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR@200mm. 1/1000th@F2.8)

After three days it also helped me become a little bit more bold on my choices for exposures.  While not all of them worked (in fact quite a few did not), some of them ended up being something a little different in a good way.


(Nikon D4s, 800ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR, 1/50th@F8)

Overall I really enjoyed the experience.  Thank you so much to the NCAA, to the Indiana Sports Corp and to Peter Bick to helped make it all possible.  As I mentiond before I’d never shot swimming and diving at such a competitive level, and I really enjoyed it!  It was a bit odd to me that I was the only one at the side of the pool with a 400mm lens until the very last day so maybe I was doing it wrong, but I was pleased with the results.  Just goes to show that everybody’s vision of photography is unique and you should follow your instincts to get that photo for the chance you might have one that others don’t.  Now as I mentioned before, it’s time to edit through all of them.  More Soon.


(Nikon D800, 500ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8@24mm, 1/15th@F10)