row2k Features
Behind The Photo: Long Exposures During Worlds Morning Practice
July 10, 2020
Ed Hewitt,

Although rowing has few 'big plays' - no diving catches, plays at the plate, massive dunks - it still offers many opportunities for incredibly beautiful and novel photographs. These might include water-level photos, overhead shots, big panoramas, drenched celebrations, and more.

That said, once you have done a couple hundred overhead photos at a regatta, even those photos get pretty samey, and we start looking to spice things up a bit.

Long exposures offer a different look and a fun technical challenge to rowing photographers, and this is why you see them now and then in the galleries of row2k and other photographers. We usually do these with a second photographer or maybe just a second camera so that the photos of the main action still get taken for the historical record. Or we might do some long exposures during the reps, quarterfinals, or semis of a big regatta where we have already taken photos of everyone.

One of the most visually interesting times at a major regatta, especially at the elite level, is the morning practice session. Crews usually launch pretty darn early so there is as much time between a morning row and their race time as possible (or maybe just to avoid the crowds), and the light can be superb as crews are launching and returning to the dock, tending to their boats, and rowing.

Subsequently the course fills up completely - which is not always the most pleasant experience for the athletes - and most folks have probably seen our photos from the end of the racecourse of 2000m meters of boats upon boats.

To spice these photos up, at the 2017 Worlds in Sarasota I set up a tripod on the closed-off walkway along N Cattlemen Rd, put a couple filters on, and took some very long exposure photos of the training session on Wednesday and Thursday morning.

I don't recall exactly what filters I used - the filter value does not show up in the EXIF - but the main photo above shows the following settings: 28 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 160.

When photographing rowing, after a while you can set your exposure almost by gut, sending a change in the light of a 1/3 stop or two as clouds come and go, and just spinning the dials without too much worry. Doing long exposures with filters is a bit of a different challenge, as you are completely out of your usual range of settings; it's a bit like the first time you do a 10k test - what the heck split do I row? And then you don't know if you went too hard or too easy until it is over - and in this case, the moment with the most crews in the lanes might be gone.

One thing to note with these photos; since they were taken near the finish line, the crews were often not moving very fast, but were slowing down and getting ready to turn. The photo below is a bit slower, at f/22 and 40 seconds.

As you push exposure times even further, anything that is moving starts to disappear; the photo below was shot at ISO 160, f/29, and 72 seconds.

While the exposures were happening, I was just sitting on a wall keeping an eye on the tripod, and coaches coming off the bike path were commenting throughout, wanting to know what I was doing just sitting around, 'hiding' beyond the finish line, to get to work, etc. A bit like watching 72 seconds of your crew racing, a 72-second exposure is hard work!

During these unprecendented times, row2k is working hard to keep rowing coming to you; please help us keeping it coming by supporting our work!


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07/10/2020  12:51:58 PM
Good job Ed!

07/10/2020  4:12:11 PM
Ha - tech details as requested, thanks for the nudge!

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