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Behind the Photo: GoPro Cox Tosses
July 24, 2020
Erik Dresser,

Vlahos toss into Rotsee

Cox tosses are like snowflakes at regattas. They are rarely seen and every one is different. They are one of my favorite things to photograph at regattas and I will typically drop whatever I am doing when the possibility of a cox toss is in the mix.

There are basically three types of cox toss shots. The first two are the easiest to get; from behind the toss and from the side. Given the option, I will choose to shoot from the side when possible and will only shoot from behind when I don't have time to get on the side or there isn't room. The third type is from in front of the crew and is trickier to pull off, as you need to be either on the water in a launch, or on an adjacent dock which is rarely an option. I like this shot best as you get a better view of the rower's faces and their reactions.

For several years I had wanted to try and get a shot from above and the only way I could visualize pulling it off was with a GoPro mounted on the end of a monopod. The main problem in pulling off this shot was getting the appropriate equipment out and rigged up typically took around five minutes and most cox tosses happen very quickly.

The opportunity presented itself at World Cup III in 2013 at the end of what could only be described as an epic day for USRowing. The men's eight edged out Germany for the gold medal so I knew there were two things that may make it possible. Since it was the last race I would have time to gear up the monopod and GoPro during the medal ceremony, and I had a pretty good working relationship with coxswain Zach Vlahos and the rowers already so I could communicate what I was doing with them ahead of time.

I set the GoPro up to take 30 shots over five seconds, hit the shutter, hoisted the monopod up with with my left hand, and pointed the dSLR at the toss with my right hand in case I botched the framing with the GoPro. As luck would have it, both shots turned out pretty well!

Snyder toss into Aiguebelette
Snyder toss into Aiguebelette

Then, in 2015 we did a variation on this shot at the World Championships in France. The USA W8+ had just won their 10th straight title. Instead of shooting from above, I wanted to hold the GoPro out low over the water so that coxswain Katelin Snyder would look like she was flying with the mountains in the background.

I found the crew once they rowed back to the boatyard, set up the GoPro for 30 shots over three seconds and told the rowers to, "emphasize height over distance." Ed Hewitt shot from the adjacent dock in case the GoPro failed and you can see the GoPro in the bottom left of this image. I also tried to follow Snyder with the camera underwater, but that definitely did not turn out.

Now, when we finally get back to covering regattas, how am I going to get a cox toss shot from a drone??

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