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Behind the Photo: Sarasota Sunrise
August 21, 2020
Erik Dresser,

row2k photo

The 2017 World Rowing Championships were hosted at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL, a venue which has proved to be pretty good for rowing photography. One of my favorite images from the event is this sunrise shot of the New Zealand Men's eight from the far side of the lake. The process of making this photo was a bit weird and mostly hinged on luck.

For most world championships, row2k stays in the 'media' hotel in town and relies on the regatta shuttle for getting to and from the course. (It's not always the case; in Amsterdam we rented bikes for the duration of the regatta, in Lucerne you walk, in Aiguebelette, where we worked at the course until after midnight most nights, a car was critical.) This is usually pretty convenient, but makes getting to the course for sunrise difficult to impossible. In 2017, however, we opted for renting an AirBNB house a few blocks west of the course. This proved crucial the week of the regatta for getting to the course for first light.

There was a problem upon getting to the course early the first few days of the regatta, however. The extreme Florida humidity would cause all our camera gear to immediately fog up, which makes taking clear photos pretty difficult. The problem occurs when the camera gear spends the night in the air conditioned house. The temperature of the glass elements in the lenses would be relatively dry and pretty cold, and taking your gear out into the warm humid air immediately causes sometimes heavy condensation on the glass. This is why you sometimes see heaps of camera equipment outside air-conditioned media rooms.

Being from the the Pacific Northwest, I wasn't sure how to handle the humidity, so for the first couple days I would just take everything out of my bag once I got to the course, and after about 30 minutes of sitting in the warm air, the lens temperature would warm up enough to to stop fogging. Not a huge deal, just meant I would need to get there extra early!

After a couple days we came up with a better solution, to leave all our gear in the non-air conditioned sun porch overnight at the house. Perfect! In the morning the gear was the same ambient temperature as it was outdoors, and the equipment did not need to acclimatize at all. We were careful not to take the gear through the air-conditioned house as we left for the course, and our camera gear was more or less outside for the rest of the week.

The idea paid off the next morning. I was a little late getting to the course, which included biking through a golf course and bushwhacking through a field of knee high wet grass. The 'trail' spit me out at about the 1k mark of the course, and right when I got there I saw the sun just about to clear the far tree line, with a few crews heading out for a training row.

I quickly dropped the bike, opened the bag, pulled out the 500mm and got this shot of the Kiwi men rowing all eight. Had we not put our gear on the sun porch the previous night, the lens would have immediately fogged up and would have missed the shot!

Tech details:
-Canon EOS-1Dx Mark II
-500mm f/4.0L
-1/640 sec
-ISO 400

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