Mar 312012

The pole vault presents it own unique set of challenges to the sports photographer. Like the high jump, the athlete will be facing one side or the other when they go over the bar. You will get a butt shot or a face shot. As with most photography, if you cannot see the eyes the photo is probably not worth keeping.

If you are on the right correct side of the pit then you have a chance of getting a good photo. If you are on the wrong side of the pit then not much reason to even press the shutter button. The pole vaulter will usually pivot around the pole as he goes up. This means that if the athlete starts down the runway with the pole on his right shoulder, you want to be on the opposite side to capture the photo. I have found it near impossible to switch from one side to the other once an athlete has taken his place on the runway.

Lighting is just as important to a good photo. Although it is possible to pull details from a poorly exposed photo, it is much better to get the exposure correct in-camera. Problem is you are almost always shooting up into a lit sky. If you cannot get the sun behind your back to light your subject, you will probably just get silhouettes going over the bar. Even with the correct light you must be sure to expose to the right but not to blow out the highlights in the sky. You want to see the fluffy cloud and the blue sky, not a white blob on a grayish background.

One of my best spots for getting pictures is right at the front of the pit next to the helpers who set the bar after each athlete. Shooting almost straight up at the athlete makes even a low bar setting look impressive with clouds as the only background. I have a couple of those shots in this small collection.

Pole Vault

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