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Figure skaters

I snagged a press pass to a local figure skating competition in Pasadena last month. It was my first time shooting figure skaters actually competing -- the local club needed a few images -- and I was cursed/blessed by not having the slightest idea what I was doing. So I relied on my instincts, which said: the thing about figure skating is that the competitors are utterly alone out there and literally being judged. So go for a moment where they're doing their best, looking vulnerable, looking athletic, looking alone. 

I wasn't completely clueless. I did have the sense to rent a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8, which is suitably fast for a fast indoor sport. So that helped, coupled with the low-light abilities of my Nikon Df. 

For autofocus settings, I ended up going with the Nikon website's suggestions: AFC priority, Dynamic Area 9 points, focus tracking with lock-on set at 3. I had the camera on a monopod and would point the camera at the figure skater and depress the shutter halfway to lock-on focus and shoot, usually taking three frames at a time. I mostly shot in RAW (for more flexibility when processing) and used auto white balance. 

But there were other challenges: I was pretty much limited to standing in one spot where I didn't have to shoot through the glass that encircles the rink. The sport is fast -- far faster than it looks on television. Competitors are often not facing the camera. Getting good focus while zooming in and out was hard, especially when the skaters got close to me. 

With no pressure to produce for someone paying me, I had the freedom to try a lot of different things. Thus, the above pics. Some of my favorites, in fact, are probably photos that others would consider misses -- with the skaters so close that I could only get some of them in the frame. Some of my favorite shots above are ones in which you can't see a skater's skates, which I'm sure is a no-no for the pro shooters. 

Other shots above are more traditional. I also tried different types of processing -- some I processed in a straight forward way, others I converted to black-and-white or used Analog Efex Pro or VSCO presets to make them look like the kind of timeless vintage sports journalism images that I enjoy looking at the most.

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The above photos are ©Steve Hymon and may not be used elsewhere without my advanced written permission. All rights reserved.

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