I was already familiar with the event as I had a few friends that competed in the first portion which took place that Saturday. Sunday morning was the real deal race that featured the professional triathletes. Even though it wasn’t required that I be down in Galveston for the beginning of the race (7am, sharp) I decided to set my alarm for 5am and make the 45 minute or so trek down to the island for the race’s kick-off. Operating on about 3 hours of total sleep, I woke up before the sun and was surprised to be parked, geared up and in position well before the first wave of athletes took to the water.
You can never be too early to events of this scale and this distance away. Football, baseball, soccer and other events where the field of play is pre-determined are a lot easier to cover than large-scale events where the location is unknown to the photographer until they arrive. Although I know Galveston Island and Moody Gardens like the back of my hand, I had no idea where the course was laid out, so for posterity, I gave myself plenty of time to account for traffic, road closures, and scouting. There is nothing worse than speeding to an event, rushing to the starting gate and having the race start before you have had any time to gear up, scout the best shooting positions, draw up a plan of attack (critical for long and sprawling events such as a triathlon) and most importantly, breathe.
Thankfully, this was not my first time to cover a triathlon. Back in the fall of 2008 I covered another triathlon in Columbia, Maryland, so I knew a bit about what to expect, but due to the nature of the events, unpredictability is a factor.
One of the main reasons for making the sacrifice of sleep and being there at the start is the light. Very few events kick off at 7am, when the sun is just coming up and the light is beautiful, so taking advantage of the circumstances was a must in this situation. I could have slept in and made “good enough” images at the tail end of the event at around 10:30am or so, but I would have missed the wonderful light of the early morning.
I set myself up to shoot a few different views of the athletes during the initial swimming portion which are illustrated by the images in the slide show below. After the swimming event, I knew I would have a good chunk of time while the athletes completed the cycling portion. The 56 mile cycling course weaved down to Seawall Blvd and down the West End. Having not only a good handle on the pacing of the event, but a good handle on the area (I was born on Galveston Island) I quickly hopped in my car and drove down Seawall Blvd. I made a few images of the riders with the clean backdrop of the Seawall and headed back to the main event. During my down time I made a few interesting images of things like the portable bathroom units, including a few medium format film images that I blogged about in a previous blog post called “Seeing Squares”. Since the final running portion of the event was fairly self contained within the Moody Gardens facility, the backgrounds were kind of drab, but I managed a few interesting frames.
In all I had a great time covering the event. I was a bit sleep deprived by the time I finally made it off the island (about noon) but my day didn’t end there as I had another assignment to complete before calling it and heading home to recover. Some of the images that I dig which are in the slide show below.
Please remember that the slide show images are not a tightly edited essay, but rather a loose grouping of edited favorites from the event.