I was invited to shoot photos at the IWC Women’s Synchronized Swimming
and 9th Annual Water Show and Auction this past weekend. I was surprised at how fun it was to watch. I’d never been to an event like this before and did not really know what to expect. Initially we considered shooting and printing on site but I’m glad we decided against it since it turned out to be very hectic.
Synchronized swimming is almost a sub-culture in itself. These athletes are dedicated to ballet in the water. Everything gets so refined by competition and training to the extreme. I learned a lot in a few short hours… jello in the hair, goggles, waterproof theatrical makeup with bright colored eye shadow and lipstick, caps and nose clips tucked everywhere and littered about the facility as they apparently are lost easily. They change suits frequently and some suits are reversible. I noticed a couple of the teams just added suits on top of suits. The color and designs are amazing – spectacular in some cases… works of art in themselves. While editing the pictures I found myself trying to imitate the open smile the swimmers have while performing. It must be something they train to do because it certainly doesn’t feel natural and they need to be able to breathe while maintaining an exaggerated expression of enthusiasm. It really is infectious. I caught myself smiling a lot while editing and it could only be by their influence. Look closely at the gallery and you’ll probably catch yourself doing the same. In one part of the show the men’s swimming team joined in a routine and their antics and attempts at synchronization were a hit with the audience.
The natatorium was quite large (25 meters by 25 meters of water surface) and very crowded due to limited seating. It was more for training than for exposition. There were some bleachers along one side and the rest of the space not used for water access/egress was filled with rows of chairs. I found GFI electrical outlets in the corners. I brought a couple of Elinchrom 600RX strobes and triggered them with Elinchrom Skyport wireless transmitters and receivers. I started with 2 strobes on one side supplemented by on camera flash but then added a third to the left of my position. Between shows I added a fourth light so I was then able to get equal lighting from any shooting position around the pool. I was using my taller Manfrotto c-stands (Avenger Black Turtle Base Century C Stand with Grip Arm Kit) which put the strobe heads about 16 feet off the water. I like to put two 25 pound sand bags on these stands when they fully extended. It was helpful to get the heads as high as possible to minimize lens flair when shooting toward and under the strobe positions. This high positioning of the strobe heads also made it a little less painful for the audience when the strobes fired though I’m sure the bounce off the water might catch a few eyes.
I started out shooting the first show from the 3 meter diving platform at one end of the pool. It worked well for most shots but it seemed a greater percentage of the time the swimmers were facing away or toward the bleachers. I shot from the opposite end during the second show which gave the benefit of a nice team shot as they prepared to enter the pool. The low angle when they were swimming, however, did not offer as much subject to fill as great a portion of the frame. I shot some from water level a few times but a standing position offered a better angle at further distances.
Here are some shots I collected that are particularly representative of the activities…
You can see the full gallery of images here: