Pole Vault Photographs

My daughter transitioned from gymnastics in high school to pole vault in college. I worked a few T/F events for TV but knew little about the sport other than the obvious. Photographing any sporting event is an exciting challenge. Add to that my daughter’s involvement & I was motivated to explore PV with my camera. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a parent is when your children inspire you.


I was fortunate enough to visit my daughter during practice. Even though the gym was not visually inspiring, I got a feel for perspectives & positions. A friend/teammate of hers competed in the ’10 D3 Outdoor Nationals at Baldwin Wallace so we went to watch. The PV pit had a hill to the south so spectators & photographers were near the height of the bar. Afternoon sun was back left & theBG was a stand of pines. Even though this was my first attempt at photographing PV, I realized this position for capturing action around the bar was about as perfect as possible. Sometimes life is like that. The truth of Ansel Adams simple quote “A good photograph is knowing where to stand” was never more accurate.

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Athletes compete to win but in individual events a competitor getting a new personal best is considered a victory. As a photographer my goal is to document athletes & the sport not to capture the winning moment. In the previous shot it can be assumed that the bar was cleared because of her position at the apogee of her vault. In this shot the alignment of the body is still in assent and at a nice diagonal of the frame. Her success is unknown. I especially like the ponytail.

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Each sport has particular moments for compelling shots. In PV I broke it down to 8 components. The concentration at the start, running down the track, planting the pole, take off, assent to the bar, clearing…or not, the fall & reaction are where I try to capture the athletes. This shot is of Jan Shur at SUNY Fredonia moments before she exploded into her approach. At the time of this photo she was the world record holder. While elite athletes provide inspiring physical actions, I find their concentration & reactions to be the images my eyes linger on.

Oh how I wish I took this shot of my daughter. This is the moment right after the plant & the beginning of take off. Most critical to this picture is the position of where her coach/photographer, Patrick Barragan, was standing. I am sure his knowledge of the sport was also an asset. The original shot was wider. I cropped it to emphasize the transfer of the power of the athlete to the pole. THANKS Patrick!

Two frustrating elements of indoor PV are zero control over light (higher ISO/more grain) and cluttered backgrounds/foregrounds. Although I always try to position myself where I can get the best perspective, I sometimes will find a place where the back/foreground provides a pleasing aspect or, in the worst case, the least offensive. In this shot the American Flag, always a compelling element, created a terrific background even though the stripes are not plum to the PV bar.
This shot was taken on the descent. I will leave it up to your eyes to decide if the reaction is of success or failure. Speaking of failure…PV & High Jump are 2 sporting events that almost always end in failure. After an athlete “wins” the event they have the opportunity to continue for an attempt at new personal best or event/track/national or world record. Only when they fail to make the height in 3 consecutive vaults is the event final.

Urban Photography

I enjoy street photography but the bigger picture of URBAN photography is outside my comfort zone. However, since my career involved a significant amount of travel to NFL cities I attempted to keep an open mind/eye. When I wandered I occasionally found a few results I was pleased with. The “Cliché” shots in many places, Pittsburgh included, aren’t what I look for. Occasionally I try my perspective at a “Scenic Icon” or I just can’t pass the opportunity. In my travels I complained all I saw traveling were airports, hotels & the loading docks where I worked. I can’t complain about my career. However, if I had it to do over I would take more time to wander.

CVG 082I’ll get the Cliché shots out of the way first. River towns, no matter the size, have a unique perspective of balance with the natural world that landlocked cities can’t offer. The historic Roebling Bridge & the barge offer a foreground helping to define the city of Cincinnati.
ORDAlthough this particular image isn’t a signature shot of ORD, if you go to DT Chicago you should go to Cloud Gate aka The Bean. This selfie/fun-house-mirror shot took me about 15 snaps. At first I tried time the reflections of people in the frame. I soon realized shadows of were also a dynamic component.
DET 52nd Floor 083Normally I wouldn’t consider fireworks a worthy subject. However, when you are on the 52nd story and the display is just outside your window at eye level or below you reach for the camera. The Detroit River provides a backdrop for the fireworks & a foreground for Windsor. Sometimes…life is like that.

DFW 080Over the last 20 years of my CBS/NFL career I worked a lot of games in DFW & spent many a Thanksgiving  with the best crews anybody could ever dream of working with. This view was returning from Cowboy Stadium & one I had seen dozens of times. One particular ride to the hotel, when the sun was bright with a big blue Texas sky I realized this could be a nice shot. However, after a couple of attempts, I found the overcast sky was a better backdrop for the ribbons of concrete & steel.

ATL 081The 1st Ferris Wheel was in 1893 at the Colombian Exposition built by a man/business from PIT. Now they are urban “Trendy” aka cliché. I look at this geometric machine in relation to its environment. After a 360 walk-around of this wheel in ATL I came up with a diverse assortment of relationships.

I didn’t see the “Wheel of Light” at the 15 PIT Regatta but imagine it could have been a nice temporary addition to our World Class Vista. Surprisingly, a quick Google did not produce any images of Mr. Ferris namesake invention in Pittsburgh. I did however stumble upon a photograph of a prototype of the wheel in Pittsburgh taken in 1885. It was on display at the Photographic History Museum on the North Side just a few doors away from Bernie’s. It is well worth your time to visit if you have any interest in how photography has evolved.
Birmingham UK 076The next 3 images are from across the pond in the UK…Birmingham, Liverpool & London. Although I was surprised when I found canals in Birmingham I shouldn’t have been. The British were leaders in the Industrial Revolution & of course their seafaring skills in which Britannia ruled the waves. It makes sense water transportation would be a part of any major urban area.

Liverpool UK 077I expected docks of Liverpool to be a worthy subject because of its historic nature combined with a recent transformation. I didn’t expect my favorite shot to be of a newer building with a corner like a prow of a ship. I’m sure the “photo bomb” by the seagull influenced my attraction to this image. Anyone watching from lifeboats would have seen the name of this port as the stern of the Titanic sank below the surface of the cold Atlantic. Although not built there, White Star Line, was headquartered in Liverpool & the woeful ship was registered there.
Canary Warf London 079The evolution of Canary Wharf on the Thames from one of the world’s busiest ports in the early 1800’s to an international finance center in the 21st century speaks volumes as to the roles of commerce, capital & location. The blue-collar longshoremen with their hooks scampering around the docks have been replaced with pin stripped business people with laptops.
STL 085This shot I stumbled upon searching for a store in South STL to buy work gloves. No matter where you travel in this wonderful country you can find a barbershop. I’m not sure if the price is accurate, but I do believe if I walked in with a full head of my wild hair the barber would re-negotiate before starting to clip my coiffure.

If anybody has made it this far, please tell me if 9 images are too many on a single blog.