I photographed The British Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham Arena in February 2019. An excellent venue that allowed for some good photography positions both in-field and on the perimeter of the track - low down on the ground and high up in the grandstands. The arena was only about half full which meant that I could take up seats in the stands gaining many different vantage points.
The arena is well lit which makes you think that you should be able to get some high shutter speeds for relatively low ISO’s shooting at wide open f2.8, however, you quickly begin to understand that 1/1250th sec means that the ISO has to be cranked up to 3200. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow the new Canon 400mm f2.8 Mark III from Canon Professional Services for this event and it performed extremely well on the monopod. It is very lightweight for such a big lens and not being used to fixed focal length lenses I found it a bit limiting when the action got too close - a 300mm f2.8 may have been preferable, but these are the moments when the 70-200mm f2.8 zoom comes in to good effect - one of my favourite lenses.
Shot Put was first up and it was fortunate to see Sophie McKinna compete and win as she is a photographers dream with the emotion she puts in to her efforts - all sorts of facial contortions and interaction with the crowd as she throws her personal best. It was surprising how often I failed to get the ‘put’ in my shots as they hurl it from their hands at speed and different angles. Long jump was best done from the in-field as I had a photographers position at the end of the sand pit so I could get the athletes jumping in mid-air with arms and legs spread out for leverage. Camera’s do find it hard to maintain accurate focus on an object moving straight towards it, so you have to try a few different methods including not focusing until they are nearly up to the jump board.
The track events are relatively easy to photograph as you know exactly where the athletes will be positioned and you have plenty of time to work out composition and camera settings. There is a lot of flexibility of position choice, so you can sit aside from the finish line to get that final push or with the view down the winning strait - both are excellent positions for good photography. The organisers also brought the winning runners to the photographer positions so that celebrations with national flags could be captured - this is a chance to lower shutter speed and lower ISO to get better quality into the shots.
The 60m hurdle race can yield some dramatic pictures from the head on view at the end of the running strip - probably my favourite shots of the day.
Other events were pool vault and high jump both of which I chose to photograph mostly from higher up in the stands in order to get the floor as a more uniform background.
The biggest problem is that there is so much going on at the same time. You simply can’t cover everything so you just have to be selective and prioritise your events in the uncomfortable knowledge that you might be missing some key action at the other side of the arena.