More used to photographing on a hillside than a poolside, my recent shoot for Derventio eXcel, Derbyshire’s elite swimming squad, was definitely a challenge.

A bit different to my normal subjects

When shooting landscapes I’ve often waited three hours for just one shot, this job required considerably more than that. Switching camera settings for action shots then portraits, setting up lighting, continually drying off the camera, wiping condensation from the lens and lying on hard, wet tiles is a bit different to lying on soft grass and watching the sun come up! If you’ve ever photographed a wedding, it’s a bit like that, but with somebody throwing water over you.

The brief

The brief was to capture a typical training session plus take portraits of committee members. Having photographed a swimming gala last year I had some idea of what to expect. Fortunately there were fewer people at this training session than the gala, but they run to a tight schedule, so you have to make the most of every opportunity.

I did manage to get a few of the squad by themselves for some portrait shots in the pool. These are my favourites from an artistic point of view. Whilst I’m pleased with some of the action shots, the perfectionist in me is drawn to the clutter of bags and bottles in the background, but then again, it was a training session!

Sharp isn’t always good enough

Achieving a higher rate of sharp action shots will take more experience, even when you get into the swing of how the swimmers perform different strokes, the camera often still struggles to lock on quick enough. And when you do manage to take a sharp image, they’re often not as flattering as they could be. It’s no good just being sharp, the expression has to be good too. It’s probably the last thing on their minds when they’re gasping for air, how they look, but as a photographer it’s my job to capture people looking their best.

I’d love to take some images from under the water but having had a quick look at prices for underwater housings for my camera I think the £3,200 might be an obstacle! although I’m sure they can be hired too. Maybe next time.


Camera gear
Nikon D850
Lenses: Nikon 80-400mm, Nikon 70-200mm 2.8, Nikon 24.70 2.8
Lighting: Nissin flashguns, Nissin NAS system