I've read that photojournalists are witnesses to history, but I disagree. We are all witnesses to history, I just get paid to photograph it as it happens.
This past week history was made in the field house of West Allis Central High School as Wauwatosa East's Hannah Weinberg-Kinsey cleared 5 feet 5 inches in the high jump event of her team's Greater Metro Conference track and field meet, breaking the old conference record of 5 feet 4 inches.
It was my second day in the Central field house after covering the boys GMC meet the day before and I was there to cover six schools, one of which was Tosa East.
Let me back up for a second and tell you my thoughts on covering track and field. I love to photograph track meets - period. There is just so much going on and so many different opportunities to make photos it's impossible to get bored, the access is great, and I don't have to worry about a sliced golf ball hitting me in the head.
That said, indoor track is a challenge from a technical point of view. The light, or lack there of, pushes my cameras ability to to both record the action and stop what ever motion there is to the stops. It's dark and people are moving fast, two things that never work together to make a good photo. 3200ASA f/2.8 at a 1/320th of a second dark. That's when the light is reflecting off faces, not the shadows.
To maximize my chances of making photos I tend to concentrate on the high jump and pole vault field events while covering indoor track. In the pole vault event the athletes are 9 feet closer to the lights and because of that I can raise my shutter speed to 1/500th of a second, thus upping my chances of stopping and motion. In the high jump event the competitors go over the bar with their faces facing right at the lights - lending me a hand as the light reflects off any exposed skin, again making my job easier.
Thus, after photographing a couple pole vaulters, I hung out at the high jump pit right next to the finish line for the running events. Depending on what was going on I had my choice of two photographs, running and or hurdles or the high jump.
I noticed Hannah soon after getting to my hangout at the finish line/high jump pit and wanted to photograph her because she went to school at one of the schools I was to cover at the meet. But every time I thought I'd get my chance, she would defer to the next higher bar height. As time went on and Hannah kept deferring to the next higher bar height and now I really wanted to photograph her. If you defer to a higher bar height you are ether good or stupid - and I was betting she was good.
When I made this photograph, I had no idea it was a record-breaking jump, just that I needed an athlete from East and that Hannah was good. That filled the bill for me at the time. It was only after her jump and talking with her coach did I learn of the record being broken. I already knew the photograph was sharp and now I had a shot worthy of the sports section cover that I was proud to put my name under.
Did luck play a part in my capturing Hannah's jump? You bet it did. There is just no way one person can be everywhere and know all that is happening at a track meet. Knowing what to look for and how to maximize what little light there is helped, but Lady Luck was with me for capturing Hannah's record-breaking jump.
See ya on the sidelines,