(Photos by Nate Edwards) Nate Edwards is Photography Manager at BYU Photo. Nate’s photo “Steeplechase at 1/40th” was voted Best In Show in the June 2019 Monthly Image Competition. It was his third Best in Show winner of 2018-19.

Quick tech stuff—camera model, focal length, exposure data, lighting used (if any):

•Camera: Canon 1DX II

•Lens: Canon 70-200 f/2.8 II (shot at 170mm)

•Aperture: f/5

•Shutter: 1/40

•ISO 640

Briefly go through the process: How did the job land on your calendar? Any unique logistics in making the photo? What sort of post processing (or not)?

This photo was taken at the NCAA West prelims in Sacramento, CA. This particular runner, Erika Birk-Jarvis, won her heat and set the school record that evening in this race. I believe this was the 5th school record she had broken this season– all that after having a baby in December of 2017. This photo contributed to a really cool story, which makes this photo more valuable.

I had been to regionals in Sacramento two years prior and took some nice photos of the steeplechase from this angle so I wanted to do something similar this year, and try something different.

One of Nate's 2017 steeplechase photos

There may be good reason photographers are all grouped together, but if you are standing where they are standing, you will essentially get the same photo they are getting. If you find yourself alone when there is a crowd of photographers somewhere else, either you know something they don’t know, or they know something you don’t know. My philosophy is there is only one way to find out. I loved the rim light created by the stadium lights on this side of the track, but most of the other photographers were on the other side of the water jump or shooting straight on (where the lighting was boring!), so I was almost all alone where I was taking photos and was the only one to get this shot.

The nice thing about having a long race is you are able to get some safe shots, and then you can take time to take some high-risk shots that may– or may not– turn out. For the steeplechase you have 7 laps to get a good photo at the water jump (the race is 3000 meters, and each lap is 400 Meters.) Sometimes I move around and get different side angles and/or join the crowd of photographers shooting the water jump head on with my 400mm or 500mm, but this time I stayed put. I got my safe shots during the first 4 laps (f/4, 1/1250, ISO 6400) and then slowed my shutter down on the last 3 laps to pan with the runners (f/5, 1/40, ISO 640). I knew this shutter speed would give the motion blur effect I was wanting because I had tried it before and tested it out in prior races.

"Cover your butt and then strech," says Nate. He was sure to get a good crisp action shot (above) before attempting a panning shot (below).

Something else I like to do to help lower the risk of the “high-risk” photos, in addition to having a different angle or perspective, is using a remote camera. During this particular lap in the race only 2 of the 20 photos of Erica were in focus enough for me to be happy with… and on top of that, someone ran in front of the camera while I was taking the photos (you can see the legs pass in front of camera in the contact sheet below.) So just in case this photo didn't turn out, I still had a photo of the water jump I was sure would work.

Lucky for me, it did work out! ...this time. I loved how the movement of the water showed up with the slow shutter speed and was pretty excited when I saw this image from the back of my camera. This particular one was by far my favorite and I was lucky to have her face in focus. 

Nate's ACR settings

What (if anything) would you do differently if you could re-shoot this today?

If I could re-do this shot again, I would have moved over to my right about 6 feet or so to get a cleaner background. The guy standing back there with his arms folded and the long white line from the shade drives me crazy! It would have been a really simple change to do while I was there but I neglected to look at my background, not only over the water jump, but also past it as I panned with the runner.

This is something we stress as we teach our students here at BYU Photo, and here I am with some random boring guy folding his arms in the background and a big fat bright white line running through my photo! Oh well, next time you better believe I will not be making that mistake again!

Where do you look for inspiration, feedback and motivation?

What would your dream assignment be? 

Read Nate's reply to both of these questions (and why you'll never hear him gripe about shooting dinners!) in the October 2018 MIC Q&A


“I’m terrified of elevators…I’m taking steps to avoid them.” This is the final scheduled blog article for the 2018-19 academic year. You have 2 months to send critiques, stories, ideas, or jokes. Email editor Matt Cashore at mcashore@nd.edu Type at you all again in September!