UPAA Blog 2021-22 #14 - 3/10/22 (photos and text by Steven Bridges)
Steven Bridges is the staff photographer in The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Office of Communications and Marketing. He is a 2-time (and current) UPAA Mark A. Philbrick Photographer of the Year. His Sports Action category photo "And breathe" was voted Best in Show in the February 2022 Monthly Image Competition. Steven also won Best in Show in the September MIC. The MIC Q&A is a monthly feature on the UPAA blog to learn more about the thought and craft behind the UPAA's contest-winning images.
1. Quick tech stuff—camera model, focal length, exposure data, lighting used (if any):
•400 2.8 II
•1/1000 f2.8, ISO 5000
2. How did this shoot land on your calendar? Did you have a plan/vision prior to the shoot?
Once again, this was a self-assignment. Earlier in the month, I made a group photo for my co-worker's youth swim team that practices at UT. While setting up for the photo I got an idea: I could use a wide angle lens to photograph the UT swim team from the catwalk during practice. I thought the mixture of lane lines and all the different body parts splashing in the water could make a cool photo.
Luckily, I have another co-worker who is also a former member of our swim team, and she connected me with their team photographer to make this shoot happen. In the end, I did not want to bother the number of people it would take to get approval for the catwalk access so I decided to go ahead and photograph the practice with regular access. I knew the photos would be good stock images, not only for our website but possibly for our current campaign “It takes a Volunteer.”
"It Takes A Volunteer" campaign signs
3. Any unique logistics in making the photo? What sort of post processing (or not)?
Unique logistics? I might have laid down next to the pool while taking the photo. I do not remember, but it is a safe bet.
Precedent, uhhhhh...strongly suggests...that Steven was lying on the pool deck to make the winning image.
My toning was pretty straightforward. My postproduction was simple, get the colors corrected, a little dodging and burning along with a crop.
4. Did your vision before you made the photo come through in the final product? What (if anything) would you do differently if you could re-shoot this today?
This image was never a part of my original vision. First was the overhead shot that I never even attempted. My second vision was to photograph divers with a slow shutter speed. I thought this concept would be a good way to get clean images in the busy environment of an indoor pool. Plus, it was something I’ve never shot before.
For my third vision, I wanted a swimmer wearing a Power T cap performing the breaststroke just before breaking the water. Unfortunately, the swimmers kept alternating strokes as they practiced. As soon as I would set up for an angle, they would change strokes. I quickly decided to take what was given to me. I got in rhythm with a couple of swimmers during their freestyle strokes, shot a couple of passes, and moved on.
Once I canned the catwalk idea, I decided to only bring long glass. Looking back, I would have brought my wide-angle lens and shot from the catwalk. The catwalk permissions would not have been hard to get. The staff was super friendly and helpful, but I really hate bothering people. Also, I saw a few other opportunities to make images with a wide-angle lens, but is hard to shoot it if you don’t bring it. I guess now I have a backlog of shots to go back and hunt for on a slow day.
See if you can spot Steven's other contest winner in this contact sheet...
5. What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Motivation has been tough this past year. Previously, the MIC has been a huge motivation for me, but not as much this year. I do enjoy the in-depth talks with my co-workers about the mood, tone and direction of my work and other photographers. I get more of an art school perspective to what I am doing vs the photojournalist approach I grew up with as a young photographer. Overall, I enjoy doing work that pleases my department.
His department should be pleased! All four of Steven's entries placed in the February MIC.
"What word looks the same backward and upside-down? 'SWIMS'" Thanks for reading the blog. If you have an article, article idea or simply a better joke to contribute to the blog, email editor Matt Cashore, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow UPAA on Instagram!