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| p.1 #1 · World Champs galore at the Goya Windsurfing festival @ Waddell Creek, Santa Cruz, CA |
I went shooting my first windsurfing event last week-end, the American Windsurfing Tour Goya Windsurfing Festival at Waddell Creek, just North of Santa Cruz in California. The weather was just perfect: sunny, breezy (at least on Friday and Saturday) which made for a fantastic event.
The event was schedule to run 4 days, with the Thursday being a "demo" day (no competition). The last day (Sunday) the wind and swell where to weak and when I stopped by (around 1:00 PM) they weren't sure they were going to run at all. But I attended (and shot) both Friday and Saturday and on these two days the action ran pretty much non stop from noon to 6:00 PM.
It's was "free style" event where judges give points for style, tricks, jumps, etc... Riders going out in heats (4 riders per) with only the top two riders surviving to the next round. They had categories that ranged from Juniors, Amateurs, Women, Seniors, etc... to Pros. I think they had 4 or 5 world champions in the Pro category which made for some interesting action.
Not knowing what to expect (altho I was there with a good friend and former Pro windsurfer who gave me tips), the first day I showed up with way too much gear which I paired down to a single body (D3s), single lens (400mm F/2.8), a collection of TC's (1.4, 1.7 and 2.0), a polarized filter, tripod, gimball a few gigabytes of memory cards and lots of clothing the next day.
Best shooting was from the water's edge on the beach as the cliff where all the judges were gave a higher view point but was too far even with the 400mm with the 2.0 TC because most of the event was run at low tide (can't schedule around the tides unfortunately).
I ended shooting mostly with the 400 + 2.0 TC + polarizer, which despite the full sun, required a ISO of 800+ to keep a safe shutter speed due to the TC (-2 stops) and the polarizer (-1 to -1.5 stop).
Some of the challenges:
- Keeping track of the boards with the very narrow field of view of the 800mm stack. Better keep both eyes open to track where everyone is.
- The D3s had trouble getting focus from time to time due again to the TC + polarizer (due to the loss of light from both)..
- I shot in manual exposure, RAW, auto white balance (couldn't get my grey card in the middle of the swells to do a white balance), autofocus with a single point (center point), high speed burst mode. ISO ranged from 200 to 800 depending no the lens combo / polarizer use.
- Regarding focus, altho the sails are a pretty big target for focusing and the max aperture of 5.6 (with the 3.0 TC) affords a good depth of field, at the beginning I kept losing focus in a middle of a burst especially during the aerial maneuvers. The jumps and loops were indeed fast moving and the 400mm focus being no slouch, if I got off the target during a burst the focus would jump to infinity. I cured that by keeping a finger on one of the focus lock switch on the lens and hitting it when I had a focus lock and I was starting a burst for an aerial figure. After a little bit of practice my "keepers" rate was pretty good.
- 4 riders per heat was a little bit of a challenge at first to find the good action. After a while, I figured out what a given rider was likely to do based on his position, wind angle, wave angle, etc... From then on, a quick look to the field and I was able to find out where the likely next action was going to be and point my camera to it.
- The 400mm + 2.0TC + D3s body... that's big and long and a lot of area for the relentless wind to get a grab off, making it harder at time to keep everything stable (even with the tripod and gimball). Don't even think about using a monopod!
- That wind caused some vibration and with the 800mm focal length it doesn't take much vibration to ruin a picture, even at 1/2000 shutter speed.
- Some of the images are soft, and I can't figure out if it's the 400mm + TC combo or vibration (wind or other). I need to investigate.
- It was just cold! I spent 6 hours both days in full wind on the beach next to 50F water and it took me a few hours after I got home to finally warm up.
- the Pacific Ocean around Santa Cruz isn't the most colorful of places, even on a nice day like we had, not to mention that most of the time I had to shoot backlit. The polarizer helped cut the glare some. So post processing included pushing saturation, contrast, blacks to bring some color and pop in the images (the kind of stuff you'd see in a windsurfing magazine). Some might call it a little overprocessed, but it seems that's what people go for in this sport.
I got to meet Francisco Goya (founder / owner of Goya Windsurfing Equipment) and a bunch of cool guys (world champs and all).
In the end, I shoot 3500+ frames, and got some pretty good ones for a first windsurfing event.
My "best shots" gallery is at http://widgic.zenfolio.com/120504-b, below are some samples.
C&C welcome as usual.
More at: http://widgic.zenfolio.com/120504-b