Survived 2012 Seafair Weekend

I really enjoy shooting sports. The more experience I get, the better. So when fellow photographer, Sherwin Eng, asked if I’d like to volunteer to help shoot 2012 Seafair weekend, what was I going to say? I had heard about Seafair since I moved here in 1999, but had never attended. Going into the weekend, I had no clue what to expect; AT ALL. The most information I had was where to show up in the morning and at what time. Little did I know what was in store for me. Air shows, fast boats, and lots of people.

Thursday, I met up with Sherwin to pick up my credentials. While there, he gave me a quick tour of the pits and a brief overview of things to come. As we roamed the pits, I was amazed at the number of people that greeted Sherwin. As the tour progressed, it wasn’t just Sherwin being Mr. Popular, but it seemed that the whole crew working the event were one big family. Many hugs were shared with one another along with ‘long time no see’ handshakes. I admit to being envious to that type of comradery.

For the first day, Thursday, there wasn’t much for me to see. Everyone was preparing for the big weekend; including the Blue Angels. The Blue Angels had a practice session, so my only shooting for the day was of them.

Canon 1D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f6.3, 1/500, ISO 200

Canon 1D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f5.6, 1/1000, ISO 400

As the weekend rolled up, so did the heat. 85+ weather was forecasted and I knew it was going to be a challenge to stay hydrated. Grabbed lots of sunscreen and my large brimmed hat to help protect from the sun. The next big question, or dilemma, was what gear to bring and use. Leaving my gear in a secure location wasn’t really an option, so whatever I wanted to shoot with meant being carried around for the whole day. The weight and handling of all the possible gear can grow out of hand. Do I bring two bodies? I knew I wanted my 400mm 2.8, but what else? Where would I put all the gear and still have quick assess to change lenses? Do I need a flash? I struggled with this decision.

Weekend’s chosen gear list:
Body: 1D Mark III + extra battery
Body: 5D Mark III + extra battery
Flash: 580ex II
Lens: 24-105mm 4.0 IS
Lens: 400mm 2.8 IS
Lens: 70-200mm 2.8 IS
Support: Think Tank speed belt with 2 spyder holsters
Support: Think Tank shoulder harness (Saturday only)
Bag: Think Tank Streetwalker
Memory: 100+ gig memory cards
Filters: 2 polarizers

Saturday, I spent the first half of the day roaming the pits trying to get an idea of what was going on. Who were all these people and why were they all here? Boats and airplanes I guess. Guess I’ll take some photos. Second half of the day was spent in a small boat. This was the first time on a boat in a long time and had to get used to the rocking. No sea sickness thankfully, but trying to pan with subjects was a different issue. And wow was it an issue. Of all the photography events and opportunities I’ve ever had, shooting from a small boat has got to be THE MOST difficult shooting environments I’ve ever had experienced. Imagine trying to compose a moving subject in front of a significant background (like Mt. Rainier) while the boat rocked every which way possible. If any type of environment would make you a better panner, this has got to rank up there with the toughest. I overheard a few of the other photographers say they don’t even want to waste their time trying to shoot from a small boat. I now understand why.
Normally I don’t shoot sports with the Canon 5D Mark III, but with it’s new focusing system I wanted to give it a shot. Well having seen what it can do, I really want the 1DX now.
At the end of the day, we were treated to a home cooked meal provided by Sherwin and his wife. Thanks Sherwin and Janet!
At the end of Saturday, I was exhausted. Sun beat, dehydrated, and hungry by the time I got home. A quick shower, a snack, and I was out for the count.

Canon 1D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f4, 1/1250, ISO 100

Canon 5D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f4, 1/3200, ISO 200

Sunday promised to be even warmer and it was. I had a quick breakfast (2 Eggo waffles) with a promise of having our lunch provided. Once I arrived, a quick decision was made to jump on a boat to roam the lake for my racing photos. Ah crap, I didn’t bring any food with me. Plenty of water was provided, but when it came to food, you were on your own! Noon rolled around and so did my stomach. I was hungry, but the air show just started and we were stuck out on a barge for the duration. Luckily, Kevin, a fellow photographer, had some almonds he graciously shared. Well that stopped my stomach from grumbling, but I was still hungry. Guess I’ll keep shooting… After the air show (2:30ish), we jumped back into the boat and off to photograph some of the boaters. It was definitely different to see all the folks on the water, but somethings, like drinking and having fun, is just universal. The sun was out, lots of alcohol flowing, and plenty of skin showing. Who can blame them?
We floated around many of the folks. Some seemed weirded out to see a boat full of photographers. Some would just stare at us as we floated by. Others were more open to having their photos taken, especially after they saw the big ‘Media’ type on our vests. Perhaps all the police boats mingling around made them much more conservative about they were doing and possibly be photographed doing.
4pm rolls around and the last of the weekend’s racing begins. This meant staying on the lake till about 5:30. Yes, I was starving, sun beat, and dehydrated. I was done by 4pm and all I could think about was food. FOOD. Food.

Canon 1D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f8, 1/400, ISO 400

Canon 1D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f5.6, 1/800, ISO 200

Canon 1D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f4, 1/800, ISO 400

Canon 5D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f2.8, 1/1000, ISO 200

All in all, it was a great learning experience. Would I do this again? Absolutely! Knowing what I know now, I’ll be much better prepared for next year. But for me, one of the most important things about shooting this event, as a photographer, was the opportunity to work with other photographers. It isn’t often I get to shoot within a team and it’s a lot of fun doing so. Networking and talking shop is something I truly enjoy. I look forward to seeing everyone next year!

Canon 1D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f4, 1/1600, ISO 400

Canon 1D Mark III; 400mm f2.8 IS; f2.8, 1/4000, ISO 200

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