David Ashdown's sports picture diary: The Great North Run

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The Independent Online

David Ashdown was in Newcastle for The Great North Run this weekend - where he received a reminder that local knowledge is essential in the world of sport photography.

I was up in Newcastle for the Great North Run this weekend, an event I hadn't been to before - and the lack of local knowledge caused me a fair few problems.

Without some form of landmark all I would get was a picture of people running that could have been taken anywhere. The other thing to decide was the best angle to take the picture from - should it be from the side on a very wide angle lens, or further down the street on a longer focal length lens.

After studying maps of the route the only location the race was shown to be taking place was where the runners go over the Tyne Bridge from Newcastle to Gateshead. I was unaware that the Red Arrows were going to have a fly past! Local knowledge is a wonderful thing, the trouble was I didn't have any!

I decided I was going to use a Nikon D3 with a 14mm F2.8 lens and go very close to the bridge. The weather was perfect; the sun was coming down the road at a right-angle to the bridge, highlighting the girders and making lots of lovely shadows. Photographers do love shadows - it can really lift a picture.

The mass of people started to come across the bridge and they come across for a long time - there are fifty thousand of them after all! This allowed me to try a few different types of picture, slow shutter speed at 1/50 second but this was far too slow. 1/160 second was about right - at that speed the closer the people got to me, the more their movement can be seen in the image. I also tried a fast shutter speed 1/1000 second - this froze the runners' legs and give a different feel to the picture.

The nature of this type of event is that you have a lot of time, so I ended up taking a considerable number of images. That was all OK until the Red Arrows came over! They came over twice - the first time was down the bridge - I completely missed that one! The second time they came across the bridge and I was able to capture them that time. But the best image was the first fly past as they came down the bridge.

It goes to show that if one is not in possession of all the facts, one is liable to make the wrong decision. Maybe I will buy a local paper to find out what's going on next time, but no two events are ever the same - that's what makes it fun sometimes!

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