Kansas City Triathlon 2018

Last weekend I photographed my very first triathlon!

Before I dive in, let me give you a little background information.

While I had been interested in photogrpahy as a hobby for many years, my friend John convinced me to start doing professional work as a race course photographer. After my first even back in October 2016, I was hooked! Since then, I have branched out into other types of photography, but course photography still comprises the bulk of my professional work.

So what exactly is course photography? It's pretty straightforward: during a race (5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, etc.), I am assigned a particular location, and I take photos of the participants as they pass me. Sounds pretty sipmle, right? Well, in principle, it is very simple! However, once you start getting more and more participants, densely packed into a small area, with rapidly changing light conditions, things start getting quite frantic at times. It requires a lot of concentration, and I usually leave the events rather exhausted. But I absolutely love it! As a former runner myself, I wish I had good photos of some of the races that I ran. Now, I get to provide those to hundreds of people every event!

In addition to taking photos of participants, I occasionally shoot promo as well. Promo shots are more creative photos that are used by the race organizers for advertising future events. I've only just started shooting promo this year, and I've enjoyed the chance to be more creative in my photography.

Now that you have some background, back to this weekend!

As I said at the top of this post, this was my first time photographing a triathlon! I got up early this past Saturday morning, headed out to Longview Lake, and got my gear ready to shoot. The race starts with the swim, so to start the morning, I shot some promo of the triathletes getting ready for the swim.

I started out on the shore, mostly focusing on participants gearing up for the swim. However, after getting a few shots, I wanted to focus on people in the water. Because of the angle of the sun, there was really no way to do so from the shore. With that realization, I put away my second camera, kicked off my shoes, and waded out into the water.

I'll admit, I was a bit nervous to take my best digital photography gear pretty far out into the lake with absolutely no protection. However, I had a (possibly crazy?) fellow photographer who constantly brings his gear into far more perilous situations, and it usually doesn't come out too worse for wear.

Ultimately, taking the plunge was well worth it. My camera barely got a drop of water on it, but I got some (in my opinion) spectacular shots that you would simply be unable to get form the shore, or even a boat. I was able to get a few promo shots from the water before the event started, but very quickly, the first heat of swimmers was charging into the water.

I continued to shoot the first few waves of swimmers, though only for promo purposes. It just isn't practical to shoot every swimmer, and it is extremely difficult to identify a particular person with everyone wearing wetsuits, swim caps, and goggles. It was a surprisingly hot day for May, and the water was still very cool, so I was more than happy to stay in the lake as long as I could. I very quickly refined my technique for photographing the swimmers and was quite pleased with how my images were turning out, especially considering that I had never photographed swimmers before. However, all too soon, the elite swimmers were running up the beach toward their bikes, and I had to follow.


Once I got my shoes back on and my second camera powered on, I dashed over to the exit of the transition area to photograph the cyclists as they headed out into the streets of Kansas City. Even though this was my first time shooting a cycling event, shooting course photos of cyclists doesn't feel too different than those for runners. They are just moving much faster!

It was fun watching the triathletes make the transition. As the elite racers went by, most of them were still barefoot as they started their ride. They didn't get their shoes on until after they hit full speed on their bikes!

I had been shooting course photos of the cyclists for close to an hour when some of the elite participants were just finishing their rides. Due to the route of the course, they finished at the same place they began their ride. This meant that as long as I was paying attention, I could continue shooting participants leaving the transition area and then quickly turn around and photograph the frontrunners as they sped back into the transition area.

Soon after this, I made my way to the finish line of the whole race. This would be my final location of the day. Here, I would photograph the triathletes as they finished their run, completing the triathlon. For the first time all day, I was back to doing what I know well. That being said, this was one of the more exciting runs to photograph!


In my position right behind the finish line, I was able to capture people in the final moments before they finished the race. Nearly everyone got an extra burst of energy, either to give an extra burst of speed toward the finish, or to smile and celebrate their accomplishment. Not only is it fun to see people celebrating, but it makes me feel very happy to provide so many people great photos of them excitedly running. (Nothing is worse than giving someone a photo where look utterly exhausted!)


Overall, it was a great morning! I felt very accomplished getting my first triathlon under my belt, and I am excited to shoot another! In particular, I love that I get to take a variety of different shots as the participants progress through each stage of the race, rather than being limited to one shot for the entire event.

Thank you for sticking with my long post, and I hope that you enjoyed hearing more about the triathlon from my perspective!