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Image by kind permission of KecMec

Gymnastics is another of the sports that generally present a photographer with the challenges of limited light, fast-moving subjects and limited camera positions. Since events take place in large indoor locations illuminated by a variety of lights, a photographer is inevitably restricted to wide apertures and high ISO settings in order to achieve sufficiently fast shutter speeds. In most cases it necessary to use an ISO setting in the 2,000 - 6,400 range to make possible a shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec. The speed chosen obviously depends upon the type of shot planned and the speed and direction of the movement involved. A somersaulting beam worker can be frozen only with a very fast shutter speed such as 1/2,000 or 1/4,000 sec whereas a picture of the type seen here might be frozen with a slower speed - perhaps 1/500 sec.

Understanding the gymnastic routines helps a photographer to plan shots and capture the peak of the action. Focus can be acquired as the gymnast prepares for a particular part of his or her routine. It is then a matter of anticipating the peak of the action and pressing the shutter typically 250 milliseconds before it occurs - easy! Use the Human Reaction Time Tester to get an idea of the speed of your own shutter finger.

Limitations placed upon the photographer's location imply not only restricted angles of view but also little or no choice of background. In the shot shown here the photographer has been able to find a featureless plain black background which focuses all a viewer's attention on the gymnast, but this is the exception rather than the general rule. Unless a photographer has privileged access via press pass or something similar, the action is likely to be more remote, seen from a higher angle and against a cluttered background perhaps featuring spectators or advertising banners. It is then much more difficult to achieve simple and effective compositions.


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