I received a call from Harbor Style Magazine and they told us that they had a special assignment for us. They wanted us to photograph the local Special Olympics. This really hit home with me. When I was young, I lived two doors down from the elementary schools principal. Being a neighbor, I always had “eyes” on me. As I grew up I became friends with his daughter since we were close to the same age. Most of the kids that she met didn’t understand her or was put off. You see, she has cerebral palsy. Most of the other kids saw the wheelchair and thought of all the things that she couldn’t do. I saw the wheelchair as a means for her to be able to do things. After all, we are all human in the end; no matter what condition we may or may not have. This is where I became familiar with other people with this condition and earned their respect.

After making a few phone calls, I found out that they were going to be playing softball, power lifting and swimming. This was going to make for a great article, as we would be able to show the diversity of these talented athletes.

The softball game was the first up so I took a couple of lenses. We arrived a little early, as I like to survey the area and get an idea of what I’m going to be up against. Practice was going to start at 6:00 p.m. There was some harsh afternoon light left. This was to my advantage as I wanted to shoot at a higher than normal shutter speed to stop the action. I fitted the camera with the 80mm-400mm lens. I set the camera up in manual mode. I started with ISO 400, 1/1000 at f/5.6. This produced a decent photograph as seen below.

Throwing To Second Base

The light was falling fast and as Murphy would have it, there was a thunderstorm cloud moving over the sky, which cut the light quite a bit. I adjusted my settings to ISO 1600, 1/500 at f/5.6. This is much slower than I would like to have photographed at, but you do what you have dealt to you at the time. At these setting I was able to still grab a good photograph. As seen in the photo below, the organizer is assisting the batter to help her knock it out of the park.

It’s Out Of Here!

The next day was the “power lifting” session. I wasn’t sure what this entailed, but sounded interesting. We joined up with group at the local YMCA. When I first arrived, the first thing that hit me was how dark it was in there. However, here I had one advantage that I didn’t have at the softball field, I could get right on top of the athletes. This was going to call for a strobe. In a couple of minutes, I had the light stand and umbrella up, then I noticed it….the walls were lined with MIRRORS! I’m going to punch Murphy if I ever meet that guy! This is a situation where when you have been thrown in the trenches will actually help you out. I looked at this situation as if the room was wearing eyeglasses. HUH? If you have ever photographed anyone with glasses you might have ran into the problem of the white light reflecting in the glasses off the strobe. The way to combat this is to hit a bank shot. Light travels in a straight line. Once you know this, it’s easy to use it to your advantage. If you have ever played pool, this is the exact same concept. All that needs to be done is move the light at a different angle so the refraction in the classes will bounce off at a different angle than the camera. If this sounds confusing, it really isn’t. Since I had mirrors to contend with, I made sure that I shot at sharp angles so my strobe or myself didn’t end up in the photo.

Ready To Press

It was great to see the support system that these athletes have. The organizer of this event was the spotter and encouraged everyone to give it their all. I was amazed at all of the weight they were able to press. After the bench press it was time to try something new.

Bring It Down

Ok, this hurts my back just typing this. Everyone took a turn with this piece of equipment. It was nice to see that the Y had all of this great equipment for the Special Olympics to use.

The last event that we needed to photograph was swimming. Everyone started by stretching to warm up. I never thought to do this before I went swimming, so I learned something new as well. The pool that they were using was quite large. This was another great candidate for the 80mm-400mm. Again; this was starting at 6:00 p.m. so half of the pool was in bright light and the other half was in shade. The 400mm had two purposes; first it allowed to me reach out and touch someone in the middle of the pool. Second and more important, I was able to get further back so my equipment or I didn’t get soaked during the exercises.


The lifeguards that were working with everyone was showing them all kinds of techniques. Pictured above, the lifeguards were having them move up and down in the water. This was to teach them how to breathe and not get a mouthful of water. I’m a sucker when it comes to moving water. I like to either freeze it or make it silky. Since this is a sports piece, I thought that freezing it would make for some cool photos. As they came back up out of the pool, I was able to get the water rushing off their face. The dark area to the upper left is the lifeguard looking on to ensure everyone’s safety.

Propulsion Exercises

In the above photo, the lifeguard had them put their hands on the wall and kick with their feet. They were preparing for the next part of their lesson. This really kicked up a LOT of water and I was glad that I was about fifteen feet away or I would have been soaked! With all that water going all over the place, this was another great opportunity to get some neat frozen water photos.

Have A Stroke

This was the last exercise of the day, the breast stroke. They had lanes set up just like you would see on TV. This was going to be more of a challenge, as I wanted to try and get some of everyone. As they were going back and fourth, I zoomed in real tight and I was able to get some nice action profile photos.

This assignment was great to work on and really showed the amazing talent of these folks. The Special Olympics is always looking for volunteers and donations. Take a minute and look up your local chapter and see how you might be able to help them one way or another. These athletes are all smiles and are truly amazing people. It’s refreshing to see athletes excited about the sport and supporting each other instead of what team will give them the biggest paycheck.

Until next time.

Keep Your Glass Clean…


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