Tournament waterski Photos – Challenges at the Malibu Open

2021 Malibu Open -

Taking photos of water skiing tournaments, or any sporting events, and doing it well, can be tough and takes a lot of preparation and perspiration.  I’m usually a weekend photographer and only take vacation from my other full time job when there is something big to take photos of and try to make a little money. Like the Malibu Open that has put on at Trophy Lakes in Charleston S.C. for the last few years.

2021 Malibu Open -

Event photography is a different beast.  For the Mental and physical preparation for over 8 hour days, which I usually try to avoid holding a heavy camera that long.  The all day efforts for protecting gear and protection from the physical elements for the duration of the event for myself and the camera.  Cameras don’t like water.  I like to get down in the water to take photos, so it is a balancing act all day on keeping the camera safe and staying focused on the athletes. Capturing the intensity of them and those moments folks are interested in seeing.   

2021 Malibu Open -

Holding a camera that weighs 7-plus pounds up and steady for 10K photos over three days tracking a fast subjects moving over 70 mph much of the time and capturing shots each ‘run’ that only lasts 20-30 seconds in most cases, but the better riders have 4 or 5 runs each and with 60-90 skiers in a day, that is a lot of possible photo opportunities. Trying to catch the moments and the signs for the advertisers in the background at the same time is also a challenge.

2021 Malibu Open -

Are  all of these pics I post my best work?  Heck no.   My website is up and can sell images if someone wants a poster of their kids or themselves and I highly recommend it! Buying a high resolution image for the TV screen savor or printing images later is also a great idea.  However,  I post all of the images for me to look at all year on my website.  Seeing what I like and learning for the next event… so eventually I’ll start deleting events images to make room for the next event.  So don’t wait too long to buy them.

Getting images that someone might want to share or hang on their wall can be tough to capture with tournament photography.   Without fancy lights and a planned shoot, you have to pic your spots for shots based on the available light and changing weather, and try to capture specific shots to make the most of the really bad light available most of the day. The shot below was in the finals of the 2021 Malibu Open of Nate Smith on the winning run after 8 hours, and the weather had turned bad and started to rain. What a nasty wonderful ending. I was really impressed with his run in the rain.

You are limited with the angles you can achieve based on how close that you are allowed to be when shooting.  As a photographer, you don’t really want to get in the way at a tournament or you may not be allowed to return or even be asked to leave.   All of these limitations are the challenges that can make taking the images fun for a while.

With a little practice and some blessings from mother nature, every now and then a photographer can get some really cool shots.  I really enjoy when clouds pass over early in the morning  or all day and provide some nice defused light, but most contest shots are a constant battle with the light and trying to keep the detail.  After 10:00 a.m. most days I’m ready to leave, since the light is less than favorable but when the best skiers in the world are in my hood for a few days, I try to tough it out and capture some cool images. Below is Adam Caldwell about to slide around the buoy.

2021 Malibu Open -  Adam Caldwell getting ready to slide

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