Photographing Jetski races is one of the most difficult tasks of photography and one of the least discussed online because of the little global interest among people. Being an expensive sport there are few people able to achieve both physical and financial support for this kind of exercise. Someone needs to be in constant contact with the sea (or lake) throughout the year in order not to lose his skills. This is also a sport that demands a lot of free time and access to the sea and it is difficult for city people to combine it with their daily jobs.
There are some people, though, that can handle all of the above and when you see the speed and skill needed to ride one of these sea-bikes you can only admire and feel the rush. It was one of these races I attended back in October of 2011 in Kalamata, the 6th National championship race. I knew the place and the time (I had 2 more days to retry if some shots were not successful) and I knew the angles I would have in my disposal for the shooting.
It was really a challenge of my skills in addition to the racers skills. I needed very fast shutter speeds, a great sun, good timing, good framing and a good place to stand. I had a great sun all the days and I found 4 locations one of which was very far and I discarded it immediately. There was one position where the judges would be located and it had a great view as the racers would pass in front of them. Another location was at the right of the judges, I would have all the action in front of me and all I needed to do is weigh my frames and regulate the Depth of Field. There was also another spot in the left of the judges (where I went for the first round), but it was too far and the position of the sun at 11:00 in the morning was not so good. I shot a couple of shots there and realized that it was not what I wanted, so I rushed to the judges spot.
It was indeed a very good spot having all the action in front of me, but the harsh sun was both a friend and foe. I needed the shutter speed it provided, so I could use an aperture of f8 to f11 with a telephoto lens (a Sigma 70-300), but the harsh sun created a lot of shadows that, when compensated, they created a lot of blown out parts. I had to wait until the evening sun and change position for the last time, so that everything was balanced in the best way.
When I went at the right side of the judges, I did it at just the right time. I had all the action in front of me all the time and the sun was just barely behind me creating less shadows where the subjects were. I shot some very good fast action moments from that spot that I am very proud of. There were some zig-zags, some 180 degree turns and a lot of spray with Mount Taygetos as a background!
When I got what I needed I left the location for some serious fluid refueling, but it was only when I started post processing the photos when I got my first disappointment. I had a large number of out of focus and the shutter speed was not enough to freeze the action. In addition, the spray was not so vivid as I had it in my mind. I had to improvise! Thankfully I had some frozen action shots out of the whole bunch and I overcame the spray problem by applying a tonal contrast filter on top of only the highlights making the spray literally pop out of the screen.