epic fail

K-State’s Tomas Kirielius watches his throw in the decathlon shot put on June 6, 2012.

K-State’s Mantas Silkauskas splashes into the pit in the men’s long jump on June 6, 2012.

Discuses sit on a rack for the women’s discus throw on June 6, 2012.

Cornell’s Nick Huber competes in the decathlon discus on June 6, 2012.

The starter fires his pistol for the women’s 200 meter dash on June 7, 2012.

K-State’s Mairead Murphy competes in the heptathlon 200 meter dash on June 7, 2012.

K-State’s Erik Kynard flips over the bar in the men’s high jump on June 7, 2012.

K-State’s Ryann Krais competes in the heptathlon javelin on June 8, 2012.

K-State’s head coach Cliff Rovelto watches the heptathlon javelin on June 8, 2012.

Oregon’s English Gardner wins the women’s 100 meter dash on June 8, 2012.

I covered the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa from June 6-9, 2012. The event is always the exclamation point at the end of each K-State Athletics season. It is one of my favorite assignments because it joins together my love of track and field, sunshine, great action, and great people. I was excited about these championships because it was my opportunity to photograph the best athletes in the country, many of whom will be competing at the Olympic Games in London, England from July 27 to August 12, 2012.

However, my excitement quickly turned to frustration after I arrived at Drake Stadium on June 6th. I was shooting the decathlon 100 meter dash, the first event on the first day. As the runners came racing down the track towards me, I tapped the shutter release but my camera remained dormant. Frantically, I checked my power supply and my settings but the camera was still dead. A code on the camera’s LCD display told me the problem was with my Nikon AF-S Nikkor 400mm f2.8 II lens. The CPU inside the lens had failed completely and the camera would no longer sync with it.

Auto exposing cameras and auto focusing lenses are both a blessing and a curse to photography. They have leveled the playing field for most photographers because anyone can use them to take a photo that is perfectly exposed and tack sharp. Unfortunately, younger shooters have never developed the skills to learn how to manually set their cameras or physically focus their lenses.

Thankfully, I am old enough that I began my photography career before auto exposure cameras and auto focus lenses. I realized that I would have to go old school and shoot the remainder of the track meet by manually setting my exposures and physically focusing my 400mm lens.

The first day was humiliating. The athletes moved so fast that I struggled to follow focus on them. I missed a few shots because I was out of practice. My images improved on the second day and again on the third. I equate it to using an electric toothbrush. When the rechargeable battery runs out of power and the toothbrush head stops vibrating, I have to move my arm back and forth to clean my teeth. It is not as effective as the fully charged brush, but it allows me to finish the job.

The second day brought more challenges after I broke another piece of gear. My pre-trigger cord sheared apart when I unplugged it from my Nikon D7000 leaving the 4-pin connector still stuck in the camera’s port. The cord connects a radio receiver to the camera so I can trigger it remotely with a transmitter. When I broke the cord, I was unable to use my remote camera anymore.

My sincere appreciation goes out to two photographers who tried to assist me: Kansas Athletics staff photographer Jeff Jacobsen offered to let me borrow a camera and a 300mm lens and Drake Athletics photographer Chris Donahue told me about a local photo store that rented equipment.

Despite my damaged gear, I made it through the week. I tried to be creative, but more importantly, I tried to stay positive. Once, I even remember thinking, “This will make a great blog post.”

-scott weaver

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