Roaring River Slalom
28 August 2020
Photographically this year’s race was worlds apart from last year’s. Instead of high overcast clouds that made the lighting easy, this year’s weather was intense midday sun, with harsh shadows and sometimes blinding reflections off the water. I worried about exceeding the exposure latitude of a digital sensor, which has only about one-fifth the sensitivity of the human eye. Another challenge was losing faces to the shadows cast by competitor’s helmet brims.
But the difficult light created opportunities as well. The strong contrast, inky dark shadows, brilliant whitewater, and saturated colors were great visual tools for evoking the intensity of competition. Losing the details of paddlers’ faces made me focus on body english and form. And a slalom is ideal for experimentation. The gates bring the racers close to the riverbank one at a time, along a predictable course. If something didn’t work, there would be another paddler down the course every two minutes and I could try again.