Pole vaulter bends his pole at an almost 90 degree angle on his way to clearing the bar at 18 feet during the U. S. Olympic Festival in Durham, N. C. (© Michael Maher).
Shooting the pole vault lets you capture the athletes’ tremendous body control and concentration as they hang on to the long pole, fly 15-20 feet into the air and land correctly onto a small cushion. What’s also amazing from a photographer’s perspective is how much the pole actually bends when the vaulter first plants it and rises into the air. I’ve seen other photographers capture this in many different ways, from overhead so the pole looks almost bent in half, and in front when the vaulter grimaces while hanging onto the bent pole, eyes riveted on the bar. I didn’t recall ever seeing a photo taken from the side accentuating the bent pole, and providing a close-up of the vaulter so you can see his expression. At this track meet, I stayed by the side of the event and shot nearly all the competitors. It was a tough shot to get --- using a long lens I stood back a significant distance, patiently waiting as judges, coaches, and players walked in front – but I timed this shot just right to capture the vaulter in mid-flight.
1) The pole vault is a very acrobatic sport and makes for great pictures.
2) Photograph the athlete in the air on the way to going over the bar.
3) Try to capture the extreme bend in the pole to make the photo stronger.