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Discussion: Taking good orienteering photos

in: Orienteering; General

Sep 17, 2008 1:36 PM # 
I recently came across the following slide show on how to take a good orienteering photo:by Irish orienteer Martin Flynn.

I always seem to be searching for photographs that depict orienteering in a positive way as an exciting sport that takes place in cool terrain. Martin's slide show gives tons of advice on how to take these kinds of photos.
Sep 17, 2008 9:57 PM # 
I'll feed the troll: Taking a sentence out of context, Martin writes about O photos "Beards, spectacles, and sweatbands give a bad impression." I plead guilty to 2 of 3 charges all the time, and I generally wear a ball cap or a bandana to keep the sweat out of my eyes.

How do you think photos of these 3 features give a bad impression?
Sep 17, 2008 10:45 PM # 
Maybe its all about inter-generational prejudice?
Sep 17, 2008 11:16 PM # 
"Orienteers are not very photogenic at the best of times."


(Maybe he hasn't ever seen a photo of Minna Kauppi?)

But -- overall that slide show has some good tips.
Sep 18, 2008 1:32 PM # 
I am also guilty of some of the "crimes" that I mention.

When I prepared the presentation, I wanted to help people to improve the quality of their photos but I also wanted to address a debate that was raging amongst Irish orienteers at the time. This was about the public image or orienteering.

We want O to be seen as a sport. In Ireland, at least, people associate Sport with what they see on TV - mostly Football (Soccer, Rugby & Gaelic) and (occasionally) Athletics, tennis, golf horse-racing. In general, people competing at the highest level of these sports do not wear specs or beards etc.. My point is that whenever we are seen to not look like what they associate with Sport, we discourage non-orienteers from taking part.

Also, what we take for granted may seem bizzare to others (for "o suit", think "pyjamas").

I don't have a solution for this. It's just the normal problem that any activity can have with it's public image. I just ask that people consider the image of the sport whenever they publish photographs.
Sep 18, 2008 2:54 PM # 
I guess that "O to be seen as a sport" may sometimes run at cross purposes to "O to be seen as a sport I can do". Is the goal to grow the orienteering fan base (or reputation in the world of sport) or to grow the orienteering participation base?

Before I saw my first triathlon, in person, I had the notion that triathletes were these uber-fit, 5% body-fat, trained-all-the-time super-people. When I saw my first (sprint) triathlon, I noticed the first 5-10% of the people to pass looked like this, but they were followed by hordes of "just plain folks", not couch potatoes, maybe a step above "weekend warriors". I got the idea that I could train for triathlons. After a few tri's, I began to see myself as more of a triathlete and less of a poser.
Sep 18, 2008 3:13 PM # 
Well, the fashion industry doesn't have any indecision about the kind of people it wants to use to sell their expensive wares...average semi-obese teens, or emaciated high-fashion models?

What's the chance we could photograph one of these creatures up close and personal...with a control marker and a dauber?
Sep 18, 2008 4:26 PM # 
I agree completely with Martin - taking good photos with well considered subject matter is actually quite important to our sport.

The issue of what to wear - well we've been through this before - see the Orienteering Fashion rant. That was written a number of years ago and I'm very happy that things are improving tremendously.

What I find over and over these days is that good photos are attracting interest from the press and increasing participation from 'non-orienteers'. It is exciting to look at good photos - for example see Wil Smith's collection that do a superb job of conveying the excitement and toughness of our sport. I've even used good photos to convince no less than Dick Pound (WADA) that Orienteering is a 'real sport'.

We *need* good photos on our websites, in our newspaper stories, and in all our promotion. Martin's presentation offers really excellent advice about how to take those photos.
Sep 19, 2008 1:31 AM # 
AZ: you were speaking to Dick Pound about orienteering? Sounds like an interesting story!
Sep 19, 2008 2:39 AM # 
It all came about because of one of those super irritating quotes that you hear from time to time. I figured that someone at Dick Pounds level of leadership in sport should be educated about the sport. I sent him an email (see below) and to his credit he replied almost immediately. I followed up by sending him a copy of the 2008 Canadian National Team calendar which has so many great photos depicting orienteering as "a real sport".

Here is the first paragraph of my email, to give you the background. It makes me ill to read it even today ;-) From a Canadian no less - argh...

Dear Mr Dick Pound,
I read today some comments made by you in the London Free Press that indirectly relate to the sport of orienteering. According to the London Free press you said about drug use in sport that: 'I think it's the biggest issue facing sport today. If it doesn't get better, parents are going to stop putting their kids in competitive sport and start putting them in different things like orienteering. I don't think that's a good thing'.

I realize your point was not to ?dis? orienteering, and I do agree with and fully admire your work to reduce the use of drugs in sport. However it is a shame that the sport of orienteering has such a poor reputation. It is also a shame that a person in your esteemed position of leadership in sport is ignorant about the sport of orienteering. I know you value information based on your involvement with the 'Book of Canadian Facts and Dates'. So I felt you would be interested to learn a few things about something new, in this case about the sport of orienteering.

< and so on.. .>
Sep 19, 2008 5:31 AM # 
I think I would rather have read
'to be continued'
rather than
'and so on'

Don't stop. I suspect we all want to read the rest of the email and the story. We are definately not bored by what we have read so far.
Sep 19, 2008 12:15 PM # 
I second TheInvisibleLog. Let's hear the rest!
Sep 19, 2008 1:16 PM # 
That is kind of sad, but funny and illustrative. "[P]arents are going to stop putting their kids in competitive sport and start putting them in different things like orienteering."

I can't believe he said that. It is important to hear things like this.

As for the photos portraying orienteering in a bad light... I think it is more of a random sample sort of thing than lack of technique or carelessness. But, these points are well taken. We don't have that many people focusing on taking good orienteering pictures. Even bad pictures of a track meet can make that look ridiculous and unsporting. For better or worse, track already has established its reputation as an atheletic endeavor. Apparently orienteering has not.

[Not that there is anything worng with not being an athletic endeavor...]
Sep 19, 2008 1:27 PM # 
Here is the remainder of the first email I sent to Dick Pound. His response was about 1/100th as long as my email and included the legendary phrases:

"I think perhaps you may be a bit over-sensitive"
"There is orienteering and Orienteering at a competitive level"
(Nice try, Mr Pound)

I then followed up by sending him a copy of the 2008 Canadian National Team calendar which I'm certain is a lot more persuasive than my email in convincing people that orienteering - I'm sorry, I mean Orienteering - is a Real Sport. I also gave a brief background of the career and non-sport accomplishments of the athletes in the calendar just to suggest that most of the parents would be fairly pleased with the way their orienteering kids turned out ;-) Here's the rest of the email...

Orienteering is in fact a highly competitive sport. You should come and try it some time ? I think you will find that elite orienteers are some of the fittest, most intelligent, and most competitive athletes you will ever meet. Orienteering is an individual cross-country running sport which involves map reading in unfamiliar terrain. At the start of a race (a staggered start to eliminate following) competitors are given a specially made highly detailed topographical map showing the location of a number of checkpoints which they must visit in a specified order. The route between the checkpoints is not marked and in fact the essence of orienteering is that competitors are free to pick what they feel is the ?best? route. The sport involves quickly recognizing the various route options between checkpoints (for example, over the hill or around it), selecting the best of these options, and executing this route choice while running through rough and physically demanding terrain. Winning times vary from 15 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the race format. Success in this sport requires very good fitness, determination, fast and accurate decision making, the ability to interpret the map and terrain accurately while on the run, and the ability to maintain intense concentration while under the stress of competition and the stress of running fast in rugged, physically demanding terrain. I know of no other sport that exerts such relentless high demands on a participant?s concentration, interpretation, decision making, and fitness.

To compete at the elite levels in orienteering demands a well rounded individual with excellent mental and physical ability. But not all orienteers take part at the elite level. It is a sport, unlike most others, in which all ages and abilities compete at the same competition (on different courses), so you will find children as young as eight or nine competing at the same event as their grandparents and as Canada?s elite.

Because of the set of skills required by the sport, I would also suggest that orienteering is in fact a sport that would be very good for parents to encourage their children to participate in. It teaches them navigation, decision making, independence, confidence, and it teaches them to enjoy the outdoors. It is safe and relatively inexpensive.

So, in many ways orienteering is just like rowing ? it can be done at the most recreational level which would involve simply enjoying the outdoors while getting minimal exercise, and it can also be done at highly competitive levels that require strength, stamina, determination, hours of practice, and fantastic mental abilities.

I applaud your efforts with WADA to address the issues of drugs in sport. But I would hope that you spend a little time to investigate the sport of orienteering? you might find the relatively drug-free environment a refreshing change from some of the other sports you seem to be more familiar with (though even orienteering has had its drug-related scandals).

I invite you to visit the World Orienteering Championships next summer in the Ukraine ( where you will certainly realize that orienteering is one of the most competitive sports in the world. And I also invite you to take part next July long weekend in a local, low key event, the annual Barebones orienteering weekend that will take place near Canmore ? perhaps even one race will be held at the Canmore Nordic Centre ( You will be able to get a better appreciation for one of the world?s most demanding ? and most competitive ? sports.

Yours truly,
Adrian Zissos
Calgary, Canada
Sep 19, 2008 6:52 PM # 
As our Uni (Sheffield) is about to go back, we spent a good hour taking photos on one day of our Training week in the Highlands.
We've recieved feedback that Lycra makes us look too athletic and puts people off joining us, which isn't what we want, so we have a few lycra-clad photos, some in shorts, some in 3/4lengths. As we're a student club, we don't have to worry too much about beards/specs, but I see very little wrong with them if there's a fair amount of action going on!
As we have a very sexy new kit, all the photos I'm using (I'm publicity officer) are of people in those. We must have ~200 photos of the same 5 people, but we'll only use a few.
We set up a big kite on a tree/on a twig in the ground, and we all ran in and out of the control continuously in different directions whilst 2 people took photos. Of course, we had daft shots - Kite man (kite on head) cartwheels, poses etc. All the photos came out very well - it was a lovely day in a costal forest, so it was very light in the trees as it was fairly open with paler than usual ground.
As we're also a fell running club, we did a few shots running on the beech, descending down dunes, feet splashes/prints, as well as a few posey type ones making us look uber cool (ha!), and as we were on the beech the rest of the club had a BBQ so they didn't get bored.
In summary - set up photos for publicity - you can keep going til you get what you want, and also descending photos are always exciting (especially in sand!)

Nic, ShUOC
Sep 19, 2008 10:03 PM # 
Thanks Adrian. I didn't see Mr Pound in the barebones results... did I miss something ;-} And did you ask him if synchronised swimming is a sport?
More generally.
Photos to report on events are different from photos for general publicity. I suspect really good action photos will be obtained reliably by setting up the photo.
And we do have different market segments when promoting our sport. One of our Bendigo beginner series events has an unofficial ban on lycra and sets no long or hard courses to discourage attendance by the super fit male. That's because the target audience is generally female and middle aged and self-conscious. They told us they initially felt out of place when surrounded by fast, fit and lycra clad orienteers So rather than saying 'no beards or specs in photos' perhaps what we really need is 'good photos targeted to the market segment'. Some promotion might benefit from beards. But I suspect not often.
I shaved mine off 20 years ago.... and kept shaving.
Sep 20, 2008 12:49 AM # 
where did this one go:

This discussion thread is closed.