Whitewater Sports

Riding the Rapids Below Great Falls on the Potomac River by Todd Henson

A slow shutter speed of 1/60 sec shows the movement of the water, making a more dynamic photograph.

The Potomac River is a popular location for whitewater sports such as kayaking. Between Maryland and Virginia, not too far from Washington, DC, the river narrows and drops in elevation, creating a number of fantastic world class falls.

Riding the wave. A shutter speed of 1/100 sec is a nice balance between slow and fast.

Just below Great Falls the river levels out a bit and provides some nice rapids. This is a great location to ride the waves, with spots where kayakers can maintain their location on the river, as if they were surfing a wave on the ocean but without moving forward.

Slicing through the water. This time the shutter speed was 1/160 sec.

The kayaker in this post was riding in such a location. In one of the photos you can see him smile as he holds his paddle horizontally, riding the crest of the wave. Kayakers were rotating through this location. They would each spend enough time there to get a real workout and enjoy the feel of the river. Then they’d move aside and let another kayaker ride that wave.

Big smiles, enjoying the wave. Shutter speed for this image was 1/200 sec.

For these photos I tried a range of shutter speeds. You can create a number of different looks by changing your shutter speed when photographing fast action like this, especially when water is involved. Use a fast shutter speed and you can freeze the action, showing individual drops of water hanging in mid-air. Use a slower shutter speed and you can really show the motion and action as the water flows around the kayaker, his paddle blurring as he maneuvers it.

A fast shutter speed of 1/1250 sec freezes most of the water, showing individual droplets.

See how dynamic the action can look at a slow shutter speed of 1/60 sec.

If you ever have the opportunity I encourage you to find a location where you can watch and photograph kayakers, then leave a comment below and tell me about your experiences.

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2017 Great Falls Race: Working the Race by Todd Henson

The Potomac River rushes by as people prepare for the race. A slalom pole can be seen to the left hanging over the river.

In previous posts I’ve shared photographs of the racers in the 2017 Great Falls Race, an annual whitewater event on the Potomac River near Washington, D.C. where kayakers and canoeists compete on the Class V rapids. In this post we take a look at some of the people who work the race, setting it up, monitoring and running it, and providing safety support when needed. Without these people there would be no race.

Working the race involves first getting to the edge of the river. People arrive by boat, haul their boat onto land, then set up at the edge of the river.

The folks who work the race arrive just as the contestants do, by kayak, canoe, or boat, over the river to the rocks on either side of the race lines. They have to haul their boats out of the water then hike over the rocks to the waters edge.

Some locations are more difficult to get to than others.

Setting up near the finish line to the race. This is below the last large fall.

Some of them run lines across the river to mark parts of the race. Some of the lines will hang the slalom poles which can be lowered during the slalom portion of the race and raised back out of the way during the classic race.

Lines are run across the river before the race.

Securing one end of a line to the rocks.

Some of the lines they run are safety lines to assure they don’t get swept away if they fall into the water. These are world class rapids with large volumes of water moving very quickly. You can see many of the people on the rocks have these safety lines.

People setup on both sides of the river.

Notice all the lines, some marking parts of the race, some hanging slalom poles, others for safety.

There are also people strategically staged along the course in kayaks ready to assist anyone who needs it in the water. Thankfully, it isn’t needed very often, but it’s good to have that support there when it is needed.

Sometimes people need assistance in the water when their boat overturns and they get pulled out into the river.

These races involve a lot of people, both in the race and behind the scenes. To any of you out there who do work these events, setting them up, tearing them down, working the river, know that your efforts are noticed and appreciated.

These amazing whitewater events are possible because of the hard work of the many people who work behind the scenes, along the river, and on the river.

A wide angle view showing the large numbers of people on the rocks. Some are race contestants, others are working the race.



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2017 Great Falls Race: Classic Race Winning Run by Todd Henson

Geoff Calhoun won the Classic race and was the overall race winner in the 2017 Great Falls Race, part of the annual Potomac River Festival. This is a whitewater event where kayakers and canoeists from all over congregate in the Washington, D.C. area to run some of the amazing Class V rapids along the Potomac River. The Classic race is a race for speed that in 2017 was run along the Virginia lines, which included the features: U-Hole, S-Turn, and the Spout.

Great Falls on the Potomac River showing major features. The 2017 race ran the Virginia lines.

Below are a sequence of photographs I captured showing Geoff Calhoun during his downriver final. Click on any of the photos for a larger view.

U-Hole

The race began just above U-Hole. Watch as his kayak dips down after going over that first rapid. You can see one of the suspended poles that was used during the slalom event, but it has now been raised up out of the way of the racers. Also notice all the crew and fellow racers along the rocks, most tethered to the rocks.

S-Turn

With U-Hole behind him, Geoff maneuvers his way into S-Turn, taking it from the top for a fast run straight through. He runs a line very close to the rocks on the left side before almost completely disappearing in the center of the turn. After emerging from S-Turn he straightens himself out quickly to continue moving downriver. In a couple of the latter photos you can see another of the slalom poles suspected high over the river.

The Spout

The Spout is the last major feature of the race and is the tallest individual drop at around 20 feet. Geoff angles himself right into the heavy flow of water and flies over the waterfall. The heavy spray of water at the base of the fall almost completely obscures him and his kayak, with just his helmet and paddle visible. That’s when I lost sight of him. It was a short sprint from there to the finish line.

Geoff Calhoun won the race with a downriver final time of 53.89 seconds, bettering his qualifier run of 56.88 seconds.



The resources below contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.