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Seattle Times photographers offer a glimpse into what inspires their best visual reporting.

February 12, 2015 at 9:38 PM

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Behind the Byline | Photographing Tye Dutcher


Tye Dutcher, an Auburn Riverside High senior, lost his right foot in an accident at age 11.

One of the best parts of photographing prep sports is access.

Photographers at The Seattle Times receive assignments several times a week to photograph high school sporting events, practices and arrange portraits to share local athlete's stories.

Earlier this week, I drove to Auburn to photograph swimmer Tye Dutche, an Auburn Riverside High senior.

Dutcher lost his foot in a lawn-mowing accident in California seven years ago. After four surgeries and physical therapy, he returned to swimming and water polo. This year he was voted captain of both teams.

Working with reporter Sandy Ringer on the story, we knew we wanted a mix of portraits and candid images. The coach quickly welcomed us into practice, and offered great access to the facility.


He competes in the 100 backstroke and 100 free. "I don't give up," he says.

I focused on setting up lighting for the portrait and then on candid images of Dutcher swimming with his teammates. While working, I realized it would be difficult to show how Dutcher swims so well with a missing foot.

So, halfway through practice, I realized the answer might be at the called the King County Aquatic Center. The Des Moines facility, which hosts around 50 events annually, has an incredible underwater viewing window.

On short notice, the employees graciously granted Dutcher and I access.

Tye, who has an incredible can-do attitude, was game to try a second portrait after sitting for his first 10-15 minute portrait session. We both drove over, and after about 10 minutes of swimming, we figured out how to approach the underwater shot.

Photographing through an underwater window is incredibly beautiful, but difficult because the curved plastic easily distorts. (Think of photographing through an airplane window.) We had to avoid other swimmers cruising behind him, as well chart the distance he swam from the viewing window.

"With one foot, I can do unexpected things and amazing things," Dutcher said.

Dutcher's willingness to spend extra time and effort to work at the portrait really helped us capture a photograph that helped share his incredible story.

Thank you, Tye, for your great attitude and sharing your inspiring story.


Dutcher swims during practice in Auburn.

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