07 August 2007
On Photographing Sports. or hey, "These are Really Good Seats...!"
*Touching home plate at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY on Thursday, October 21, 2004. The Yankees were defeated by the Boston Red Sox in Game #7 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) the night before. The Red Sox now advance to the World Series.
As long as I can remember & ever since I've wanted to be a 'pro-photographer', the glamour of photographing sporting events has remained high on my list. I mean, I was one of those kids, like countless others, who used to cut out images made by the big name guys at Sports Ilustrated and Sport Magazine. I would very carefully crop & edit the images to be scotch-tapped to my bedroom wall as a young teenager. I started photographing sports when I was in high school on the NJ Shore. Even processing and printing small black & white images to give away or even sell to the varsity athletes. My small prints even included a hand printed, "Photo by..." on the back. Growing up in Newark, NJ and then the NJ Shore, my father instilled a deep appreciation of professional sports, at least from the fans' point of view. He always made it a point of taking me to pro baseball & basketball games. I grew up an avid fan of the NY teams. Having played three sports in high schoool and even while in the military, I was a decent athlete, with profound understanding of the games. People have commented that I'd be a good coach.
Fast forward to today. After almost 20 years in the news business, I've been privledged to have photographed a MLB World Series, 2 NBA Championship Series, countless US OPEN Tennis tournaments, as well as NFL games, major college sports and everything else in between, from Little League Baseball to various individual and team high school sports. Basically, in a nutshell - Shooting Sports (for me at least) can all be looked at the same way. Sometimes you only have to get "A picture." Little leaguers in action on a Saturday morning, or gymnasts in competition during a weeklong sports festival. But when it's the World Championships of whatever, then you're expected to get the "The Picture." You know, Michael Jordan pumping his fist in the air after hitting the game winning jumper in overtime. "The Picture" is an image of the game turning event or the star of the game at his best. "A Picture" or a few good ones are now being combined as a web gallery and carry the visual story. That's what I find myself doing a lot of lately, but still work pretty hard to be prepared, should a game turning moment present itself. Sports photography incorporates all aspects of editorial image making. Obviously capturing peak action is of prime importance here. use of high shutter speeds and "long glass" is a must. 300mm, & 400mm f/2.8 lenses are commonplace. I'm really using a 300mm with a 1.4X tele-extender a lot lately. There are also wonderful opportunities to make well thought out & produced portraits of athletes, coaches, officials, management personnel and even the hot dog vendor at the big league ballpark for a feature story when called for. I also find sports picture stories an invaluable tool in the story telling approach to my documentary work.
Here are a few recent favorites as well as some made through the years with accompanying explanation and anticdotes to follow.
Nowhere more than when photographing sports is my work slogan more appropriate:
"Go early. Stay late. Get the uniform dirty..." -cg.