Posted 27 September 2010,
Autumn Athletics Photography
Autumn athletics photography is underway, with images from Boys Varsity Soccer, Girls Varsity Soccer, and Girls Varsity Volleyball posted in Tiger Sports Report
for viewing and on Exposure Manager
for purchase. As I did in the spring, I thought I would take this opportunity to offer some photographic advice for those who wish to try their hand at sports photography.
If your pictures aren’t good enough, you're not close enough
Robert Capa may not have been thinking of longer lenses when he said this, but you’re going to need one to get closer to the action of all of the autumn athletics. I use the 70-200mm zoom for Boys and Girls Varsity Cross-country, Coed Varsity Water polo, Girls Varsity Tennis, and Girls Varsity Volleyball. You are able to be close enough to the action where a lens of 135-200mm will provide you with compositions that allow you to see the intensity on the face of the athlete and yet wide enough so you can see the sport. For Boys and Girls Varsity Soccer I use a 400mm lens so that most of what takes place on the field is visible and reasonably composed. A lens this long may not be practical for many photographers as it’s very heavy and has a narrow field of view. Of course, a lens this long is still not long enough to capture something taking place all the way across the field and is too long to capture a player who is a mere thirty feet from you.
…putting four edges around a collection of information or facts transforms it.
Garry Winogrand understood as well as anyone that where you position yourself has a tremendous impact on what your image conveys. For cross-country I find a wooded spot so that the images immediately convey the “country” part of cross-country. This is a little tricky in Van Cortlandt park, where almost all of the meets take place, but it should be done as a background of trees and grass help to differentiate the images from track and field. For water polo and soccer I tend to follow a set pattern. I spend at least one half behind the opposing team’s goal so I can capture the intensity and action that happens as players jostle for that perfect shot. I then spend part of the next half at Trinity’s goal, to capture images of the defenders and the goalie. I spend the final portion of the game at mid-field, where much of the action takes place, or back at the opposing team goal if we are frequently moving the ball down to that end. For tennis I prefer to be on the side of the court, just slightly on the opposing player’s side, so I can include the net in the image. As always, I’m looking for iconography that helps to establish the sport and that gives the image some dynamic compositional elements. For volleyball I stand near the net and, again, just slightly on the opposing team’s side so I can capture spikes and blocks.
It’s always luck. It’s luck that matters. You just have to be receptive, that’s all.
Henri Cartier-Bresson is right about luck…and about being receptive. Good sports photography has a lot to do with anticipating what is going to happen next. You need to tap into your instinctual ability to read a player’s body language and anticipate what he or she is going to do next. To refine this ability you need to practice and then continue practicing. You need to look through the lens and watch closely. The players will “tell” you what they are planning to do…you just need to watch for the right "words."
Enjoy the autumn and go out and support the teams.