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Friday, August 9, 2019

High Beam

Gymnastics events provides photographers many opportunities to capture spectacular athletic feats.

Yale's Jessica Wang goes high when dismounting from the balance beam vs. University of New Hampshire.

The Photo
The gymnastics meet between Yale and University of New Hampshire (UNH) featured highly talented competitors on the balance beam, vault, floor exercise and parallel bars, but I quickly realized that the balance beam would give me the best pictures.  The gymnasts on the beam did numerous head-over-heels flips as they repeatedly landed perfectly on the beam, and twisted their bodies around while soaring high into the air on their amazing dismounts.  I planned to crouch down low, to make their leaps look even higher and more spectacular in a photo.  My challenge as a photographer would be to simultaneously capture their spectacularly high leaps and faces as they performed their routines.

As the young women performed, they moved rapidly, springing up and over the beam, but often turned their faces away, so I had yet to get a great photo.  The dismounts had great potential, but the athletes were moving in so many different directions at the same time, it was not easy to perfectly time their leaps, twists, and faces to capture the most powerful image. On the next to last balance beam routine, one gymnast looked my way repeatedly, and I shot several strong photos of her upside down and high in the air over the beam.  And when she dismounted, she leaped higher and spun more than anyone else, giving me another powerful photo of her winning routine.

3 Tips
1)    The balance beam event typically provides some of the best gymnastics photos.
2)    Shoot from a low angle to make the gymnasts’ leaps look higher and more spectacular.
3)    You’ll likely need to shoot many, many photos to capture both the gymnasts’ athleticism and faces in one great image.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

I Did It!!

School graduations often provide very memorable, emotional expressions.

Jubilant Yale School of Management graduate happily shows off her new MBA during Commencement.

The Photo
Hundreds of students were graduating from Yale School of Management with their MBAs, and in an outdoor courtyard, despite a high probability of rain.  I sought a vantage point that enabled me to simultaneously photograph close-ups of grads receiving their diplomas, interactions among the large crowd of grads and guests, along with reactions to the forecasted downpour, should it occur.  With no special credentials or access, I camped out with proud families on the left side of the stage, so the graduates would be walking toward me as they received their degrees, much of the crowd was in camera range, and I remained safe from the elements under an overhang.

No doubt nearly all students would be very happy, but reactions still varied widely, from stone-faced to screaming for joy.  Many also brought their young children along to help celebrate the proud moment.  Since I could not anticipate which grads would provide the best reactions, I stayed ready to photograph every joyous expression I saw. Using a 300M lens, I concentrated on closeups of happy faces during the procession, both on stage and being greeted by family or classmates.  As the ceremony was about to end, and the rain began, I switched to photographing the toss of caps into the air.  There were many joyous expressions, warm embraces, arms overhead in victory, etc., and one student provided a very memorable reaction, as her face radiated happiness as showed off her degree to her family and friends in the audience. 

3 Tips
1)    Position yourself so graduates are walking toward you and you can consistently see their faces.
2)    Primarily shoot close-ups to capture emotional reactions and facial expressions as students celebrate their achievement, and interact with classmates, professors, friends or parents.
3)    Also look for happy family and friend interactions with graduates, as well as the tossing of caps in the air after all graduates receive their degrees.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

We Are the Champions

Sports championship celebrations give you numerous photo opportunities to capture unrestrained emotion.

Jubilant Yale University baseball players pile on to celebrate winning the 2017 Ivy League baseball title.

The Photo
Yale’s baseball team was about to beat Penn for its first Ivy League baseball championship in over 20 years, but Penn had slowly chipped away at Yale’s one-time 11 run lead, with the tying run now at the plate.  What reaction I should anticipate from which player(s) and be ready photograph?

Yale would certainly be very happy and emotional, so I first focused on the pitcher trying to get the last out, who would surely react with joy somehow.  Sure enough, he struck out the last batter, pumped his fist, and leaped into the catcher’s arms, but it wasn’t a great photo.  Players poured out of the dugout to congratulate each other, and I focused on them as they suddenly began jumping on top of one another, with the last players having to leap progressively higher into to land on top.  As the pile dissolved, the players began showing their emotions in many other different ways, including Gatorade showers, euphoric hugs, embracing family members, interacting with the Yale Bulldog mascot Handsome Dan, arms overhead in a “v”, screams of joy, kissing the championship trophy, and posing for a team picture.  Throughout all this, I photographed every expression of joy that I could, and there were many good photos.  However, the best picture was the last player leaping onto the pile of his teammates’ happy faces, since he had to jump higher than everyone else.

3 Tips
1)    Photograph players doing everything you see -- bench players anticipating the win, reaction of on-field players after the final play, players celebrating together after the game, coach getting Gatorade shower, close up facial reactions, trophy presentation, and team photo with championship trophy.
2)    Capture emotional facial expressions, not just from far away with a long lens, but also from close-up with a wide lens.
3)    Remember to look for fan and family reactions with and without players.