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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.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Tongue Wagging

Basketball provides some of the best sports photos because you can get close ups of the players’ faces and reactions.

Bowdoin's Rachel Norton (12) wags her tongue like Michael Jordan as she races down court in a women’s basketball win over Colby College.

The Photo
Basketball is one of the very best sports to photograph. You are physically close to the players and they don’t wear any head gear, which enables you to get close up pictures of both the action and players’ faces.  Too often, basketball action photos look the same -- jumps, leaps, dribbles, rebounds – but highlighting facial expressions can transform routine hoop action into a memorable image.  However, no need to limit yourself to basketball action pix.  Watch players on the bench as they react to the game, and follow coaches guiding the players or attempting to influence referees. 

For this photo, I was sitting under the basket at the opposite end of the court, as a Bowdoin player received a long inbounds pass and quickly dribbled up court.  When she immediately stuck her tongue out, I thought it was a great photo, but she was too far away. To my happy surprise, she kept her tongue out for the entire time as she dribbled straight toward me to the basket, so I photographed her repeatedly, giving me a sequence of great shots. I thought of Michael Jordan’s tendency to stick out his tongue out, but I don’t believe he ever had it hanging out for as long as this player did.

3 Tips
1)    Seize the opportunity to shoot close-ups of basketball players’ faces
2)    Watch players on the court and on the bench
3)    Remember that coaches arguing with referees are also strong photo ops

Friday, November 11, 2016

Oh Happy Day!

Volleyball is one of the best sports at providing strong emotional reaction photos.

Very happy Yale volleyball players (from left, Brittani Steinberg, Tori Shepherd, Luci Tashman, Gray Malias, Kelsey Crawford, Kaitlyn Gibbons) celebrate after defeating Penn 3-0 at Yale.

Yale women's volleyball celebrates win over Penn.

The Photo:
I had almost forgotten how emotional volleyball players can be until I began shooting this Yale-Penn volleyball match.  Although I was determined to capture powerful action shots of player diving, leaping, returning, spiking, the players’ intensity made far stronger photos.  After nearly every point or strong effort, the players cheered, shouted encouragement, congratulated one another, celebrated, and visibly displayed their emotions. I finally stopped looking for action shots, and instead focused (no pun intended) almost exclusively on getting photos of powerful facial expressions. When the match was over, I had so many great emotional reactions, I almost couldn’t decide which photo was the best, but finally chose the players celebrating after scoring the final point and winning the match.

3 Tips:
1)     Emotions or strong facial expressions are almost always the strongest sports photos.
2)     Recognize if the sport you are shooting provides opportunities for powerful emotional reaction shots.  
3)     If so, prioritize shooting emotion photos over action throughout the match.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Helmet Catch Redux

Great football action can be challenging to capture, but it's well worth the hard work.

Lehigh receiver Derek Knott (21) catches a pass despite being hit by Yale's Hayden Carlson (26) during Lehigh’s 63-35 win at the Yale Bowl.

The Photo
Football is often one of the most difficult sports to photograph, since the action can be a pass or run, and takes place practically anywhere on the field. Thus, you have to either correctly anticipate the play or quickly react as it unfolds. While sports photography success doesn’t always require understanding the game, it is extremely valuable in football, when knowing the next likely play enables you to optimally position yourself and point your camera. Another essential element of successful football photography is a very fast shutter speed, 1/500 at a minimum or 1/100 ideally, to freeze the frequent, rapid action, even if this necessitates less depth of field from a larger aperture and reduced image quality from a higher ISO.

Pass plays usually provide the best football action shots, as players extend their bodies to make athletic catches. This game featured an offensive explosion, with 12 touchdowns scored by the two teams, and a school record 524 yards passing for Lehigh. Earlier in the game, one Lehigh receiver made several acrobatic moves and spectacular stretches, but I was not in position to capture those photos. As the game unfolded, I monitored him on likely Lehigh pass plays, and finally caught him in action as he leapt high for a catch, despite Yale’s defensive player draped all over him. It reminded me of the famous Super Bowl 42 helmet catch by New York Giants receiver David Tyree that beat the New England Patriots in 2008.

3 Tips
1. Understanding the game of football makes the game much easier to photograph.
2. Pass plays typically provide the strongest action photos.
3. Use a very fast shutter speed to freeze the motion, even if it requires a large f-stop and high ISO.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Spin Move

A simple college arts and dance show can surprise you with great photo opportunities.

Charlotte Rutty is spun upside down during a Bowdoin College dance show.

The Photo
Every Fall, Bowdoin College invites parents and family members to visit on Family Weekend and experience the variety of activities the school has to offer.  My daughter Megan helped organize a dance performance, so we didn’t want to miss the chance to see her perform on stage.  Yet while Megan was very excited about her own dance number, she said we absolutely should not miss a dance where her friend Charlotte would be spun around her dance partner’s arm. 

Thanks to that tip, I was confident a perfectly-timed photo would capture something special.  However, the dance hall lighting was far from ideal, as performers moved in and out of alternately bright and dark spots on the stage. This required perfect timing to shoot photographs only when dancers appeared in the lighted areas.  In addition, because the dance photos required freezing fast motion, the image quality would be sub-par, since I had to set my shutter speed to between 1/250 and 1/500, use a very high ISO, and set my lens f-stop to a wide-open f/2.8.

When Charlotte and her partner began the dance, they moved rapidly around, side to side and front to back, but I kept focusing and shooting.  At times, they were in the shadows, and I knew those pictures would not be usable, but when they danced in the brightest lit spots, those pictures looked great.  The first time she was spun around in the light, I missed timing the the shot for when she faced forward upside down.  Continuing to follow the dance, they did the spin again, and I timed everything perfectly.  It was a good thing, too, because they didn’t do it again. 

3 Tips
1. College dance shows can provide unexpectedly great photo opportunities.
2. Be ready to compensate for frequent changes in lighting or inadequate lighting.
3. Use a shutter speed that freezes the action, even if you have to lose some image quality by using a high ISO.