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Friday, June 24, 2011

“Take That, Great One”

Hockey body checks provide great picture opportunities with players being knocked off their feet and into the air.

Boston Bruins forward Steve Kasper (11, left) checks Edmonton superstar Wayne Gretzky into the air, but Gretzky’s Oilers inflicted the biggest hurt by defeating the Bruins (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
Body checks can often provide outstanding hockey photos as one player gets knocked in the air or to the ice. Boston Bruins forward Steve Kasper made his career out of being a strong defensive forward, and he was renowned for his ability to shadow and control Edmonton Oiler superstar Wayne Gretzky, who scored very few points in his career when facing Kasper. Shooting from above ice level, I watched Kasper and Gretzky throughout this game, but shadowing a superstar does not typically make great photographs, for Gretzky usually was too fast and agile to be body-checked. On this play, Gretzky was racing down ice after a loose puck, no doubt hoping to break in quickly and put the puck into the Boston net. However, Kasper saw him coming and stuck out his hip, while Gretzky was still looking elsewhere. When they made contact, Gretzky was knocked into the air, and I timed my photo perfectly. Had I been at ice level, the photo would have been stronger because Gretzky would have seemed to be higher in the air off the ice surface.

3 Tips:
1) Body checks provide strong photos of players being knocked into the air or to the ice.
2) Follow the players who have consistently been tough checkers.
3) Also watch the fastest skaters, who are frequently the target for opponents looking to check and slow them down.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

#3,000 -- at Last!

Achievement of a sports milestone provides a mix of emotions and activities to photograph.

After going hitless for several games, Boston Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski swats his 3,000th hit at Fenway Park vs. the Yankees and is honored on the field (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).

The Photo:
For five days, some 40 photographers squeezed into Fenway Park’s small media pit near first base, seeking pictures of Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski (“Yaz”) slugging his 3,000th career hit. After he collected three hits in a game to put him at 2,998, cameramen from all over the country crammed in with the photographers who typically cover a Red Sox home game, leaning over and into each other every time Yaz batted. However, it took him two more games to get number 2,999, and he went hitless another two games. Photographers pursued him after the games for disappointment photos, and the pressure Yaz felt was evident as he sighed, “I just want this to be over.”
Yaz’ big moment finally came against the rival Yankees, and before the game, all the optimistic photographers autographed a baseball to be given to him when he got his hit. A first base side shooting position meant that when Yaz got his milestone hit, he would run toward first, enabling me to capture any emotion he showed, plus it provided quick access to the field for photographing the celebration ceremony the Red Sox planned. Most of the great photo opportunities would be spontaneous reactions, so I stayed ready to react quickly. Yaz came to bat in the eighth inning, and the cameras again fired on everything he did. On the first pitch, he swung, I shot two pictures, and a roar from the fans told me the batted ball found its way between first and second base for hit #3,000. I kept the camera on him for an expression of happiness, but he was more relieved than happy. The Red Sox mobbed their captain at first base while Yankee right fielder Reggie Jackson, who earlier joked that he hoped he didn’t misplay Yaz’s 3,000th hit into a double, brought him the ball. As he displayed it to the crowd, accepted a trophy from the Red Sox, and thanked the fans, photographers filmed every gesture, searching for the right expression to sum up the event. A weary Yaz was glad this pressure-packed event was finally over, but I think the photographers were equally relieved.

3 Tips:
1) Position yourself to get the initial emotional reaction when the milestone is first achieved, and look for any subsequent range of emotions.
2) Remain flexible to react to the events as they spontaneously transpire.
3) If there are high expectations or pressure for achieving the milestone, try to convey it visually (crowds, media, strain on face of player, etc.).