A few months ago, looking at the CU football schedule, I noticed the Buffs had a Sept. 15 game against the University of New Hampshire.
Normally, a lopsided game like that wouldn’t be cause for much attention (CU won 45-14), BUT … we’re talking about UNH here … my (first) alma mater … and I wanted to shoot the game!
Sports photography is demanding work. It’s fast-paced, rooted in storytelling, and there are no do-overs. It’s much more than simply shooting action action action … at least it is for anyone who wants to do it well.
Shooting sports tests you as a photographer. You have to evaluate and respond quickly or pictures are lost - either because you missed exposure or focus or you weren’t anticipating the best position for an upcoming play and found yourself in the wrong location, maybe even using the wrong focal length lens. Beyond those technical aspects, you have to stay in tune with the emerging game narrative(s) so — as Rod Stewart might say — your pictures tell a story when you’re done!
Sports photography can also be physically wearing. You often carry a lot of gear, you’re commonly out in the weather (it was near 100ºF on the field at game time Saturday), you tend to be on the move a lot (many many Folsom Field stairs climbed and descended, uggh!)… and it’s normally a long day when you factor in prep time before an event and editing, toning and transmitting pictures after the event.
In spite of all that, I love shooting high-profile sports. When I do, regardless of who I’m shooting for, I imagine my work will be scrutinized by the extraordinary sports photographers and editors I’ve worked with over the years. It keeps the pressure on to not only shoot well, but stay alert and THINK about what I’m doing — what’s the story of the game, what pictures do I have, and what I still need?
This past Saturday, thanks to the fine people at UNH and CU who helped me secure a photo pass, I shot the game for several departments at UNH.
Because UNH was my client, that was the “filter” thru which I ran all my decisions. I was part photojournalist and part UNH advocate.
That put me in a very different position from photographers like my friend Dave Zalubowski (a shooter for the Associated Press in Colorado) who had to transmit a selection of his game photos before halftime (to meet East coast publication deadlines), and those pictures needed to work with whatever the final narrative of the game turned out to be. That’s a tough gig.
There are many many ways to shoot sports, just as there are with any other type of photography. For this game, I took a storytelling approach, same as always, BUT I freely admit I spent a big chunk of my time photographing action … largely because it’s a great workout for my photo reflexes and an opportunity I get all too infrequently.
Hmmm…that last part sounds a lot like whining, doesn’t it? Guess I’m just going to have to find more opportunities to get out there to shoot sports!
p.s. - I can’t wind up this post without saying how much fun it was to wear my 38-year-old UNH shirt t-shirt and root for my beloved UNH, even while my son and daughter were in the stands pulling for the Buffs (my son is a freshman at CU!). Score aside, it was a hard-fought game. All blue-blooded Wildcat fans can be proud of the noble effort our team put forth. Well done, boys!