A Shot in the Dark Photography | Sports Photography

Sports Photography

Sports photography is just like all photography, it captures and locks in that brief millisecond of time for that person to look back on and covet for the rest of their lives.  It’s the evidence of your actions and how that moment is judged differs for every person.  It always goes something like this: old pictures found in a shoe box, or loose while cleaning a house and the people in the room get together to review the pics- who’s in it, the time period, are they still living and other tidbits, they could be 100 years old, or just last week.  Comments will be made; “Look how heavy I was”, or “Look how thin I was” or other remarks about appearance (It happens, you know it).  Its life, it’s about reminiscing.  I’m a military history person, so I like looking at old photographs and wondering what was occurring around the people in these photographs, and what was going through their minds at the time; were they hot or cold, tired, scared, and what have they witnessed that others could learn from.

I’ve photographed baseball, softball, football, soccer, wrestling, volleyball, basketball and random other events.  Football and basketball are definitely the easies, they are predictable.

I, personally, like sports photography because there is no pressure, and though the expectations are high, they aren’t demanding.  If you miss a child’s goal, it’s disappointing, but it isn’t the end of the world.  If you miss the first kiss at a wedding because your batteries died or you were single and checking out someone in the wedding ceremony, well then you might want to think about another career path, possibly sports photography, or gardening.

The more you understand the games you are shooting, the better the position you are going to put yourself in to capture the action.  When I started shooting soccer, I knew 2 things about soccer: 1. There was a goalie who worked diligently to keep his face in front of the ball out of the goal similar to Superman stopping a speeding bullet (I was that guy in intramural soccer, flat footed slow white guy with Jedi like reflexes) and 2. There was a pile of other players chasing that ball up and down the field, and they are exhausting me.  Now I like to listen to coaches, and pick apart what they actually know.  It’s a lot like listening to my cousin when her son played baseball; she knew nothing about the game, so she just started yelling what all the other parents were yelling.  I’m sure if you listened hard enough, you’d hear her yelling to him to keep his hands back while he was playing shortstop.

With soccer, the kids aren’t more difficult to photograph when they are young, and easier as they get older.  With the little kids, they never know where the ball is going to go, and so neither do I, but I can get close to the action without an issue.  With high school kids, you have a general idea about where the ball is going, or should go, so you can predict.  With the in between ages, it’s a guessing game.  You hope they listen to the coach when he says “Kick it outside” or “Don’t kick it in your own goal”, or my new favorite “Take advantage of the stumble”, but it’s a 50-50 shot.  I’ve seen a lot of self-inflicted goals.

That’s kind of where football and soccer differ for me.  Football, the ball can only go one direction for the most part and it always starts out with one person.  You take care of speed by moving further down the field, but if a play fills your view finder, you need to back away, quickly.  Boys soccer after dark is definitely the most difficult.

You never know what you are going to capture, so I’m going to go over a few now.

One thing I've failed miserably at over the years is getting the reaction to the play.  I've been so focused at reviewing the shot in my display to see if I even captured the play that I didn't follow through for the rest.  These shots would simply be in the "Exhilaration" realm and it's exciting to photograph and exciting to watch the game.  Whether its relief on someone's face, and when the excitement bursts out after a long volley.  I always try my hardest to be impartial as to who I may want to win, but when there's so much excitement I get caught up as well.  This photo was taken this fall with a match between Bridgeport and Buckhannon-Upshur HS.

This picture would be type of image I classify as “Capturing the pain, then the humor”.  By humor, I’m not signifying it was humorous at the time, but after the incident, and after the pain and swelling alleviated, you look back and smirk.  Its like when I was younger and my cousin hooked me in the face with a fishing fly, I wanted to hurt him badly and first, but weeks later we were laughing over the incident.  It most likely wasn’t such a laugher at the time for this guy, but if I were going to be beamed by a heater, I could think of no better place to get hit than the old hind quarter.  This was taken back in about 2006, with Westmar High School varsity baseball hosting Southern HS.  I knew I captured the beaming, but I couldn’t find the ball on my camera screen until I got home to process the pictures.  Little did I know, his left cheak had absorbed most of the leather and seems.  I get shots like this all which makes me grimace at first glance and laugh at later, but some parents may not be too enthused, so they end up not being uploaded to my site.

This image would be classified under “Overly Aggressive and Competitive”, and though I don’t like to publicize these images, they have become part of the game.  This picture was taken around the 2008 time period, in a girls’ varsity soccer game between Allegany HS and Mountain Ridge HS.  These 2 girls weren’t sharing Christmas cards, and from the looks of things, that isn’t about to change.   There were issues before this game came about, so I tried to keep my finger on the shutter when they were near each other.  What you don’t know about this picture is they were each preparing to go up for a head ball, and the girl in blue took a bit of advantage of the situation.  Her coach denied the incident occurred after the game, apparently he hadn’t seen my page.

Sometimes you just have to bring your camera and hope you get a shot worth talking about; the “Lucky Shot”.  This picture was taken in either 2006 or 2008 from well up in the stands at Byrd Stadium at the University of Maryland.  The action you see before you is Florida State University in the process of a last second field goal to tie the game.  I have a whole sequence of this, with the Maryland player breaking through a gap in the offensive line to get his hand on the ball to block the field goal.  Maryland won the game, and for this picture I was given a sideline pass to a future Maryland game, which was the highlight of any game I’ve ever photographed.

Then there’s the “Eyes say it All” shots.  My favorite shots, here are a couple.  Many times I feel that whether an individual is in the middle of the action or not, the intensity in their eyes defines the picture.