Capturing the Moment in Sports

I look for moments highlighting the sport, the athlete or capture an interesting moment.

 

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The thrill of my career doing instant replay for live sporting telecasts was when I could take the footage of terrific camera operators & get it into the show.  Now with my still camera, sporting events are wonderful challenges to capture a story. Photojournalists are charged with getting the winning moment. I look for moments highlighting the sport, the athlete or capturing an interesting moment. It isn’t just winners who display emotions but many competitors have dramatic expressions. Panning the subjects adds the feeling of motion to this frame. I took the opportunity of the multiple laps in this race to find the best shutter speed to get the effect I was looking for.

02       Indeed racing sailboats is a competitive sport. However, my appreciation is the challenge the sailors have with harnessing the wind. Images that show the unseen force has on the sails highlights the beauty of the boat design. There are diverse styles of sailboats as well as “points of sail” which define how they move in relation to the wind. For sailors it is an ever-changing juggle of physics, geometry & nature. For photogs finding the balance of lighting & background with a subject with 360-degree options can be frustrating.

03Athletes talk about “space & time”. In this image of the Pittsburgh Rugby Club one opponent is flatfooted & one is changing direction as the ball carrier has full stride very much in control of space. Often in sports where numerous players are interacting, my favorite images involves multiple players. Close-ups have personal drama, but the nature of the sport can be best shown in shots where 2, 3 or more individuals are involved.

04 copyDuring my career I had the privilege of being places few individuals were allowed. I did my job in a professional manner & respected athletes & the fans. Working for NJ Devils, my responsibilities didn’t involve the game. I found hockey tremendously difficult with the speed, the obstacles & constant change of direction. I was always impressed with how Marty Brodeur acted in practice, in the locker room & after the game.  So I chose him to concentrate my on.  Also, he stayed basically in 1 position. I admire his concentration as Evgeni Malkin is ready to pounce on a chance to get the puck past him.

05One of the ancillary advantages of photography is you give your own images a title. I call this one is “Pass the Ketchup Please.” After the pros morning skate a group of hockey enthusiasts would frequently take the ice. I called them the AHL the Afternoon Hockey League. If the title makes you smile it is a good thing.

06 copyI just recently discovered this fascinating activity. A combination of surfing, sailing, wind surfing, wake-boarding, snowboarding & hang-gliding, I would describe it as dancing with the wind on water. Initially I was disappointed that my position on a cliff overlooking the water was so far away I couldn’t get tight shots of the athletes as they launched themselves into the air. I then realized that the wider shot, which included the sail, was the best way to illustrate this sport.

06aSometimes a moment catapults your mind back to an image without warning. As a pack approached an early turn during the 1500 I was looking at getting a group shot of the runners. Although I didn’t see, or capture, what caused the fall, I reacted to the mishap. Moments after snapping my shutter the iconic Sports Illustrated image of Mary Decker on the ground during the 1984 Olympics flooded my memory. I now follow David Burnett who took that shot. His legacy of work is very impressive and inspiring.

07I just bought a 28mm & was looking for a subject to tune my eyes to this prime lens. It was afternoon in late fall with the sun low in the sky. I drove by a skate park & saw young men on boards. I observed them doing tricks to determine a good position. Most positions had terrible backgrounds. In the bottom of the bowl there were no distractions. I also noticed the shadow of the lip on the curved bowl.  I waited until this skater, & his shadow, were in the right position. Gravity is a subtle subject in this picture.

08Crew in competition or practice displays power, grace & symmetry. In my mind, this image as the 8 “Boys in the Boat” still working together as they end their workout on the Charles River represents the teamwork necessary for this sport. The boat had carried them gliding across the water. Now, they carry their shell to the boathouse.

11I was watching these students with envy on a beautiful fall afternoon. The Tech Dinghies are not the most beautiful boats on the water but they have a charm all their own. When I realized newbies were getting experience on the water I saw the potential for this encounter. I think the lesson for both boats was “Be aware of all that is around you!” Also good advice for a photog!

12 FinalI’m not a photojournalist & many of my images aren’t intended to document life so I’ve become ethically comfortable with editing my images. I’ve also learned my comfort zone with PS tools. I especially like how I can manipulate a shot with shortcomings into an acceptable image. I was slow in recognizing the opportunity of this position on a balcony until the last heat. The focus is off but I did capture/freeze “The Moment” I was looking for and altered it enough to make it a respectable shot of what my minds eye envisioned.

On The Water Part Two

My photographic inspiration is seeded with personal experiences, individual perspectives & a desire to share my visual thoughts. The lead shot of this post took patience & persistence. Tools I wish I had developed earlier in life. I hope you enjoy how my minds eye sees the world. If you want to see more sign-up to follow my blog.

My photographic inspiration is seeded with personal experiences, individual perspectives & a desire to share my visual thoughts. The lead shot of this post took patience & persistence. Tools I wish I had developed earlier in life. I hope you enjoy how my minds eye sees the world. If you want to see more sign-up to follow my blog.
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I begin many days with the sunrise, drinking coffee & watching this skier from about a mile away. Some mornings the early light is as perfect as the water is flat. I knew I wanted to capture an image like this. On a few occasions I kayaked into Bemus Bay w/camera but the skier didn’t appear. I gave up on the low level of a kayak & began stalking him with the powerboat. On the third morning on our boat “Erised” with the golden light of a new day I was rewarded. It’s been decades since I strapped on a slalom ski & I never was as good as this skier but I still feel the grace of carving the water when it is like a sheet of glass.

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If I had known before… On a pleasant motor cruise around SFO I was scanning the bay & saw this thoroughbred. Only after I got the image on my computer & zoomed in did I find out it was USA76, a challenger to the 2003 Americas Cup in New Zealand. The haze of the region may not be pristine for photography but the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is a nice background. Although this is an elegant mono hull I still am enthralled with 12-meter boats used in Americas Cup before 1992. Yes indeed I am old school & proud of it. USA76 is available for charter & my next trip to SFO will definitely include a ride on this beauty.

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The point of sail in relationship to the wind, the trim of the sails & the weight/position of the crew have a significant impact on the performance of the boat. With the boat heeled over, this crew on an E Scow from Chautauqua Lake Yacht Club is “hiking out” to move the center of gravity for maximum speed & getting a great ride. Getting into position to show relationship of crew, sail & the side rails of the boat was a challenge. On the water things change quickly. You need to be ready.

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Sailing is described as hours of pure pleasure interrupted by moments of sheer terror. I was early to Cambridge to meet my daughter & saw sailboats on the Charles River. With the setting sun lighting up Boston’s Capitol Dome in the background my thoughts were on a wide postcard type of image. I walked onto Harvard Bridge to get the best angle of boats & dome. Waiting for a cluster of foreground sails I spotted these 2 boats. I anticipated correctly their line of sail to the marker buoy. I won’t say who had the “right of way” but just before I snapped this photo both crews became aware of the other boat. The wide shot with the dome & sails was OK. On this short photo sojourn this moment I captured was my favorite. The class of boat is called a Tech Dinghie and was designed by a professor at MIT.

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More & more people are getting their butts on the water in Kayaks. Young-old, male-female, coordinated or not it’s an inexpensive way to get on the water. I have taught 6 year olds to paddle & the smiles on their faces are indeed priceless. In this shot I waited for the apposing angles of the paddles to balance the frame. I especially enjoy early mornings as the sun is low & the lake has mirror qualities. Simple serenity sometimes offers excellent opportunities.  If your going to even think about taking a camera on a kayak get a Dry Bag!!! If you want a source for kayaks around Chautauqua Lake see the folks at Evergreen Outfitters.  Nice people running a local business that does things right.

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The blades of these oars are part of an 8 man crew/rowing team from Chautauqua Lake Rowing Association. This CU of still blades resting on the water will soon explode into well-coordinated kinetic energy powering the boat thru the water. Although I was aware of this sport, crew was not inspiring. At my 1st Olympics in LA in 84 I was on the TV crew for rowing. WOW can world-class rowers make those fragile boats/shells fly at over 12 mph. An average shell weighs around 200 lbs & holds 8 crew. The coxswain guides & coordinates the power, rhythm & pace of the rowers. I believe it is the ultimate team sport. Rowers must be in perfect sync. I highly recommend a book about the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal team from the US called BOYS IN THE BOAT. It is much more than just a good sports story.

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In my teens I was a north of average water skier. Today, if I had 2 good knees, you can bet your bippy I would be on a wake-board. I paddled my kayak to a prime position in Bemus Bay for shooting stills of the Chippewa Lake Water Ski Show Team. Being in a kayak not only got me closer to the subjects but also gave me low perspective of action. Sometimes a little closer & a difference of a few degrees can make a dramatic difference. I routinely look for an angle that gives a slightly different dynamic to the image. The low angle put the wake boarder against the overcast sky. Also, he knew exactly where I was & timed his flip perfectly for my camera.

Pole Vault Photographs

My daughter transitioned from gymnastics in high school to pole vault in college. I worked a few T/F events for TV but knew little about the sport other than the obvious. Photographing any sporting event is an exciting challenge. Add to that my daughter’s involvement & I was motivated to explore PV with my camera. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a parent is when your children inspire you.

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I was fortunate enough to visit my daughter during practice. Even though the gym was not visually inspiring, I got a feel for perspectives & positions. A friend/teammate of hers competed in the ’10 D3 Outdoor Nationals at Baldwin Wallace so we went to watch. The PV pit had a hill to the south so spectators & photographers were near the height of the bar. Afternoon sun was back left & theBG was a stand of pines. Even though this was my first attempt at photographing PV, I realized this position for capturing action around the bar was about as perfect as possible. Sometimes life is like that. The truth of Ansel Adams simple quote “A good photograph is knowing where to stand” was never more accurate.

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Athletes compete to win but in individual events a competitor getting a new personal best is considered a victory. As a photographer my goal is to document athletes & the sport not to capture the winning moment. In the previous shot it can be assumed that the bar was cleared because of her position at the apogee of her vault. In this shot the alignment of the body is still in assent and at a nice diagonal of the frame. Her success is unknown. I especially like the ponytail.

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Each sport has particular moments for compelling shots. In PV I broke it down to 8 components. The concentration at the start, running down the track, planting the pole, take off, assent to the bar, clearing…or not, the fall & reaction are where I try to capture the athletes. This shot is of Jan Shur at SUNY Fredonia moments before she exploded into her approach. At the time of this photo she was the world record holder. While elite athletes provide inspiring physical actions, I find their concentration & reactions to be the images my eyes linger on.

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Oh how I wish I took this shot of my daughter. This is the moment right after the plant & the beginning of take off. Most critical to this picture is the position of where her coach/photographer, Patrick Barragan, was standing. I am sure his knowledge of the sport was also an asset. The original shot was wider. I cropped it to emphasize the transfer of the power of the athlete to the pole. THANKS Patrick!

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Two frustrating elements of indoor PV are zero control over light (higher ISO/more grain) and cluttered backgrounds/foregrounds. Although I always try to position myself where I can get the best perspective, I sometimes will find a place where the back/foreground provides a pleasing aspect or, in the worst case, the least offensive. In this shot the American Flag, always a compelling element, created a terrific background even though the stripes are not plum to the PV bar.
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This shot was taken on the descent. I will leave it up to your eyes to decide if the reaction is of success or failure. Speaking of failure…PV & High Jump are 2 sporting events that almost always end in failure. After an athlete “wins” the event they have the opportunity to continue for an attempt at new personal best or event/track/national or world record. Only when they fail to make the height in 3 consecutive vaults is the event final.