Demystifying the world of sports photography

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Podcast: Episode 45 – More reasons to hate Messi

Podcast: Episode 45 – “More reasons to hate Messi”

Listen and download links here:

– Subscribe and listen via iTunes (We’ve re-published our audio feed, but you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe. Technology is fun!)
– Get RSS feed
– Get MP3 (Click to listen or right click to save it to your computer)

News

Matt talks about shooting high school kids and before you pick up the phone to call the authorities, he was there for his ongoing “Under the Brim” project.  Ryu talks about something he can’t talk about, but now he can.  Skill Twins.  No, he didn’t shoot the video.

Master Class

Effort v Results.  Just because you try hard doesn’t mean your photo is worth something.  Listen to us tell you that your blood and sweat do not guarantee an entry into the BLFS heaven.

Training Ground
Training Ground is now on video. If you’d like to participate (and we think you should), enter your pictures in the Flickr thread and make sure to tag them BLFSTG201502.

Training Ground will now be split off from the podcast, and will run approximately two weeks after the podcast.

You Win

Well well well.  It’s our first ever new format You Win and we had a disagreement on who should be crowned the best of January 2015.  Just because we can, you should listen to find out who won.  Because honestly, we like surprises.

Cross-Counter

Matt goes golf and Ryu goes WTF, Business Insider? (Jelena Jankovic).  And we also don’t understand why World Press Photo 1st place singles award went to this average photo, 2nd place went to this great moment≠not so good photo, and let’s not talk about this catastrophe that is the 3rd place.  As for the story category, this one is sublime and this one is not a story and not good.

Special thanks to…
Our producer Robb Massar
Icon by Arvin Bautista

*Please Read Below*

Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by clicking on the “Donate” button and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Critical Beatdown #4

Our sports photography portfolio review service CRITICAL BEATDOWN is now up and running. This time, Tom Beary is our subject and he has graciously allowed us to share the video.

If you’re interested in your own Critical Beatdown session, get in touch. It’s you’re own personal Training Ground where we will critique up to 15 of your pictures and tell you what’s wrong and what you need to work on. Probably the smartest $100 you can spend if you want to become a better sports photographer.

*Please Read Below*

Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by clicking on the “Donate” button and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Training Ground: Mid-January/Mid-February 2015

Here is the Mid-January/Mid-February 2015 Training Ground video.

Please don’t forget that Training Ground will be posted in the middle of the month and it will not come out at the same time as the podcast. Therefore, the next deadline for submission is mid-November.

If you want to participate in Training Ground, please go here: Big Lens Fast Shutter Flickr Group

Enjoy the pain. :)

*Please Read Below*

Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by clicking on the “Donate” button and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Podcast: Episode 44 – Sports Illustrated Special

Podcast: Episode 44 – “Sports Illustrated Special”

Listen and download links here:

– Subscribe and listen via iTunes (We’ve re-published our audio feed, but you may need to unsubscribe and resubscribe. Technology is fun!)
– Get RSS feed
– Get MP3 (Click to listen or right click to save it to your computer)

News

Matt talks about shooting basketball and bowl games, and Ryu gets back to work after his new arrival.

Master Class

Current events pre-empted our planned topic for Master Class, and we ended up talking about Sports Illustrated, the layoffs of their full staff of remaining photographers, and the state of professional sports photography.

Training Ground
Training Ground is now on video. If you’d like to participate (and we think you should), enter your pictures in the Flickr thread and make sure to tag them BLFSTG201412.

Training Ground will now be split off from the podcast, and will run approximately two weeks after the podcast.

You Win

You Win is back in 2015, with some changes, and we hope everyone will raise their game. You Win will now be anything goes, but with the new rule that the picture must be taken in the calendar month. Goto our BLFS flickr group page for competition rules and to enter.

Cross-Counter

In honor of the SI staff photographers who lost their jobs, we picked out a couple of pictures by Simon Bruty. Ryu chose this one of the LSU football team and Matt chose this one of the Kentucky Derby.

Special thanks to…
Our producer Robb Massar
Icon by Arvin Bautista

*Please Read Below*

Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by clicking on the “Donate” button and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.
Donate Button with Credit Cards

Editing a Sequence

As Ryu and I check out the work of people in the Flickr group we often see long series of pictures from the same play. Yes, modern cameras can do 9-11 frames per second, and that’s fine – except for Ryu who shoots some kind of film no one’s ever heard of. But it’s good to keep in mind two things: 1) what does high frame rate shooting get you? and 2) how (and why) do you edit down all those pictures?

There are times when shooting at 9fps is pointless at best, counter productive at worst. I’ve used the example of a baseball pitcher’s motion: if you want the ball just coming out of his hand or the perfect follow through picture, you’re much better off using single shot mode and working on the timing between when your brain says “shoot” and when the action is where you want it. The same goes for the horse’s kick in rodeo, it’s just too fast for 9fps, and if you lay on the shutter, you’ll most likely not get the fully extended kick that the hacks have spent 20 years “perfecting”.

There are other times when it pays to have a bunch of pictures of something to give your clients/editors maximum choice. In 2013 I was shooting the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo in southern California, and there was a matchup between the reigning world champion saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright and Hat Stomper, a many-time selection to the National Finals Rodeo owned by friends of mine. Since this was before I was allowed on the arena dirt, my only option was to shoot from about 60 yards opposite the bucking chutes with the action coming toward me. I knew that there was a good chance that the horse would blow up in the chute, but also that the pictures would get better as they got closer to me due to separation from the background via the depth-of-field qualities of shooting a 400mm 2.8 lens.

Below is the series, minus a few intermediate pictures that were too similar to include. I’ll do a mini Training Ground on myself to demonstrate which ones were used and which ones weren’t.

The first two pictures are of the blow up in the chute. Each has pluses and minuses, with the minuses winning. Again, there’s no separation between the subject and the background due to the 60 yards from camera to subject and 1 yard from subject to background. In the first picture, you can see the rider’s face fairly well, but in the second, the horse is significantly higher off the ground. Neither of these is a throwaway per se, but they’re also not my best, especially a season of dirt access (with the choice of angles and far shorter distances) later.

1
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

2
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

Generally once a quality bucking horse clears the chute gate, its first few jumps will be the best before fatigue sets in and the amplitude/extension decreases through the finish. NFR bucking horses like Hat Stomper have a little bit extra and will most times buck very hard through the eight seconds. On this ride, every jump was right at me, so it was impossible to really show the kick. If you look closely, you can see when the rear hooves are even with the fronts and when they are higher in a kick. Trying to time these jumps was pointless since the kick is only implied anyway. Of pictures 3-6, 4 is the best combination between the kick of the horse, face and feet placement of the rider, and depth-of-field. But even that picture could have been better if either it had been closer to me or at enough of an angle to show the horse’s extension during the jump.

3
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

4
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

5
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

6
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

Now here’s where it gets interesting. It’s not every day that you see the world champion get bucked off like this, so the subject matter is working for me. They are also much farther down the arena, providing me with more detail (horse’s mane, the strands of the braided reign, the fringe of the chaps etc) plus much more separation from the background that helps isolate the action. So how to choose?

I like 7 a lot, and if this was the only one I got, I’d probably have been satisfied. The horse is in a very powerful position, pushing off of its rear legs and delivering enough force to throw the rider, whose foot is just starting to come out of the left stirrup. Not bad.

7
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

8 has a little less impact because the horse has already delivered all of its force, and the energy has been sucked out of the picture due to the positioning of both rider and horse.

8
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

Now here’s the one. In 9, the horse is balled up again, getting ready to kick, which has sent the mane flying. The rider has turned a bit toward the camera so you can see his face better than the previous pictures. He is now completely disengaged from the horse and trying to figure out how to land without breaking anything. As a total bonus, he left his boot behind in the right stirrup, and you can clearly see his his white sock. This isn’t super-rare, but it doesn’t happen every day, and it provides the last bit of detail to push this picture over the top.

9
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

10 has the horse still bucking hard, in fact this is probably the one in the series where you can see the kick most clearly. But since both horse and rider are so close to the ground and farther away from each other, again, the impact is sucked out of the picture.

10
PRCA Rodeo 2013 - Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

After 10, the autofocus went out because there was too much space between horse and rider and the focus went all the way to the chute gates.

So what did we learn? Well, there’s more to it than having the right lens/exposure/focus; things beyond your control (position and orientation of your subjects) almost always will influence your pictures. Even when crazy things happen, not every picture will show it the best. When you edit down to what works the best, there will always be more impact than if you try to divide your viewers’ attention between 10 pictures in a series.

Picture 9 was blown up to 10’x10′ and wrapped on the back of a trailer that travels tens of thousands of miles per season. All of the others only exist here and in my archive. This is exactly as it should be.

Get ‘em young I say, get ‘em young!

Matt and I, we both get occasional emails asking us how to grow a nice moustache.  Strange, yes as Matt has the worst moustache I’ve ever seen on a human being.   But even more occasionally, we get asked how one becomes a sports photographer.  In most cases we tell people to go through the entire library of BLFS first and if we haven’t answered your question by the time you’ve listened to them all, only then come and ask us for our advice.  We firmly believe that after 50 episodes of BLFS and our blog posts, there is enough information for you to decide whether or not becoming a sports photographer is actually not a stupid idea.

But sometimes we get questions that require us to actually write a blog post about it.  About a week ago, my friend NL (he’s not Dutch, but to protect his identity, I’ve cleverly came up with this acronym) who is 12 years of age, asked me how he can become a sports photographer.  Just so people don’t start speed dialling their local authorities, NL and I met about 2 years ago at my friend’s wedding which I was shooting, of course.  An intelligent chap and we’ve kept in touch since.  I don’t think I have had any influence on him wanting to become a sports photographer, but he sounded serious enough.  So maybe he’s the odd one here.  What was interesting about his question is that he wanted to know which classes should he take at school to help him become a sports photographer.  Interesting.  I then asked him to give me the list of classes available at the moment.  They are as follows:

Art
PE (Gym for some)
History
Music
Science
French
Modern Studies
Geography
Home Economics
Technical

I.T.

Therefore if you are an aspiring sports photographer between the ages of 10-12, here are the classes Ryu tells you to take:

Art

I think this is a no brainer.  What we teach at BLFS is for you to come up with your own distinct style.  We don’t want you to become a cookie cutter sports photographer.  The only way you can do is to look at other people’s work, but in a much broader sense.  If you have been paying a bit of an attention to the world around you, photography is not the only art form out there.  Painting, sculpting, dance, music, video, fashion, whatever.  Art is sometimes unnecessarily everywhere.  I’m assuming this “Art” class will concentrate on a traditional definition of art so painting, sculpting, installations, and other fun things like art history.  As a sports photographer, to have interest in other forms of art is very important.  You don’t know where your next inspiration can come from.  Looking at beautiful things and learning the process behind it will help you through your creative processl.  So yes to art and try not to fall asleep when you’re forced to remember when van Gogh detached his ear off his face.

PE

I called it PE in my school as well, so we are cool.  In this profession, you need to be fit.  So definitely yes to PE.  Because in some cases you have to run to your shooting location ahead of the others.  It’s usually first come first served so you should even start raining by running with 20kg of gear on you.  If you don’t have that much gear near you, carry your classmate around your neck and run around.  That might help.  In any case, keep fit and strong.  Exhaustion in any form will ruin any concentration and you’ll need plenty of it during the course of a match.

History

I’m not into history much, even if it involves art and dinosaurs.  But this is about whether this class will help him with his pursuit of a career in sports photography.  I say no.  I don’t remember a single moment when I thought “God damn it, had I known the day Berlin wall fell, I’d have shot that football match better”.  Therefore, no.  But in general you should know a bit of history.  Says my wife.

Music

Same as Art.  Music can inspire you, unless you don’t like music.  Which is fine.

Science

If we lived in an age of BW photography and you needed to know the chemical reactions that occur in a developing bath then yes.  It’s better to know these things because when you do, you can become a mad scientist in the dark room. But we live in the 21st century and I have feeling that most schools don’t even have a dark room. I don’t think quantum physics and molecular biology will help you come up with a better composition and lighting for the coming cricket match.  Unless someone comes up with cell football.

French

My wife will say yes (she’s French) and surprisingly I’ll say yes as well.  Not necessarily French, but learning another language.  If you are not a dumb American, Australian, or Anglo-Saxon, you need to learn how to speak another language.  This is to prevent you from being ridiculed when you leave your country.   The reason is that if you want to become a sports photographer, it will be very helpful if you have good communication skills.  I don’t want you to just end up shooting in your own country, but to travel around the word shooting sumo and sepak takraw and jai alai.  You should aspire to become an international sports photographer.  Therefore if you can blag your way around in Spanish, French, or whatever, you’ll be that much better than the other monolingual sports photographers.  Combine that with charm, you’ll get into places no other sports photographers dare try.  Since so much of sports photography hinges on location, if you can sweet talk a Belorussian security guard into getting a position where you are normally not allowed to, you’re golden.

Modern Studies

I have no idea what this class entails.  I guess you talk about modern things.  But for some reason, it will probably be much less important than math, which is conveniently lacking from this list.  Most of photography is based on math.  So you should definitely take it.  No, you don’t need to have AP-Calculus under your belt to get a better angle on your remote cam at a high school basketball game, but you need to know basic math.

Okay, just googled it.  This is a class very specific to schools in Scotland.  From what I’ve read on wikipedia, no, you don’t really need it to become a sports photographer.  But if you’re a Scot and in need of separation from those pesky English at some point in your life time, then yes.

Geography

Yes.  At the very least you should know where 90% of the countries in this world is located and whether how many transportation options are there for you to travel from Barcelona to Madrid (Answer: 4 bus, train, car, and plane).  If you do not know where your own state is located (hint hint Americans), it’s bad.  I overheard a conversation last night with an American trying to describe to a Madridista where he is from. “Yes, I live hour and a half from Buffalo”.  As if someone in Madrid knows any other cities in USA besides New York and LA.  By learning about each country in a geographical sense, you won’t be caught wearing a down jacket and leggings boarding on a flight to the Australian Open.

Home Economics

I’ve never taken one, but I’m assuming you make things, right? Unless you are going to start your kickstarter campaign to fund a underwater housing for your Polaroid camera, I wouldn’t bother.  Some people like to concoct things on their own to make their job easier like that guy who invented the monopod socket to put an umbrella or that guy who invented a monopod socket to put a tray for your laptop.  To date I have not invented a single gadget to help me with my sports photography.  Maybe I should.

Technical

I have no idea what this is.  I’m assuming it’s something technical which makes me think it’s the same as Home Economics.  Which means NL wrote it down twice or I’m too stupid that I have no idea what this is.  I first thought about basketball when I read it.

I.T.

Oh come on now.  It’s 2015 and you still have I.T.?  I mean, that shit should be in your life by now.  Unless you are so shit at using computers or anything with dials and knobs, you should take it.  But then, who uses dials and knobs now?  Okay, forget it.  Don’t take it.

There you have it NL.  I’ve made my recommendations.  In the future, take a business class.  Remember that if you want to become a professional sports photographer, treat it like a business, not like a hobby.  But if you want to do it as a hobby,

treated as a hobby.  And a photography course?  Definitely yes.  If it wasn’t for the photography courses I took in high school, I wouldn’t be here right now.  I also hope that you will be able to process BW film.  Because that shit is magic.  I’m not guaranteeing that you are well on your way to become a rockstar sports photographer after taking these courses, but at least these classes will put you on the track to a better sports photography life.  And I’m definitely not guaranteeing that you will be popular with the ladies if you ever become one, but you know that already. :)

Ryu

201501RealvAtletico1261

*Please Read Below*

Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by clicking on the “Donate” button and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.
Donate Button with Credit Cards

 

 

Training Ground: January 2015

Here is the January 2015 Training Ground video.

Please don’t forget that Training Ground will be posted in the middle of the month and it will not come out at the same time as the podcast. Therefore, the next deadline for submission is mid-November.

If you want to participate in Training Ground, please go here: Big Lens Fast Shutter Flickr Group

Enjoy the pain. :)

*Please Read Below*

Big Lens Fast Shutter is funded solely from the pockets of Ryu Voelkel and Matt Cohen. If you think the information we give you about sports photography is making you a better sports photographer and as a result a well balanced human being, please show us your appreciation by clicking on the “Donate” button and send some of your hard earned dollars/euros/Brixton pounds our way. People who donate will be mentioned on our next show unless you want to remain anonymous. Thank you for supporting us and may the force of sports photography be with you, always.
Donate Button with Credit Cards

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