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Ryu: Curacao, it’s more than a drink

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Morning.

I’m on my way to Hannover to check out this CEBIT thing with my wife. I won’t get into the specifics of why I’m going to CEBIT or why my wife is annoying me whilst I write this post, but let’s just say that life is good when you get to go and checkout the latest gadgets and geek out for a day. Last year, my partner (sorry Matt, I’ve been unfaithful) and I went to Dominican Republic (DR) to cover baseball there. It was a successful trip as DR won World Baseball Classic and we got enough publications to be interested in our story.

Fast forward to December 2013. I reconvened with my partner in Japan (he’s a real Japanese, unlike myself) and we discussed where to go next. Since Wladmir Balentien broke Sadaharu Oh’s single season home run record and Andruw Jones contributed to the Rakuten Eagle’s championship run, Curacao was hot. I had no idea where it was, but that was where we were heading next. Tickets were booked, interviews were scheduled, shorts and sandals were packed and we arrived on the Caribbean island only to find out that it was carnival week on the island. Long story short, it was an uphill battle to schedule shoots and interviews because people wanted to party and not work. Which is a bit weird because it seemed that everyday life was a party there. Jjust so you are aware and no hard feelings towards me on a Caribbean island in February, I spent a total of 30 minutes on the beach. Therefore the other 10050 minutes were spent doing what I came there to do: shoot baseball.

In the latest podcast which should be dropping (I’m in with the kids) soon, I mentioned that I had to come up with fresh perspective on shooting baseball. The reality is that the after DR, I felt like I have left it all on the field. Needless to say, I was nervous. What if I couldn’t come up with any other way to shoot this sport? If so, would anyone be interested in buying these photos? Would a massive failure here equate to me losing all my clients? Is it over for me as a sports photographer? I kid you not. My doomsday scenario was in full mother fucking effect.

My concern became a nightmare as I stood on a baseball field in Curacao with sweat running down my spine. My mind was racing. What am I supposed to do? What can I do? Then I told myself, “Go. Shoot. Because there’s nothing else you can do.” And I did. At first it felt awkward. After that passed, it felt even more awkward. It only dawned on me that this was not the time to force the issue. Unlike a match, I had time here. Even though I had the carnival eating away at my time on the island, I knew I had time. If I fuck it up today, I still got tomorrow. So I relaxed a tiny bit. Enough for the game to come to me. Then my photos became better. Not on the first day, but from the next day and so forth. I had to just let go of myself a bit and observe. To be slightly calmer than usual. At the end of the trip, I had photos that I was relatively happy with. Not happy happy, because that never happens with me and my photos. Ever.

What did I learn in Curacao? That there is another way to approach sports photography besides my usual way of full panic mode and racing at 194km/h (that’s how fast we are moving now on the train). Although I will not change the way I approach the way I shoot sports, I now know that it’s okay to let some air into the chaos in my brain if it is needed. To wait for the moment to come to me rather than to chase after it like a sailor on the dock after a whore.

Anyway, crisis averted until Cuba in 2015. :)

Ryu

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*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.
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BLFS 2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 59,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 22 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Therefore it would be great if we can have 365 sold out performances for 2014.

Just saying. :)

 

Click here to see the complete report.


Ryu: Top 10 because it’s better than Sports Illustrated

My wife is cleaning the fish tank as I write this and I really need to finish my top 10 of 2013 before she’s done.

Happy new year everyone. Just wanted to thank you for your fantabulous support for BLFS last year. It was great. We are thinking about some cool shit for 2014, so hopefully we can all ride the BLFS bus together into the sunset. Oh wait. That sounds like we’re going to end it. No, no. We will ride together to next year and beyond. That sounds marginally better. Anyway, here’s my top 10 and not top 11 like I had last year. Of course, in no particular order.

World Table Tennis Championship
My first time shooting ping pong and it was fun. And long. The reason I like this picture is that I was able to show how high she was throwing the ball. This wouldn’t have worked if I was shooting it horizontally as it would diminished the effect of the height of the ball. In any case, the sport itself is slightly boring as it is dominated by Asians who don’t know how to celebrate. Or even crack a smile. So serious.

Ai Miyazato (Japan) during Table Tennis World Championship 2013 15/5/13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spain v Brazil
For a lot of people who follow my work and for those who like football, this seems to be the consensus favourite of 2013. This was when Neymar went into the stands to after the medal and trophy ceremony and got mobbed by the fans. I like it because it shows the craziness of football and I got it almost exactly how I wanted it. As you may have already guessed, I had my camera above my head with my hand fully extended to get this shot. Bit of a crap shoot as I’m not looking through the viewfinder. But over the years, I have perfected the no-look shot so I basically know where my lens is pointing without looking. Seriously, I do. If I had a another go at this shot, I’d aim it a bit lower to get rid of the roof of the stadium on the upper left corner. Hopefully I’ll be in Brazil this summer to to try it again. :)

Neymar (10, Brazil) and fans during Spain v BrazilConfederations Cup 2013 30/6/13

World Swimming Championship: Diving
Also another first in my life. I shot the entire competition from beginning until the end. About 2 weeks of water sports. Oh that sounds nasty. The only time I got to see some sun was when we had the daily 6 hours break between the morning and afternoon sessions and diving. I tried to underexpose everything in diving just so I can get the light to fall onto parts of the body to create an interesting look. I sort of did that here as her face is completely dark and the rest of the body is sort of properly exposed. I also wanted to have the sky and nothing else as the background. This discipline is the most fun out of all the water stuff as the others can only be shot from the ground. Unless you have underwater housing, but that’s another story.

Women's 3 metre springboard during World Aquatic Swimming Championship FINA 2013 Barcelona 26/7/13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Swimming Championship: Swimming
Towards the end of my stay in Barcelona, I got bored. So, I started to experiment like a college co-ed. I was really into this under exposing stuff and this time I wanted the background to be completely black. I managed to do it, but the rest was quite underexposed as well. Mr. photoshop came to my rescue and helped me lighten things up a bit, but to be honest I find the colour to be a bit unnatural. Unfortunately this is what you have to live with sports photography as you can’t put fill lights to compensate for underexposing certain parts of the photo. But I’m content with the result. If I get a chance again this year, I might try to make it better since this is the type of action that happens almost all the time during a swim meet.

Men's 50m freestyle preliminaries during World Aquatic Swimming Championship FINA 2013 Barcelona 3/8/13

Hertha Berlin v Hamburg
I think it was my first match of the season and the only reason I went is because there is a Japanese guy playing for Hertha. I thought I could sell some of his photos to a Japanese publication. I didn’t, but I got this picture. It took me a long time, about 1/3 of the 2nd half to get it. It took this long because I was waiting for him to look “right” and everything to be aligned. I eventually did and I like the window effect at the top.  Honestly, without it, it will just be a goal keeper with his hands on his hip. Boring.

Rene Adler (15, Hamburg) during Bundesliga 2013 Hertha Berlin v Hamburg 24/8/13

Evian Championship
That’s right. You get to have infinite amount of Evian water at this event because they make (or source) the water there. If you like Evian, you’ll be in heaven. It was at a hole where you can go below the level where the golfers were so you can really get down low and get a super low angle shot. I was waiting for this particular golfer because she was wearing white and I wanted the white to blend in with the clouds. I did. And I’m okay with that.

Tee shot 16th hole final round Evian Championship 2013 15/9/13

Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund
Lest you forget I shoot football most of the time. This was one of those matches that blends in with the rest of the season with the exception of this photo. I like it because the daintiness of Giroud’s feet and the faces of both players are conveniently covered. Everything fits in well in the compositionally and order is restored.

Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund 2013 Champions League

Golden Spin
Probably the last time I will ever shoot Kim Yuna, my favourite figure skater ever. Without her, I would not have had the will to keep on shooting figure skating. I got hooked when I saw her perform in Paris and since then I’ve been shooting figure skating. My regret is that I never shot her to perfection so this one is a bit of a sentimental pick. Not that I hate this photo, but like always, I’m okay with it. This was shot during the press conference after her free performance. Bet you didn’t know that. :)

Golden Spin Zagreb 2013 Kim Yuna after Free Performance 7/12/13

Viktoria Plzen v CSKA Moscow
Another Champions League match and another monkey chat fucking piece of shit assholes. Honestly, I have no idea why UEFA doesn’t ban these fuckers. It’s 21st century and you shouldn’t have monkey chants. Fuck them. But I like this shot. Also waited a bit until things were lined up the way I wanted before I got the shot. Trying to shoot disgusting people beautifully. That’s the job of a sports photographer.

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Inter v Milan
10. Last but not least, the Milan derby from last month. Smoke and fog are for some reason rampant in this part of Italy and they create a look that I saw from the previous derby a season ago. For some reason I forgot to take the shot or didn’t really even cross my mind to do so. Once again, I wanted emphasise the minimal amount of lights coming from the flood lights. The red from the electric advertisement board was a lucky accident. Someone won the match, but I don’t remember (Inter did).

Serie A Inter v Milan 22/12/13

There you have it. Most of these shots came to me when I was bored and that says a lot about sports and my attention span. But I firmly do believe my best work is done when I allow myself time to get creative. You will hear from Matt and I about the importance of aesthetic in sports photography when you listen to our next podcast. We do not want you to become one of those people who think the great moment compensates for a shitty picture. It doesn’t. Well, it does if you’re Sports Illustrated.

Let’s make sports photography beautiful (again) in 2014.

Ryu

*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.
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Critical Beatdown #3

Our brand new sports photography portfolio review service CRITICAL BEATDOWN is now up and running with the second episode. This time, Adam Butler 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.

*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.
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Ryu: Shooting amateurs professionally

Hello there. At the airport wondering why people havoing such difficult time with our current You Win: Emotions in sports. It is beyond me that why some of you are so locked in on the action and cannot figure out that the most important thing in sports is the reaction to winning and losing. But that’s for another time, because thinking about it gets me too riled up and I’d rather stay calm. Doctor’s orders.

What I want to discuss today is the difference in shooting amateur and pro sports. I belong to a football team in Berlin and I had the opportunity to shoot my team. At first, I wasn’t too excited to shoot my teammates. Not because I have an aversion towards my own team, but I have an aversion for shooting amateurs. Unlike my Jewish partner, I grew up shooting pro sports. My first sports shoot was pro football in Japan. Big games and big tournaments followed and not an amateur in sight. Poor me.

Could I have gone out of my way to shoot amateurs? Sure. But, shooting amateur athletes in Europe makes me 0 Euros. I had a taste of it in DR shooting Dominican baseball players, but most of it was shot in a professional environment, academies run by MLB teams.

So why amateur now? Since so many of you don’t have access (ie press pass) to shoot pro sports, I’d be doing you disservice if I am not experienced at what you are experiencing. I also was in a bit of a funk after the England v Poland match I shot where I felt my shots were awful. Like terrible. I needed to avenge my poor performance and what better to try something new?

1. Access
I mean, WTF? You can go EVERYWHERE. Changing room, on the pitch, and I can even drink their water bottles.  I’m stunned for those who are shooting sports at this level that you aren’t getting more intimate shots. Some of these athletes are your friends or family members. Get them to react to your presence. Let yourself be the stimulus. And also, get in their grill. Make them uncomfortable. Hell, you are the photographer, you do what you want.

2. Unpredictable
At a higher level, things go according to how things should go. Player A passed the ball to Player B unchallenged. 10 out of 10 times the ball gets to the intended position. But at this level unpredictability rules. Expect the unexpected. In a way, it’s more difficult to shoot amateurs because you have to be ready for everything. Make sure you are on your toes and try to be conservative when predicting the next play.

3. The Ace
Since this is not the Bundesliga or the Prem, inaccuracy is rife. Trapping, passing, dribbling, and shooting. Everything is off. Therefore the player will not hold the ball long enough for you to get a good action shot. Lots of lost balls peppered with lots of headers in the air. Therefore if you want good action shots, follow the ace. In my case, our ace can hold the ball longer than the others (“others” include myself of course), allowing me to get the shots I wanted. But obviously you can’t shoot him all day long and you’ll need to shift your focus to the other players because the last thing you want is tons of picture of your ace and meagre harvest of the others.

4. Experiment
This is your chance to do whatever you want. You want to be right next to the goal, at the feet of the players? You want to be so close that you can hear them breathe? You want to go on the pitch when they celebrate the goal and maybe join them? Okay, the last one is a tad too much, but the others are totally plausible. As long as you are not in their way, get as close to the action. Use a flash. Place cameras in weird places. Shoot the players whilst running. The imagination and refs patience is the only limit. Go crazy.

5. Portfolio
If you are starting out in sports photography, shooting amateurs is the best way to showcase your skill. Besides the blatantly obvious segue into Critical Breakdown, shooting amateur sports will be the key for you to get shots unimaginable in pro sports. Only thing impressive about having images of Lebron, Peyton, Cristiano, or Tiger’s waitress girlfriends is IF the image is interesting. Contrary to popular belief, just having images of superstars isn’t enough to impress your potential employer. But an image of the locker room with kids cowering in fear as the coach gives them the hairdryer? Priceless.

The most difficult thing for me was to detach myself emotionally from the game. Not easy when your teammates are busting their balls out there. But if you want to shoot sports, you have to cut all ties with what’s happening on the pitch and concentrate on getting great shots. Because that’s what a sports photographer should do.

Along the same line, I am now thinking whether I can shoot a match with bare minimum non-pro equipment instead of my usual D4 and the funky bunch. But that will have to wait until my next slump.  :)

Ryu

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*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.
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Critical Beatdown: Portfolio Review Service – Awesome

Okay, have a glass of water and take a deep breath. We are going to start a paid service. No bitcoins, but actual money will exchange hands. Which means that you give us money and we provide a service.

God forbid, because everything on the net should be free right? Yes, it should be, but we aren’t music or Breaking Bad or porn. Definitely not porn. We wish we were. We believe what we provide for you is of good quality and we should get paid for it. If you disagree, I’m fine with that because you will continue to get everything we offer for 0 Montenegro Euro. Bet you didn’t know that Montenegro used Euro, did you? Training Ground, You Win, Podcast, and the Flickr boards will continue unscathed by our sudden greed.

We will continue to accept donations because frankly we love money and can never have enough of it. By all means you can make a donation to us more than once. Someone even said that we are a lot cheaper than joining a sports photography class or going to a sports photography boot camp. Therefore, don’t be shy and you should continue to give us donations. We will love you more. Of course we will. :)

What we will be offering starting now is a 100USD portfolio review of your work on video. Let’s break it down. For 100 American dollars, we will review your portfolio. Your portfolio will include no more than 15 images. We will break down the images on youtube. You can choose for this video to be public or private. If it is public, the world will see it. We will also put it up on our site. If it is private, only you will get to see it. We will then tell you the bad, the good, and the improvements you can make.

This accomplishes two things: 1. We get paid 2. You will become a better sports photographer compared to the ones who didn’t pay.

Therefore this is a service for someone who really wants to become a better sports photographer. This is for you who thinks Training Ground is not enough. This is for you who thinks you can do better, but really don’t know how and need specific instructions. This is for you who is unsatisfied with your current progress and need additional something something. This is for you who believes we can help you more.

Pay us and we’ll make you the most desirable sports photographer in the neighbourhood.

Love ya.

BLFS

PS Need an awesome name for this service. Whomever comes up with the best one will get 20% off when using the service. Once. Not for the rest of your life.

Update: We did. It’s called Critical Beatdown.

*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.
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Ryu: Low and behold

Afternoon. But by the time this goes out, it could be evening or morning. We’ll see. All’s well in the European front as I’m on my way to shoot some football in Manchester. That’s Manchester in England and not the fake one in New Hampshire. I’m also now toying with the idea of getting a GoPro so that I can get some weird angles and hangout with all the cool extreme sports photographers.

This week’s sweet tip is exactly that. Trying to get your low angle shots lined up whilst not looking through your view finder. This is assuming you have no space to lie down. Because if you have the space, you better have some dirt on your tummy.

What I used to do is to put the camera as low as possible (aka on the ground) and point the lens towards the direction I want and fire away. But unfortunately, this is not the most reliable way to shoot as you have no idea EXACTLY what and where you are shooting. I’d shoot couple of frames, check the images, try different angles and settings, check the images, prefocus, check the images, and repeat until my OCD got tired. When the moment came to shoot, I just hoped and hoped and hoped.

With the arrival of D4, everything changed for the good. I suddenly realised that with this this live view thing, I can now see what my camera is seeing on the LCD. Wow. A twist of the dial and a push of a button. I have to admit that it was a technological breakthrough in my life (I’m fully aware of the fact that a Somy camera made in Tajikistan for 50 Indonesian Rupiahs also has an active LCD just like the one on D4). Welcome to the world where pro gear doesn’t get all the useful stuff.

I don’t know which of the DSLRs out there have a live view mode. But I’m assuming I’m talking to the majority and not the minority. Therefore if you’ve been dying to shoot that low angle shot in a cramped place and was having trouble getting shots, you now just have to push a button. Maybe turn a dial. By the way, in the D4, the live view mode only lets you shoot in AF-S and it doesn’t do the usual FPS.

But hey, life could be worse.

Ryu

*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.
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Ryu: Saving private Spot

As is the case with almost all my posts, I’m writing this when I’m bored to tears. I’m kidding. Kind of. But I do think about you when I write about it so there is still some hope between you and me. I’m at Oberstdorf shooting the Nebelhorn Trophy. That’s figure skating to you and me. It’s exciting, but the level here is so low that I’m waiting for the big guns to show up. And that’s like at 23:10 tonight. I’d like to say I’m kidding, but I’m not.

Matt and I have already wrote quite a lot about sports photography in our past posts and frankly we are running out of big ideas to write about. We definitely don’t want to go the Hollywood route and start posting remakes and sequels of our previous posts. Instead, we will continue to write posts, albeit in smaller packages. Like tips. When we have something big to say, like when Matt gets all crazy eyed talking about a certain organisation, we will write a big one. But from here on out, we will give you nibbles on sports photography.

One thing I learned very quickly is that when shooting sports, positioning is everything. What you also need to understand is that these positions are only yours if you claim it. You can sit there until the game starts, but what to do when you want to move around to shoot warm-ups? Or when you want to shoot them coming onto the field? What most of us do is to leave something at the spot. Some opt for a monopod, some a stool, and some duct tapes with your name on it. A lot of Japanese sports photographers do the tape thing, I think it’s a cultural thing. As for me, I usually go with the stool. For a simple reason that I use the monopod to shoot and I can’t just leave it there to secure a spot.

If you really really want to get a specific spot on the pitch or floor or whatever playing surface you will be shooting that day, get there early. My colleague who shoots Real Madrid frequently gets to the stadium 3 hours before the match. On big match days like the Classico, he’s there 6 hours before kick off. Excessive? Most definitely, but he’s certain to claim the spot.

Lastly, getting your spot on is the first thing you should do when you arrive at a sporting event. Get your accreditation, get your bib, claim your spot. Then do whatever you have to do. Early sports photographer claims the spot. So says my mother.

Ryu

*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.
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Ryu: Nikon D4, review by a sports photographer (part 3)

Focus pocus to you, BLFS legion of doom.

It’s been a while since I wrote a post, but I just haven’t had much to talk about. But now I do. During the world swimming (aquatic, your choice) championship in Barcelona which lasted for 2 weeks, but felt like 2 years, Nikon happened to be one of the official sponsors. Which meant that we had a NPS (Nikon Professional Services) booth inside the media centre and we had access to a troth of Nikon gear including the kind-of-brand-new 800mm f5.6. I did take the black long baby for a spin and the only thing I got out of it was that it was very light. It’s made out of a new material making the lens as heavy as the 400mm f2.8. But it’s way too long and way too long. Making it too long for my everyday use.

Anyhow, there were two Nikon engineers from Japan who were conducting field tests on their current and future gear. Sorry, no D6 on the horizon people. They were collecting data for new firmwares, especially the D4. Apparently the latest firmware gave a better exposure reading on conditions where there are hard shadows on a surface like a football match in the early afternoon. I got talking to them got lots of good info on the D4 and mainly on focusing which I wanted to share with you guys.

(Before we start. The 800mm f5.6 comes is paired with a custom teleconverter which is calibrated to use only with that lens. Therefore you couldn’t use this particular teleconverter with another 800mm f5.6. I asked if they would consider making a new 300mm f2.8 with a custom 1.4 teleconverter to make it a 420mm f4 with a focusing distance much closer than the 400mm f2.8 and almost no loss in focusing accuracy and speed. To that they said they did try that with their 200mm or 300m in the past, but wasn’t wildly successful. Damn them. for not making a boy’s dream come true)

AF-ON
I like to keep my focus and release separately and therefore I’m an AF-ON button guy. They said that the longer you hold down the AF-ON button to focus on a subject, the better focusing accuracy you will get. This is because the fairy inside the D4 is continuously calculating whilst the buttons is held down and the more samples it has, the better the focus. Once you let go of the AF-ON button and press it down again, it will start another calculation. Therefore they advised that it’s better to start focusing on a moving subject earlier than immediately before releasing the shutter. Which means if you are still using the shutter release to focus and take the picture, you better get your ass on the AF-ON band wagon.

FPS
Apparently less is better. You may already know this, but the D4 does not do continuous focus with 11fps. Which means you’ll need to use 10fps. They said the accuracy of the focus will even be better at 9fps. This is because of some troll is hindering the focusing when there are too many fps. I did ask will the focusing be even better with 8fps or 2fps to that they said beyond 9fps it makes no difference. So set it at 9fps and forget about it. By the way, 9fps can only be set with CL and not CH on the dial.

3D v Dynamic
Use 3D when there is nothing but the subject and a very very plain background. Like figure skating and blank white ice as a background. Dynamic is better on more complex situations such as rugby and billboards, people, cars, etc. in the background. They told me that it’s better to use 9 points for dynamic focusing as 21 or 51 is way too many for most sports. Here’s how dynamic focusing works. When you select a focus point in your finder, it comes with 9 more sub focus points that surrounds the main one. These sub focus points help achieve better focus points by gathering info around the main focus point. I bet you didn’t know that. Neither did I. Wizard!

Focus lock
Unlike what I heard from the Nikon rep, it’s better to have at least 1 and not none. Apparently This is 0 (none) is way too sensitive and as a result gives you inaccurate focusing. I’m trying it on 1 at the moment, but I might go back to 0 depending on results. Sometimes with 1, I feel that the camera cannot keep up with me. I need my Nikon D4 to be magnet coated (obligatory Gundam reference).

Release
Stick with release priority if you are a sports photographer. Apparently the Release + Focus was made to mimic Canon’s focusing philosophy. I guess they were trying to convert Canonites to Nikonians.

Auto ISO
Use it when you have a situation like the hard shadow + hard light = hard contrast on a mid day football pitch situation. Set the ISO to auto and set the shutter speed and fstop on manual. Haven’t tried this but in theory it should work.

These sizzling D4 tips can be used with other Nikon DSLR as well. What I learned is that one focusing method is not an end all to all the sport shooting situations. Especially the 3D focusing v dynamic. Needless to say I was treated like a princess by the Nikon engineers which shows that they are desperate to keep their customers. NPS was even giving out goodie bags which included a 32GB XQD card and a reader. XQD? 143234 times better than any CF card. You won’t believe how fast this thing is. But I don’t know of any CF XQD card reader in existence, which means you end up having two memory card readers sticking out from your laptop. They should have gone with double XQD or double CF. Oh Nikon…

Ryu

focuspocus

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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.
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Training Ground: Episode 29 – June 2013

Here is the June 2013 Training Ground video.

Please don’t forget that starting from this month 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 August.

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

Enjoy the pain. :)

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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.
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Confederations Confessions 2013: Entry 3

(I’m back home now, so the information is slightly outdated. However, I have yet to receive more offers to use the image from the Confederations Cup)

It’s done. I’m sitting comfortably waiting for my flight with Mutsu Kawamori, the gentlemen who provided us with his own confessions during the EURO 2012.

Euro 2012 with Mutsu Kawamori

Tired legs and heat exhaustion from the semi-final match with the Italians cost them the Confederations Cup title, I think. Brasil was no slouch and they dismantled Spain in a convincing fashion behind Neymar.

Now comes the difficult part in trying to capitalise on the shots I took from this tournament. I sold one (that’s right, ONE) to a magazine for about 50 EUR. Which to me is crazy, but that’s how things are done at the moment. I’ve just contacted another magazine to see if they are interested. Hold on. Just got an email from them. “We already have enough photos from other photographers. Thanks but no thanks.”

(By the way, prints and editorial prices are different. Why? Because there are added costs to prints compared to editorial use)

That in essence is my job. Getting more rejections than acceptance. To be honest with you, trying to get magazines to use your image is flawed at best because there are more sports photographers than magazines at the moment. No matter how good a shot I take, I will continue to get no love from them. It’s grossly inefficient and there isn’t anything I can do to make them part with their money. That’s why I have taken to flickr / FB / tubmlr etc… to promote my work. By using SNS, you at least get your work public in your own terms. Potential clients may see my images, get excited, and hire me for another project. Individuals come across my images and want to buy them as prints.

These are precisely the reason why I don’t advocate any young or old people becoming a professional sports photographer. It simply doesn’t pay enough. As for me getting worried someone else will take my work? That’s not possible because I’m better than everyone else. :)

But the allure is there. Because sports photography is a bit too great not to make it into a profession. Ego is another thing as well as that when you’ve been paid to get a spread in a magazine and imagining how many people have seen your images? It’s worth all the pain and suffering.

I try not to hide too many details for you, my fellow BLFS peeps. I want to tell you like it is and this is how it is. The way you interpret this information is up to you. You might still want to become a professional sports photographer or you might want to enjoy it as a hobby. Your choice.

Ryu

Neymar

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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.
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Confederations Confessions 2013: Entry 2

It’s the day of the final. I was planning to write before today, but I’ve been inundated with jet lag, traveling and permanent sleepiness that I just couldn’t do it. Sorry. I hang my head in shame.

Almost forgot the most important thing on this trip. Claudio Franco from http://www.claudiofrancofoto.com/ who has been a keen participant in BLFS has been a thick of beam of light for me in Rio. He and his family gave me shelter, food, and even some clothing because I had no clean clothes to wear. Without their assistance, I would have ended up in some gutter in the favelas. So, muito obrigado Claudio.

As I have promised, below is the seldom told, un-sexy side of a sports photographer’s life during a major tournament.

Accreditation
Unlike normal matches, tournament requires you to get a general accreditation. This will get you into the media centre and ride from the media bus (more on that later), but will not get you into the match. You will also be given a beautiful bib and this time it was orange. Sexy stuff. You’ll need both in order to shoot a match, but these are not enough to get into the match.

Media Ticketing
This is where the confusion, frustration, and “WTF?” comes into play. You’ll first need to apply for a media ticket which will in turn allow you to shoot a specific match. For example, I’ve applied for Japan v Mexico and I got in because the only people who were interested were the Japanese and Mexican press. On the other hand, Brazil v Japan might have been more difficult, because A) all the local press wanted a piece of this action B) It’s Brasil. Therefore some might have gotten the “Sorry” email from FIFA.

Once you get the “Hell yes, come on down brother!” email, you go into the media centre of the stadium and to the photographer’s media ticketing. There you are given an enviable task of choosing where you want to sit. Unlike club matches where you can sit wherever you want, you’ll be assigned a place and you will sit there for the duration of the match. If you want to shoot the same team both halves, you’ll need to do some back door deals with another photographer in order to swap seats at half time.

I said that you can “choose” your seat, but that depends on which stadium you are. At Belo Horizonte, we were allowed to choose a section of a stadium. Home goal, Away goal, Home touchline, and Away touchline. Like this.

MediaTicketing

You are then told to pick a card from a stack of cards which are faced down. The card will have a number which will correspond to your seat in that section.

This “playing card” method seemed to be the most popular with the photographers around me. The worst method was the no choice method which was in Fortaleza. When you arrive at media ticketing, they already give you an envelope with your name on it. You open it and voila, a card with a seat number. No choosing here and that sucks balls.

Match
Match itself is like any other match with one caveat of your gear having a much higher chance of getting stolen. There has already been many cases of gears growing feet and wandering off, never to be seen again. Apparently there are dishonest paid and non-paid workers as well as other photographers who think taking someone else’s gear is an appropriate thing to do.

Media Bus
There are two media hotels at every city that will take you straight to the stadium. If you are crazy enough to take taxi or public transport to get to the stadium, you will be dropped off about 239km away from the stadium. This is due to security and not due to the protest currently going on all over Brasil. You will need to carry your gear and yourself through suicide inducing heat to get to the stadium. If you take the media bus, it will drop you off right at the door of the stadium. Voila.

Work
Let’s talk about that. At this moment, 15:30 30th of June 2013, none of my pictures have been used in any paid medium. Frankly this also sucks balls. I cannot fathom the thought of coming home with less than what I left Berlin with. Some images have already been sent to Magazine A and I’m waiting for their answer. Magazine B decided not to go with my pictures, but are asking for pictures from the final. Client A has given me a possibility of an assignment given a victory of a certain side. Client B might use some images, but not sure. Scary, right? Unfortunately, this is a reality for most freelance sports photographers. We sometimes have to shoot on spec and hope that someone will buy our photos and consequently save our lives.

Time is ticking now and in 6 hours I’ll be packing everything and going back to Claudio’s place for the last time.

The final episode will be with you shortly… after the break.

Ryu

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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.
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Confederations Confessions 2013: Entry 1

I should call it “Brasil”, because that’s how it is spelled there and you know, I’m all about local and keeping it real.

Confederations Cup awaits me. For those of you who don’t know what this Cup is, don’t bother. Not that Copacabana and the beach babes aren’t calling me, it’s just as a freelancer, you do need to goto FIFA sponsored events such as the Confederations Cup to show that indeed you are very serious about going to the World Cup next year. Basically, if you don’t goto any international matches including qualifications and friendlies and you apply for an accreditation for a World Cup, you won’t get in. You have to pay your dues to have the chance to play with the big boys. Or big gentlemen if you prefer to be weird like that. For those of you who are wondering why I’m only going now and not from the beginning, well, not much of a point to cover the first two matches. Let’s just keep it at that.

Now that you know how you too can shoot the World Cup, I thought I get into a mini gear talk.

2 x D4
400 2.8
14-24 2.8
24-70 2.8
70-200 2.8
8mm fisheye
16mm fisheye
Canon S90
Mamiya 6

That’s it.

Yup, no flash. Not even one. I am still debating about this at the time of writing, but I’m certain I won’t be needing them this time around. There are couple of reasons why this is the case. 1. I am doing a secret project with my Mamiya 6 and that will take up a lot of time and flash photography will eat into Mamiya time. 2. I won’t be shooting any portraits with flash. 3. I kind of want to get out of using flash in football. I’ve done what can be done and I need to get out of my comfort zone and come up with something new.

Canon S90 was bought for my honeymoon trip to use with an underwater housing, but proved to be a good little snapper. The news of foreign photographers getting mugged on the Brasilian beaches has got me worried and my wife is worried about the protests and how I could get caught up in it because I’m not the smartest person in the world.  Regarding the protest, I fully support it.  They have money to build stadiums whilst people don’t have enough to eat.  That’s not good.

Back to the S90.  I think it will detract me from looking like an Asian dude with lots of expensive gear waiting to donate them to the local gang affiliates. Because, you know, I like to give.

The lenses I’ve chosen are my usual ones, except for the 8mm fisheye which is a circle. Still haven’t figured out how to use it, but hopefully I will get some time to find this little one a place in my heart and my bag. I’m also hoping to rent some lenses from the Nikon people at the stadiums where I will be shooting. Nikon and/or Canon have their booth set up in these big tournaments. They will lend out equipment for the day free of charge. Pretty much anything you want whilst stock last. So in essence, you don’t have to bring any equipment with you. But that’s just lame. But I know some people who do that.

I’ve contacted all my clients and potential clients and ask them what they want from me. Maybe they want a lot, maybe not. But all that is left for me to do is to get up in about 3 hours, take a cab to Tegel, and pass out until I see the beaches of Rio.

What a horrible life I lead. :)

Ryu

Photo courtesy of AP / Felipe Dana via Washington Post (This is the cool photo that was here before, but I took it down because it wasn’t “fair use”. But it’s a great photo so do have a look. 

 

brasil1

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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.
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Ryu: Open wide

Hello there.
I’m in London at the moment for a wedding shoot. No, no, no. I’ve not given up on sports photography, but when you get an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, you grab it. Especially when they fly you in and they pay you for your work. :)

Before I left, I went through all the lenses that I want to bring for this wedding shoot. I ended up taking 2 x fisheye, 14-24, 24-70, and a 70-200. As you might have figured out at this juncture in our relationship, I am a sucker for wide angles. I have no idea where this fascination comes from, but I cannot get enough of wide angle lenses. If money wasn’t an objective, I’d totally get this lens (Nikon 6mm f2.8 fisheye) and shoot all the sports available on this planet. But then, I have neither the fund nor the access to such a beast, so I shoot with what I have. Poor me.

Sports photography is sold as a genre of photography where one must shoot with a 400 2.8 and 1900 f0.5. All you see are shots taken with the long ones and we are conditioned to want to shoot with these lenses. But there is no guarantee that by using the long lens you will end up with a Pulitzer Prize sports photo. Except for my wet dream 6mm f2.8, most wide angle lenses are cheaper than tele lenses. Which means that good wide angle lenses are more affordable than a good tele lens. Therefore we should all shoot sports with wide angle lenses. Yes, we should and my logic is never flawed.

There are two distinct ways in shooting with a wide angle lens: far and close. I went through my shots from this year (2013, in case you are reading this in 2015) and came up with some samples of each.

Far
The main subject is not close to you, but far away from you. Therefore you get a shot that encompasses everything. Like a landscape shot. This technique is used when you see something in the environment that you want to incorporate into the picture. Sunset over a stadium. Crowds in the stands. Also showing the enormity of the place where the game is going on. These shots put the viewer inside the photo and make them feel like they want to be there Unlike a long lens shot, you will really need to think about composition. Tiny mistakes at the composition stage will most likely make you cry later, so be patient and precise when composing. Don’t worry about the exposure that much since the subject is so far away, there won’t be much DOF issues. Here are some samples.

Wide2 Wide1 Wide3

From my experience, you can take time shooting wide angle shots because the subject is so far away. Put it this way, the subject is the entire frame. Individual athletes in it will not make or break the shot. For instance with the ping pong shot, I shot the same composition for about 10 minutes, hoping to catch a good moment. But what I care most was the composition and not what the ping pongers were doing. What I wanted to show was two athletes duking it out in a very big empty arena.

Close
The main subject is very close to you. You should be able to smell them and lick their eyeballs (all the rage in Japan). Just a fact that security is so tough at professional sporting events these days, it’s not easy to get close to them. Hence the rise in long lenses, I guess. But if you are shooting amateurs, you can get as close as you want. Hence, I have no idea why we don’t get more shots of close up wide angles in any of our competitions. Hencing, done.

I’d leave the camera to aperture priority or shutter speed priority and let the camera worry about exposure. You, you worry about focusing. The point of getting close wide angle shots is to get as low as possible. Therefore you are not going to be lying down on your belly. No, you are going to shoot without looking through your viewfinder. If your camera has a live view on the LCD, I’d use it, but this is only useful when your subject is not moving. When they move, you go one handed. You’ll need to take some practice shots to determine composition and trust that the camera will do its job in focusing. This no look focusing is not easy as 1-2-3. You need to practice (Practice?) to get the feel of where and how your camera focuses. So get on it. The point is to get as close as possible to the subject. If they hadou-ken you after you get the shot, you win. But please don’t try this with people or vehicles that can harm you permanently. BLFS condones bravery but not stupidity.

If you manage to execute a close up wide angle shot to perfection, you will certainly wow your friends and butlers. Guaranteed.

WideLow6 WideLow4 WideLow3 WideLow1

Bonus: Fish Eye
Go wide and distort my friends. Since it’s so distorted, you just have to love it. I recently got a circular fisheye and I’ve got plans for this baby. Same rules for far and close with the fisheyes as well, but make sure you know how close you are to the subject when you shoot. It’s that “Object may be appear closer than you think” when you’re using this lens through a viewfinder. Try not to bump into the athletes.

Fisheye2 Fisheye1

Wide angle is underrated in sports photography. It is a shame because it creates such dramatic look that can only be matched with a wider lens. If you are shooting amateur sports where the access is crazy super cool, you have no excuse not to shoot wide angle.

So, go wide, young (and old) BLFSers.

Ryu

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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.
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Ryu: Ping Pong (aka Table Tennis)

Good evening.

Couple of hours ago, my wife and I came back from the vet. Our cat, Maggie won’t have much time to live. Her liver is failing and she’s got about a day on this planet. The cat has been with us for 9 years and she is family. Before all this, I did promise myself that I’ll finish this post today, because I don’t want to remember this day not doing what I set out to do. I don’t think Maggie will be happy with her dad being a lazy bastard. So, let’s get it on, ping pong style.

1. Angles, angles, and more or less angles
As with shooting any sport, it starts with angles. From where are we going to shoot this slower-than-jai alai sport? I’ll show you some examples, because it’s either that or my awesome hand written diagrams.

A. Front
This is how it looks shooting from the front. You can either choose to focus on the action that is happening in the foreground or the background. If you decide to shoot the ping ponger in the foreground, you will need to find moments where you can see his/her face. Because otherwise it’s ass and back all the time. Unless you are looking for fist pump / celebration shots.

Front1

Here is the reverse. The problem is that it is very difficult to focus on the background dude, because the foreground dude blocks your shot. If it’s difficult in singles play to get a shot like this, try doubles. You’ll want to pull your arm hair out. The key is to pre-focus and just fire away and hope you’ve done good deeds to merit some in-focus shots.

Front2

The other two shots are variations of the above two. I was bored at some point and tried to see if I can get the ball focused completely during a play. If you want to do something like this, you’ll need impeccable timing or 9fps. The other is multiple exposure and as you can see, it’s a work in progress. Same focusing problem here. You need to decide where you are going to focus and stick with it. Try not to move your focus around, because you’ll end up missing the action.

Front4 Front3

B. Side
Includes 3/4 and anything but dead on. This I used a lot when shooting men. What I realised was that men’s ping pong is uber athletic. Plays happen quite often nowhere near the table and the movements are dynamic. If you want these shots, you’ll have to shoot from the side. The 3/4 look is also the same, but with a caveat of having the opponent in the frame. It’s also the easiest way to shoot ping pong because you rarely get the player in the foreground blocking your view, whilst getting a clear view of the background player. Therefore, it’s a bit boring.  It’s just not difficult enough for me. :)

Side4 Side5 Side7

But my favourite was shooting with the 400 2.8 directly from the side. This way, you’ll get details of the action as well as shots not possible with other angles. Mind you, the success rate is low because you’re focusing very close with a long lens, but when you hit it, it’s platinum. Or gold or anything shiny.

Side2 Side3

2. Tech stuff
Since it’s fast, you’ll need to shoot quite fast. No less than 1/800. But this all depends on how good your camera is in low light. I had to use ISO between 3200-6400 depending on the strength of the light in the arena. No flash. You also aren’t allowed to remote it. But I didn’t ask so maybe it’s possible?

3. The GAME
As always, know the rules. How many times does a person get to serve? When do they switch sides? What is the order of the post game handshake? How do they get on the court? When are they allowed to wipe their rackets and faces? How long is the time out? Who is playing in what court? How many sets / games? Know them, because if you don’t, you’re just and idiot.

Celebrations and defeats. Since this is a multi-point sports like basketball or golf, you’ll have ample opportunity to get the highs and lows during the course of the game. As for action shots, you’ll get a fair share of opportunities so if you miss one, shrug it off and prepare for the next one. But as with any sports, each players do have celebration tendencies. Some like to turn around, some like to face the opponent. Some like to pump the fist sideways. But what I did find is that they do tend to face their coach when they celebrate. Not all the time, but often. As for the downers, they are all over the place. So, keep your eyes peeled and your lens clean. But if they are playing an important point and if you are looking for a downer shot, just lock your lens on the guy and wait for him to fail. Tough, but that’s how it goes.

Celebration5 Celebration4 Celebration2 Celebration1 Celebration6

Be very aware of the what point they are on. If the guy is down 3-8 and he starts catching up, he’ll start going crazy around 6-8 and 7-8. Things go bonkers if he makes a shot instead of the opponent missing one.

Ah yes, the Asian factor. Things have gotten better, but Asian people suck at celebrating in sports. Especially the Japanese. It’s like they are emotionally stunted or something. The Koreans are like the Latin America of Asia so when they are fired up, you can’t miss it. Chinese are more like the Japanese in that they mask their emotions quite well. Since top players in the world are pretty much all Asians, you’ll really have to be on your toes when capturing the emotional moments. Don’t expect Tiger pumps and Chastain bras.

Well, that’s it. Sorry, I wasn’t really in the mood to be funny, but I’ll be back to normal next time.

Have a nice weekend. :)

Ryu

PS Moko, we love you and will miss you.

Moko

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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.
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Ryu: Sucking in the details

Hello. It’s me again.
It’s been a slow month so far as I didn’t get the red carpet treatment for the 1st leg of the semi-final of the Champions League. I’m crossing my fingers to get into the return leg, but then the scores being what they are after the 1st leg, I don’t know if it’s even worth it. But then it beats staying at home and not doing anything. Yes, that includes shooting basketball here in Berlin.

Since our beloved Jewish rodeo captain gave you the “details” assignment for “You Win”, I thought I take up the challenge myself. Since the Alba(tross) Berlin was doing their thing at O2 World, I thought this would be a perfect platform for the assignment + getting better at shooting indoor sports. Because as you all know, I suck at shooting indoor sports.

Capturing details in sports is not very easy. If you’re one of the many who are happy with freezing action and having those pictures proudly presented on the refrigerator door, you’ve got to get yourself ready for some brain washing. Details in sports photography, according to my interpretation is a matter of macro and micro. Macro sports photography is the big stuff. The action, the joy and the sadness, and an image that encompasses everything without being specific. On the other hand, micro sports photography is a drop of sweat, an odd face in the crowd, and an element that stands out from the rest of the image in the frame. Therefore I didn’t really see this assignment as getting as close as possible to the subject or zooming into the subject. My decision was to find something odd or peculiar within the frame and make sure it is obvious enough so anyone can see it.

The shoes. I thought it would be interesting to shoot just shoes and get a shallow enough depth of field to concentrate on just one shoe. I don’t think I did particularly well here, but I just want you to know that was my intention. This was during the warmup before the game and warmup is a regular occurrence, I will try to shoot this composition again. To me, this would not have qualified as a “details” picture if the aperture was at f8 or above as more than a shoe will be in focus. Shoe is better than shoes.

Shoes

The face. I wanted to see some sweat, but there was none to be found. Which means they probably weren’t seriously warming up. Those lazy professionals. But when they were stretching, I noticed that some of them were making a face. So I tried to get as close as possible to get their expression. What’s important here is not to get too close. Because the closer you get, the only thing you’ll have left will be his face. This is problematic as there is no context within the frame. It is useless unless you are using this photo as part of a series. But if you too shoot too wide, the face will not be evident and will get lost in the chaos of a warm up session. Not easy, aye?

Face

The arms (and hands). We get too caught up in shooting the dude (dudette) with the ball or the person who is the conventional protagonist in your frame. But what if you take a step back and look at it from another perspective? Although this picture like the shoes is less than perfect, I wanted to show that there are things that are happening outside of a conventional shot. Here, I wanted to capture the shoving, pushing, and getting into position whilst getting the ball handler in the background I did fail, but you know what I mean. I’d like to further explore this in my next game alongside my failed foot fetish shots.

Hands

Details. Essential if you want to take the next step in sports photography. There is a reason why Getty people get paid more than you do and we’re not talking about their equipment. Those fools know what to look for and they are always looking for details in their shots (or not, depending on which Getty photographer we are talking about). For some of you detail spotting will come easy, but for some this will be an uphill battle. But so be it. It wont’ be fun if we give you easy stuff, would it? You still got about 2 weeks of this, so rack your brains and give us some of them details.

Ryu

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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.
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Ryu: Darling, please compose yourself

As you do, I started my research with Google.

“composition photography rules”

Apparently there are more than 3 of these rules and I’m as surprised as you do. I have no idea if these rules are taught at schools or maybe they only teach you couple of them if you attended a state school. Maybe there are more of these rules because I googled them and we all know that google is cheaper than state schools.

Big thanks to http://www.photographymad.com, http://www.ephotozine.com, http://www.digitalcameraworld.com, http://photoinf.com, and http://www.smashandpeas.com/ for the rules.

Here are the rules in no order of importance:

-Rule of Thirds

-Balance

-Lines

-Framing

-Simplicity

-Symmetry and Patterns

-Viewpoint

-Background

-Depth

-Cropping

-Experimentation

-Fill the frame

-Aspect ratio

-Avoid the middle

-Use diagnosis

-Space to move

-Creative with colours

-Breaking the rules

-Don’t cut off limbs

-Rule of odds

-Avoiding Mergers

As you can see, there are lot of them and some of them are bit repetitive. As you can probably imagine, I don’t know any sports photographer who thinks about these things while shooting. But, this is not to say that you should not study them because by the power of the almighty lord of darkness and of all things sports photography, some of you REALLY need to hit the books when it comes to composition. I’m not going to say who, but you know who you are. Pop quiz at the end of this post.

You have two hands (if you don’t, I’m sorry), you have ten fingers (if you don’t, I’m really sorry), please google them after school.

Since I didn’t goto photography school and my formal photography education comes solely from an elective at Hong Kong International School, I’ll have to show you how to compose. Please thank me because usually I bin all the bad shots from my shoots. But I did think about you guys while I was culling them and therefore I can do this post with a picture aid.

Here is my 8 step program into better compositioned life. Why 8? Because it’s a lucky number in China (I’m Japanese) and there just happened to be 8 photos to describe what went on in my head whilst composing the final shot.

Step 1.
Germany v Kazakhstan. Cold. I spotted a railing next to where the players will be coming out. I thought it was a good idea because I can use the “twist the camera to line up the frame with the line” technique and there was no one else there. It’s also rare that players come down the stairs when they enter the pitch. They usually go up.

Step1Step 2.

I decided that maybe it was a bit too much with all those lines. I also wasn’t too crazy with them background. I also realised that I could use this zoom thing on my lens. So I did and got this German lady coming down the stairs. Better, but not quite. The composition and not the German lady.

Step2

Step 3.
I thought the lines were too simple and by flooding the background with things, it would lessen the fact that the background was terrible. For some reason I started to get hot and bothered with the more lines so I zoomed out. Hooray for the zoom lens.

Step3

Step 4.
Now I’m back to where I started. I was getting line fever and I wanted to cram in as many as possible. By doing this I was getting unwanted elements on both sides of the frame, so called security people with bright yellow vests. Background still too noisy.

Step4

Step 5.
The subs were coming in. Which meant the starting 11 will be coming shortly. Which meant I’m panicking because my composition is terrible. I also realised at this point that I could move in a lot closer to the stairs. The closer I get, the more angle I can use and therefore if I shoot for the sky, I’ll get the lines + dark sky thus eliminating my noisy background problem. Obviously, a moment of genius.

Step5

Step 6.
Beautiful simple lines. Beautiful plain background.

Step6

Step 7.
Why they have these pesky children come out of the tunnel with the players is beyond me. They ruin everything. They obviously ruined my composition because to get rid of them, I had to shoot at more of an angle, leaving the player’s head and a bit of his shoulder. In hindsight, if I shifted a bit towards the left, I would have had two equal boxes of lines and could have put two players inside each of them. But obviously, I was still in massive panic mode and I wanted to just frame one player in the middle box. Which wasn’t possible because when they come in they are usually tightly packed. The right side of the frame still manage to have crap. Fail.

Step7

Step 8.
Low and behold, when I was about to throw in the towel, the manager comes down the stairs and I’m ready for him. 3 lines, plain background, and head towards me. Score.

Step8

It’s obvious that I didn’t give you what you wanted. “Where is the rule of the thirds?” you say. “Lines, but what is the significance of the lines?” you say. “You cut of his limbs. Why oh Lord, why?” you say. I understand. What I try to demonstrate has not much to do about following the rules. Rather, imagining how the shot will be shot and how to get that shot. It’s akin to progression of a quarterback after a snap. You check down to the first one, no he’s covered. The second, no he forgot to tie his shoe laces. Third, he’s wide open and BAM! If this analogy makes no sense to you, it’s like a footballer and decision he takes after he gets the ball. Pass, dribble, shoot, or fall down? As you run through your options in your head and with the test shots (let’s all thank digital for this), you will be able to reach the composition you want. With this particular shot, I was adamant in using those rails as lines. Yes, rule number 83. So I tried different angles, different focal length, different number of lines, different background, and other different things to incorporate the lines into the shot.

Therefore the lesson here is not about the rules, but the process you will use in order to apply these rules into your composition. Sports is instinctual. If not instinctual, it is a product of training of repetitive movements which subsequently becomes muscle memory. Same goes for sports photography and composition. The more you shoot with intent, the more you will react rather than having to think about it. The key here is intent. If you’re not thinking about composition, you will never learn composition. Be very aware of how you want to compose and go down the list of things you need to do in order to achieve it. If you have to waste an entire match composing one specific shot, do it. You’ll learn so much from that one much then you would have learned shooting crisp well lit non-artsy photos we all love.

Pop quiz: Name me 5 rules that I gave you in the beginning and bust a rhyme with them.

Ryu

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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.
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Ryu: Be creative or die trying

Dear Chris,

What’s obvious is that people in this Talkboringphotography.co.uk have really bad taste in photos. Sorry, let me rephrase that. MOST people have bad taste in photos, period. I do blame myself and the other media types for this because we just like to feed you garbage day in and day out. We do this because you guys have bad taste in photos. I don’t think cameras on phones help either. Instagram and flickr and other photo sharing sites subtract rather than add to this woe. But they are all here to stay, so what we can do is that we try to discover great photography from present and the past. All you need to do is to have impeccable high brow taste in photography.

BLFS is a response to the appalling state of sports photography. Cookie cutter shots are everywhere and there is no end in sight. The editors want safe pictures because they don’t want to risk it. So, no candy to people who thought BLFS is a place where we can project our daily frustrations on to your poorly composed photos. :) We also advocate a no-nonsense, no-excuse, no-bull shit attitude to sports photos (all 3 are the same, but I wanted to have 3 of them, so there). My dear Jewish friend and I could give two f*cks about why you couldn’t get a shot. Nor do we give a f*ck about “It’s my first time shooting this sport”. We don’t like excuses and neither does your mother. The only thing we care about is the end result and nothing else.

All this “Great photo!”, “Awesome shot!”, “Wow, you should be a pro!”, and “Get out of here Girlfriend! Your shots are soooo amazing! Kisses! We should do lunch soon!” pisses me off and I also hate exclamation points. If the photo is deserving of the accolades, then it deserves all the “girlfriend” included superlatives. But in most cases, it’s a “Let’s jerk each other off! Hooray!” attitude rampant with these type of forums and photography sites. I do blame our society who decided that we should all get participatory medals and it’s not good to hurt someone’s feeling. If your objective is to become a sports photographer, be honest with your critiques, given or taken. Tell them in a constructive manner how that person can improve their shots. Basically, be more like Matt and less like me. :) When someone criticises your photo, say thank you. You don’t have to follow their criticism word for word, but that person has taken the time to comment on your photo and for that you should be grateful.

I do understand that everyone needs some lovin’. I do. I need it so much that I post my pictures on flickr. I LOVE when people tell me positive things about my photos. My heart skips a beat when I see that someone had commented / favourited my photos. Here’s the doom. I kill myself critiquing my photos. I think you already know this, but I cannot stand my photos at times. So much so that I ask my wife and friends to critique them instead because my subjective view just won’t allow me any space to breathe. Therefore although I do love the the love, I only do it because I get no love from myself. My shrink said, I’m fine as long as I have other hobbies that require less self-loathing. I’m still trying to find this “hobby” thing.

Do I enjoy it? Hell no. I would rather tell myself that I’m the best in the world, wash my hands and forget that negativity ever existed. I do it because I want to be the best. I do it because I don’t want to stop innovating. I do it because I know I can get better.

I’m sure my wife will be very happy if I took that kind of approach to keeping the house clean, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

To answer your question, there is no definitive divide between the two. I have clients who like my photos and will give me a carte blanche to do what I want to do. These tend to be big guys like Nike and Adidas. This also is very comforting because they are really buying into my style. So for those who say creativity doesn’t sell, they could shove couple up there. But I have clients, mainly magazines, who prefer more conservative approach. So, I give them my conservative sharp well composed photos that we all love. But I have made a career out of shooting differently from others. I mean, why would anyone buy my pictures if they were exactly the same as the ones you can get from Getty, AFP, Reuters, etc…?

But if you are an amateur (semi-pro is an amateur, just so you know) who occasionally sell photos, but you have a day job making billions, then why not go creative every chance you get? Are you that fragile that you need to comfort yourself by taking shots of cars like everyone else? I’m sure your forum mates at Talkcrapphotography.co.uk will poo poo your photos, but we won’t. We will be more impressed that you took some risks to get a once in a lifetime photo than to present us with photos we will all yawn at.

IF you want to become a better photographer, you have come to the right place here in BLFS. We will make you a better photographer even though you will be crying yourself to sleep every night. IF you just want some kumbaya and fake love and ultimately laziness, stay at Talkischeaphotography.co.uk.

Choice is yours.

Ryu

Creativity

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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.
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Ryu: Sports Reportage (Part Dos)

Greetings fellow sports photographers (spotographers, horrible. Just horrible).

Been back home for a while and almost forgot to post the second part of this post.

Long story short, everything went swimmingly during my stay in DR. We ended up visiting couple more academies, most notably the only Japanese run academy in DR. Only the administrators were Japanese. We were also fortunate to have some time at the beach. Well, only for one hour so dont’ feel too bad for me.

On this final instalment of “How to sports reportage”, I bring you “How not to do a portrait project”. Had I known better, I would have planned it better and I also would have bought the “Lighting for Dummies” series.

1. Planning
I initially wanted to do a series of portraits of the academy players in front of their house. Most of them come from poor neighbourhoods and I thought this was appropriate as I wanted to show that these kids are hoping that one day to play in the US Ayight. This idea was first shot down by my wife and then by my cousin. These two happen to be my in-family art director and technical consultant. They said was that the rags to riches athlete angle has been done as often as Japanese people eat rice. Therefore they suggested I do something different, like shoot them like they were a superstar baseball players. Idiots.

Other ideas were also floated before we came to the superstar angle: Favourite objects and athlete portrait. Things you want to bring to America and athlete portrait. Uniqueness of each athlete portrait. High key portrait. Yup, they all kind of sucked, thanks to me.

We settled on a black background with dramatic lighting. I also went a step further and wanted to go sexy with sweat and no shirt. For some reason I still had in my mind a young athlete training to make it to the Big Show (not to be mistaken by Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann during Sports Center). I wanted to light up just their eyes and leaving the rest dark enough but you can make out the details. Since my knowledge of lighting is as deep as a puddle on the street, I bombarded my poor cousin with technical questions. We settled on grid / snoot to shape the light with a black background made of papers. Cloth was too difficult and my ironing skills were not sufficient enough. As for my cousin, if he hadn’t thought about strangling me by my 17th email on “What is the difference between snoot and a grid?”, I’d say he’s either a saint or he needs professional help.

What I did wrong: Trying to come up with an idea without meeting the subjects. When I do portraits for magazines, I do talk to them or listen in on the interview that the journalist is conducting. This way, you get a feel of what kind of person he/she is and how I want to shoot them. And obviously, I was over my head with this lighting business. A rectangular light on just his eyes? Sometimes you think you are better than you are and of course you’re not.

2. Execution
I should just execute myself after this debacle. Heeding the advice of my always generous cousin, I practiced on my colleague the day before the shoot. I’m sure he also wanted me dead, but then the test went well or at least that’s what I thought.

At the San Diego Padres academy the following day, I rounded up couple of academy players who were willing to participate in my project. In my years of doing sports photography, I had my fair share of shooting portraits of famous athletes. The scary thing is that my knowledge of lighting is akin to my mother asking me how to attach a picture onto an email. But somehow I got the work done and the editors come back to me to do more. I always do try to keep things as simple as possible As you can see from these so-called photos, you now know I’ve got no idea. I really felt terrible for the players because they took their time to work with me and all I could come up were these barfs:

PortraitBad1 PortraitBad2

After I bashed my head on the wall and drank my sorrow away with some excellent DR beer (Presidente), I shot an email to my wife and my cousin. My wife, who has the green light to comment on anything to do with my work, went off on me. After, “You know you could do MUCH better” and “Why don’t you ever listen to me?”, she started giving me less shit and more advices. She suggested that I compose it landscape rather than portrait. And please, put the shirt back on. Apparently, she wasn’t feeling it with the nakedness citing that “Baseball players don’t have the body to pull this kind of look”. The rectangular eye light thing went out the door and a grid with duct tape as a single source came waltzing in. Higher shutter speed and lower f stop came hand in hand to help me black out the background.

So I came up with these:

PortraitSoSo1 PortraitSoSo2 PortraitSoSo3 PortraitSoSo4 PortraitSoSo5 PortraitSoSo6

What I did wrong: Although I’m content with these images, I’m reluctant to use them as series of portraits of DR baseball players, because by looking at them, you couldn’t tell. Could I have done something more interesting? Sure, but the problem is me in that I couldn’t come up with anything exciting. More work needs to be done and I need to get better. I do think it’s time I take some classes on lighting so that my cousin won’t have the need to unfriend me on Facebook

I’m planning to goto Japan at the end of the year to shoot some sumotraits. That my friends, should be interesting.

Ryu

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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.
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Ryu: Sports Reportage (Part Uno)

As I sit in a freezing hotel room wishing for a nice cup of tea, I’m wondering why I’m in DR. Well, not really wondering because I’m here to shoot some baseball

Many of you may already know that after los Americanos, Dominicans are the most common nationality in MLB. Therefore all MLB teams have academies here in DR. It is not out of the realm of possibility that one of the players I shot might become a future hall of famer or get caught with HGH.

This really isn’t a technical post, rather a “how to” on doing a reportage in sports photography. Obviously, it’s not very common to mix reportage and sports, but I’m sure you have seen some in your life. Let it be boxing in Cuba, football in Brazil, or even sumo in Japan, if you want to a reportage in sports, these steps might help you.

1. Angle
Just like writing an article for a magazine, you’ll need an angle. This means you need to have a specific idea as to what you you want to tell with your photos. Let’s say you are going to do a photo essay about your local university basketball team. You might think a story about the basketball team is specific enough. Sadly it isn’t. It is too broad and therefore the story will lack depth. For example, you can add “women’s” and “2013 season”. Now you are narrowing it down and you are making your job much easier. Let’s go further. I’m going to add “freshman” and “making the team”.

University + Basketball + Women’s + 2013 season + Freshman + Making the team = a good angle to work on.

Just to confuse you, for my business trip (don’t tell my wife) in DR, my colleague and I are working to get several different stories published in various media outlets. Therefore I’m doing something completely the opposite in that I’m trying to cover as many bases as possible with my photos. The journalist is working on several stories; DR MLB academies, Julio Franco, baseball in DR, etc. and I need to make sure I can provide photos for all of these stories. But I am also working on a personal portrait project of the academy ball players. This is not specific enough for my taste, but hopefully these images will be complimentary to the other images I will be shooting throughout my stay.

2. Access
You don’t have one, you’re fucked. You will have to go through the proper channels and if you personally don’t have them channels, you’ll need someone who has one. For the basketball photo essay, you’ll need to first contact the school. The principal should be the person you should speak to. Once you get passed her, you’ll most likely be speaking to the head coach of the women’s basketball team. Then once that’s done, you might need a model release (I say this because depending on your situation, you might not need this) for the athletes you will be covering. At this juncture, you probably have been granted access to the teams’ training facilities as well as their gamees. This will obviously be enough if you’re just doing a normal shoot, but let’s don’t forget that you are shooting for a story. You need more. You will need access classes and maybe even their home / dorm. Even if you want to focus on the sports aspect of the story, you’ll need to surround it with their personal lives. Not much, but just enough to flesh them out as a living breathing sports women.

Here in DR, I’m not going to the ball players’ houses, but I did shoot them eating at the cafeteria, sleeping in their dorm rooms, facebooking in the computer room, and just chilling out. Although this has nothing to do with sports, it gives context to the story I am trying to tell.

3. Let’s take some photos
For arguments sake, you have chosen 3 women on the team. Alice, Becky, and Caroline. I’ll leave you to it on how you will be shooting their personal lives, but I’m here to help you shoot sports. Unlike the usual framework of a game, you are shooting them under a different context. Meaning, you’re not interested in them dribbling, shooting, defending, and basically doing basketball stuff. You are more interested them in “making the team”. The trials and tribulations, their journey, the emotions. I’m assuming the bulk of the shots will come from them during training as they try to impress the coach with their skills and passion. Please don’t forget that it’s easier to “show” passion than skills in photography. Happiness, sadness, jubilations, and frustrations. Concentrate on these moments and like the weather on the mountain, these moments will pass very quickly. Be on your toes. There are 2 ways in getting these expressions. 1) Give yourself a set amount of time with each women so that you will get a chance to shoot them equally 2) You wait until you get all the expressions from one woman and then move onto the next one. I wouldn’t be caught without any of them actually playing basketball, but the bulk will need to be photos of them in an emotional state. So even if you got her dunking, it will be even more important to get her howling after a big play.

You’ll also want to take some risks to get shots otherwise impossible under normal circumstances. For example, you won’t be allowed on the court with the women during a game. But what if it is during a drill? Ask the coach. He might say no or he might just give you 5 minutes on the court with them. No longer are you shooting from your usual vantage point of the base / side line. You will be shooting from the athletes’ point of view. Make sure you bring your wide angles and watch out for those loose balls. These are the times you really have to think outside the box. But do make sure you are in very good terms with the coaches as well as the players. The more they trust you, the easier it will be for you to get the shots you want.

I did just that these past days. I cozied up right next to the infielders fielding ground balls. I had no desire to get popped by a ball, so my eyes were max peeled. As soon as the ball was hit towards a player, I ran after him with my camera low to the ground. Scary, but completely different to the usual shots. I’m sure you can’t do this at a MLB spring training, but you sure can get away with it at this level.

That’s it so far. There’s more, but I want to wait until I have some vegetables in my stomach. I wonder how these Dominicans survive without eating vegetables.

Ryu

Reportage7 Reportage4 Reportage6 Reportage5 Reportage3

Reportage2Reportage1

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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.
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Welcome to Big Lens Fast Shutter, where your dreams will most likely come true.

For those coming over from the This Week in Photo podcast or Nikon Rumors guest post, here are some links:

Subscribe to the Big Lens Fast Shutter podcast on iTunes here.

To participate in Training Ground, You Win, and Podium, join Big Lens Fast Shutter on Flickr.

Join us on Facebook here.

Ryu’s Website: ryusha.com
Ryu’s Twitter: toksuede

Matt’s Website: mattcohenphoto.com
Matt’s Twitter: mattcohenphoto

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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.
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Ryu: Goals, Ambitions, and Dreams 2013

Good morning. It’s lunch time and I really want to get some food in, but not processed food as I just watched couple of episodes of “Jamie’s School Dinner” with my wife.

Today marks the 30th day of 2013 and I must admit that I am not feeling it. Sports photography wise, that is. I’m now in my 8th year of shooting sports and some of the things have gotten so repetitive that more often than not, I am on auto-pilot with football matches. This was highlighted this past week when I shot Schalke v Hannover. The match was dull, it was cold, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. This is why I’m writing this post, because I realised that I need to set some goals. Better yet, these goals will be public making me feel horribly responsible if I cannot keep them. I’ve put them in tiers, Goals, Ambitions, and “A boy can dream”. Goals will be ones I can manage. Ambitions will be slightly more difficult, but still attainable. And a boy can dream even if that boy is a middle aged man.

Because here at BLFS, we have to be able to take it as often as we dish it out to you guys. It’s all good and all telling you that your pictures suck and belongs in the cat litter with your cat’s shit. But what if our pictures suck (mostly not mine, but Matt’s of course) and they belong in the bin with the turkey twizzlers? What I learned last year is that if I am going to be tough to you, I need to be even tougher to myself.

1. Goals
In case you haven’t noticed, my favourite sport is NOT football. Rather it’s basketball. The problem is that so far my basketball images I have shot have been less than stellar. Personally, I think they suck. Therefore, I am going to shoot tons of basketball this season so that if the NBA comes calling, I know I can shoot KD the way KD deserves to be shot. Luckily there is this basketball team in Berlin which allows pretty much anyone with a pulse (and a press card) to get in, so I will be shooting their home games over crappy football matches.

Same will go for hockey and handball. I have realised that I’m not good with indoors sports where there are A) more than 5 people on each team B) people moving very fast C) cheerleaders involved. Luckily again for me, there are teams in Berlin who will serve my purpose.

2. Ambitions
I have some. Enough to get me by and this year, I want to do something similar to what I did last year with my tsunami images. I am off to Dominican Republic for a week in February to shoot multiple projects. This is because I am paying out of my pocket for this trip and I need to make some money so that I come out of it debt free. Although I will be mainly shooting for Japanese magazines, I am quietly thinking about shooting stuff that I can submit to a competition this year. Therefore I will need to do some portraits and definitely not “sportraits”. That is one of the most vile words I have ever seen on screen, on par with “togs”. Goose pimples everywhere now.

I will also be going to Brazil for the Confederations Cup and this is because FIFA won’t let you goto the relatively minor tournament called the World Cup next year in Brazil if you don’t participate fully in FIFA events. I’m looking forward to going to Brazil, but my purpose besides doing what I need to do to appease FIFA (and also shoot the Japanese national team) is to make sure that I don’t spend any money. You might have already figured out, but this trip is also funded by me myself and given my cat less food to eat.

Let this be a lesson to all those aspiring sports photographers out there that if you want to freelance it like it’s 2002, you will need some dough. A lot of it. Enough so that you can travel to Brazil and have enough clients so that you don’t come back from it with more debt than your student loan. Yup, life sucks like that.

3. A boy can dream
I’d like all of you BLFSers to continue to improve so that both Matt and I will feel threatened that some of you might take our jobs away.

If Satan is listening, I’d like to have clients who pay me crazy money to shoot sports like jai alai and sepak takraw.

If it’s not too much of a bother, I’d like BLFS to have big name sponsors so that Matt and I won’t have to worry about feeding our wives.

I also want everyone to love me, but we all know that is impossible.

Happy 2013 BLFSers and let’s shoot some mother fucking sports. :)

Ryu

Goals

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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.
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2012 The Golden Bib™: Vote now, never, or sometimes later

BLFSers,

Who needs the Golden Globe when you have The Golden Bib™?

Thanks to Kenneth Armstrong for naming this prestigious award and now it’s trademarked for no apparent reason.  The Golden Bib™ is the highest accolade, award, and recognition one can be bestowed upon in BLFS.  It’s akin to being knighted, but slightly better and involves less royalties.  The 2012 winners of You Win (our monthly themed competition) have the right to be nominated for this year’s The Golden Bib™.  Although Matt and I will be making the ultimate choice of who wins this year’s The Golden Bib™ , your vote will matter for bragging rights, conversation pieces, and just a bit of fun.

I will really appreciate it if you can give a reason why you voted for a specific image.  If you are the person who shot one of the nominated images, all you have to say is “Because I shot this image”.  You love you.  Nothing wrong with that. :)

We will be running this pole for the next month and the 2012 The Golden Bib™ winner will be announced on the March 2013 podcast.

May the odds be ever in your favour or something like that.

*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.
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Ryu: How one becomes a professional

It’s snowing in Berlin and I got this message in the mail a while back:

Im in college right now and I am interested in what you do for a living. I would love to get into sports photography after I graduate. I am wondering how exactly you got to the point where you are now, and are able to go to so many different sports matches and get paid for it. I would love to know what steps I should take after college that will help me get hired as a freelance photographer.

BTW your sports photos are awesome, and I always look forward to seeing my favorite soccer players on your flickr account.

Joel Bierwas

I’m going to do a semi-flow chart to show how simple it is to become a professional sports photographer:

Graduate from university with a psychology major ->
Graduate from graduate school with a MA in forensic psychology ->
Can’t stay in America because can’t get a working visa ->
Don’t want to goto PhD program as it takes too long and also unsure about forensic psychology as a career ->
Devastated as there is no goal in life anymore ->
Go back to Japan ->
Work at a restaurant for 3 months ->
Realise that Germans can work legally in England legally ->
Move to England ->
Work as a business man for 5 years ->
Realise that business man work is not fun ->
Decides that photography is the way to go because it’s fun ->
Decides to become the Japanese James Nachtwey ->
Quit job ->
Start photography career ->
No job for 6 months ->
Run out of savings ->
On the dole ->
Ask parents for money as no money for food ->
Start looking for any job as need to pay rent and keep on eating food ->
Doom and gloom as I’m now 30 years old ->

So far, very easy right?

Visit a friend who is the bureau chief of a Japanese broadsheet in London ->
Tells me to visit his friend who is the head of the photography division of the said broadsheet HQ in Japan ->
Goto Japan ->
Visit the head of the photography division ->
“We need a photographer for the Confederations Cup in Germany” ->
No idea what “Confederations Cup” is ->
“Have you ever shot sports?” ->
Answer: “No” ->
“There is a match tomorrow. Take our gear and show us if you can shoot sports ->
Take gear and shoot a football match ->
Bring photos to the head of the photography division ->
My photos pass the test ->
Goto Germany for 2 weeks and stay at people’s houses because newspaper will not pay for hotel ->
Work like a whore ->
Meet another photographer who asks me if shooting Shunsuke Nakamura who will be playing for Glasgow Celtic for the upcoming season is a possibility ->
Answer: “Yes”

Yup, a cinderella ending.

As for how you can get paid to shoot sports, well, it’s difficult. I am one of the few remaining freelance sports photographer on this planet. Not many left as most of them have decided to join the galactic empire (aka agencies). I sometimes shoot matches I know I might not break even because of the expenses incurred (flights, trains, buses, Quaker Carraiges) for these matches. As a freelance, you also have to pay for your own equipment. So you need about 10,000 EUR to start off with. Off to mortgage your kidneys!

The relatively easy way is to join the reason sports photography is going down the drain, aka agencies. They will give you a monthly wage, insurance, hot meals, equipment, access to the hottest matches in town, and they might let you keep your dignity on a good day. The downside of all this is that you have no say in which match you will shoot. In most cases, you will shoot stuff other than sports. That’s right, you will be there whore, just like everyone else. But then you won’t go hungry, but you might be a fat pig by the end of it all. Your choice.

If you are adamant in joining the rebel alliance, you will need to do a lot of leg work and show a lot of not-really-as-important-as-they-say-they-are people your work. Newspapers, website, magazines, and your most hated enemies. You’ll also need a lot of luck as most places are not hiring, but firing. It would help if you have your own style as most places have enough dull pictures from the agencies to choose from. Showing your work on FB, flickr, and other fun social sites is also a good way to spread the world of Joel. For instance, I got my Nike job when they saw me on flickr. True story.

And most importantly, a whole lotta luck (and love from friends and families and ex lovers).

I have to admit that my way is not the most conventional way to start a career as a freelance sports photographer. Hopefully other people will chime in and give Joel some wisdom on this matter. If you have anymore questions, please feel free to ask.

Ryu

PS Thanks for the compliments on my photos. Obviously, I can’t get enough. :)

RMadridVRSociedad

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