My football season ended few weeks ago and I’m on my way back from Tokyo. I know, tough life. I apologise for this post going out slightly late, but hopefully you’ll forgive me as I was not only vacationing in south east Asia, rather honeymooning. Since it’s hailed as a “once in a lifetime experience”, my tardiness should also be considered as such.
Being out and about in Vietnam with my 3 cameras (of which I used 2, but that’s another story come December) as well as my ever forgiving wife, I realised that I now have ahead of me little less than 2 months of non-sports shooting. Needless to say, there is a mix bag of feelings that whips around inside my innards when I think about the summer of no balls. Emptiness, fear, weirdness, and why no one wants to play sports when it’s 35 degrees outside with a humidity well over 100%. Weddings and conferences (where I met my wife, but that’s all you need to know) are all fine pieces of work, but it’s no substitute for the craziness of sports photography. But twiddling those porky fingers is not going to do any good and this is a perfect time for some experimentation. Please note that “experimentation” here is not to be confused with activities that you indulge around the first semester of your freshman year in college.
1. Don’t shoot sports.
Yup, that’s right. Go shoot something other than sports. Forced family portraits, food porn, self portraits, street photography, and vacation shots, Everything other than the s word. I’m encouraging this because the last thing you want is getting your head stuck so far into sports photography that you’re not feeling the love no mo’. Remember, this has to be fun and once the fun is gone, then it’s not fun anymore. Aside from stating the obvious, shooting non-sports is a great time to discover new techniques which can be used in sports photography. I for one discovered journalistic style in wedding photography can be used in sports photography. Minus the dress that is.
2. New compositions and angles and lights.
As you get your feet soaking wet in sports photography, you realise that your composition becomes rather predictable. So much so that people can tell that it’s your image from the way you’ve composed it. Although this is not necessary a bad thing as you can claim it as your style, but I think it’s a rather poor excuse of you for not trying other composition techniques. Placing your subject in a different area within the frame, try shooting from a different angle, and shoot with varying amounts of light. At first, you will feel that the images look like they’ve been shot by a complete stranger. Fear not. You are not suffering from dissociative identity disorder, well, at least I don’t think you are. The more you shoot with these new techniques, the more comfortable you will get with them. You might only end up adding only one or two new skills to your arsenal, but that’s one or two you didn’t have couple of months ago. So thank me later.
3. Go see some art.
Inspiration can come from 15 minutes under the shower head as well as seeing art in museums. “What? I’m a manly man’s man Ryu! Arts are for womenly man with womanly needs! Why am I shouting!?” If that’s what you think, you are seeing sports photography like those fat lame ass sports photographers who don’t want amateurs sitting beside them at matches. I guarantee that one visit to the local museum will give you some surprising dose of inspiration. It’s not necessary to understand the art or you don’t have to force yourself to like them. Just take it in and see what happens. At the very least you’ll get free air condition for half an hour.
4. Buy shiny new toys because you absolutely need them.
New technique and new inspirations equals new gear. If you want to shoot wider low angle shots of ball players, tighter shots of the running back, longer range of casual flash portraits on the pitch, and they all point to another GAS session with your therapist. If your current gear does not allow you to take the new shots you want, new gear will make all your dreams come true. I can feel the grease of your palm dripping as you read this post, but before you goto your favourite web store like Adorama or B&H (shameless plug, I know), take couple of deep breaths to steady that shaky hand of yours. If you want to get wider shots and a longer lens, then you must choose just one. I can see you rolling on the floor, wailing “No, no no! I want more more more!”, but you have to trust me on this. If you acquire two fresh gears, it will take your attention from really learning how to use them. In theory, it should take you twice as much time to learn as you have two new things. But if you have only one new gear, you can really concentrate on mastering it and incorporating that to your existing setup. I’ve said it before: you are only as good as your skills and mastery of your equipment. And by being sensible, you have probably staved off another month of declaring bankruptcy.
5. Watch sports on TV.
There is a dearth of sports during the summer, but try looking for them and watch them on the tele.. Ideally, you should be watching sports that you usually don’t watch. LIke jai alai and sepak takraw. You might find them strangely amusing and you’re on the next flight to Indonesia. You might also get fresh ideas for how you will want to shoot your regular sports. When I watch sports on TV, I tend to imagine myself as a photographer at the match. I simulate how I will shoot a certain scene and yes, I am that lame. But playing virtual sports photographer is not a bad game to play if the alternative is cleaning your garage or going grocery shopping.
After a long season of the sports you shoot regularly comes to an end, you would like the opportunity to chill out and recharge. But no one needs 2 months on the beach with pina colada on the right hand and FHM on the left. These 2 months can grow your belly or grow you as a sports photographer. You don’t have to go out there and shoot everyday during the offseason, but making good use out of the down time and preparing for the upcoming season will make shooting more exciting. Sports photography is infinitely more fun when you can see improvements in your images, but don’t expect any of it if you decide to wait on your sofa for training to start.
I believe that is my cue to get off the couch and start shooting. :)
*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 supporting us on Patreon 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.