Hi everyone, we have great news. Ryu and I are really excited to have a US-based sports photographer Matt Cohen join our team at Big Lens Fast Shutter. You would have heard Matt on Podcast 6 talking about lots of US-based sports. We’ve now got 3 geographies covered: Europe, North America and the Pacific.
Since I’m not shooting sport regularly at the moment, Matt and Ryu will do some of the podcast sections that are more sports oriented and Matt will write the fortnightly blog post… starting with this week. So without further ado, welcome to Big Lens Fast Shutter, Matt Cohen:
If you aren’t prepared for the elements, it doesn’t matter what level of photographer you are. It may sound like basic common sense, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget something like sunscreen when you’re trying to figure out what lenses to bring.
I learned this the (very) hard way a few years ago shooting a NASCAR race in Sonoma, CA. It was my first race at Infineon Raceway, a 2.5 mile road course just north of San Francisco, and I was totally unprepared for both the heat (95 F) and all the walking between the photo room and point on the track. After shooting the pre-race ceremonies, I staked out a position near a hard left turn, and quickly realized that I was starting to get a sunburn, and the three-hour race hadn’t even started. Missing part of the race to walk back to see if I could find some sunscreen wasn’t an option, so I shot the race in increasing pain (and with decreasing results) and spent the next week in a good deal of pain. Since then, I have kept a bottle of waterproof Bullfrog SPF 50 sunscreen in my car. I recommend this brand if you can find it because it dries quickly and won’t rub off on your gear.
This past weekend I made another rookie mistake at Infineon while I was shooting Indy Car practice. My plan was to hang around pit lane getting pictures of drivers getting into their cars and then move over to a nearby turn to get some action, all the while being within sight of the media center. But when practice started, pit lane was caked with fans who bought access, so I went out on the track to escape the madness. Only it was 85 F, dry and windy, and I didn’t bring any water because I was planning to be close enough to the media center to grab some as needed. About halfway through the 90 min practice session, I realized that I was dehydrating, and followed the track backwards towards the media center so that I would be as close to the media center as possible by the end of the session. According to Wikipedia, symptoms of dehydration can include confusion, fatigue, and negative moods, not the kind of conditions that produce good pictures. I got what I needed, but didn’t put myself in a position to get the best pictures possible, and all over something as basic carrying some water. The times that I do remember to bring water, I use Vapur Anti-Bottles, which are collapsable, refillable containers that save space (and the environment). It’s also a good idea to carry nutrition bars like PowerBars or Cliff Bars so if a shoot runs long you can replenish calories without having to stop shooting.
Bad weather can make shooting unpleasant or make you not want to shoot, but some of the best pictures can be made when things get wet, muddy, snowy, or dusty. If you shoot for work, you don’t have any choice but to keep shooting, and if you shoot for fun, you don’t want to miss a chance to shoot because of the weather. Keeping yourself dry is one thing, but you don’t want to neglect your gear either. Most people have rain gear for themselves, I use Helly Hansen Voss jackets and pants because they are totally waterproof yet roll up into a small space. If you need more warmth or breathability, you can spend (much) more. While all of the new pro camera gear is weatherproof to varying degrees, it’s never a good idea to torture your gear if you don’t have to. Think Tank Hydrophobia covers allow you to keep shooting while offering protection for your cameras and lenses.
This list is not exhaustive, but it should help you avoid situations that would otherwise prevent you from making the best pictures you can make.
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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 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.