Ryu: It’s all in the detail

I’m writing in this as I make my way to Leicester.  Sunny wonderful cheery Leicester.  In case you got really confused, there is not direct line between Paris and Leicester, but if there was ever one… well, I’m sure it will be very popular.  Can’t wait to get there and hang out with all the Leicesterians.

Off I go.  Today, I’d like to talk about something called detail.  Since the start of BLFS and most recently the Training Ground (TM), I noticed that people are obsessed about getting the entire body of the athlete into the frame.  Therefore I thought I take this time and place to steer you away from the big picture and get yourself acclimated in the realm of small pictures.

1. Foot and Hand Disease
Pay close attention to the athletes’ feet and hands.  Not too close that you are in their way, but close enough that you can take an uncropped shot of just their extreme extremities.  I’m no Rex Ryan, but I find the hand and feet of athletes very interesting. You might be surprised to find that some of them do have very soft looking hands and some of them have very cool looking shoes.  I’d make sure that you get them in action so that the shot will be indistinguishable from your mates’ hands whilst he chugs another pint of the cold one.  Especially with the pros, athletes are like fine tuned machines and when you concentrate on specific parts of their body, it will allow you to picture them in a different light.  But I’ve warned you, don’t get too close.  Get a long lens.

2. Haute Couture
I was going to get a tattoo this weekend, but life happened and now I wont’ until probably Tuesday.  If you have not been living in a cave for the past two decades, you might have noticed that there is a very close link between athletes and fashion.  Brands who sponsor them are keen to have their stars wear their latest gear and athletes know that they are performing in front of millions.   Look out for athletes with cool looking dos and body art as well as their latest gears.  If you can take the photo so that their fashion statement becomes the focus of the image, you might be onto something.  But as I’ve mentioned above, make sure you don’t end up with a photo which needs a 2 page explanation as to why this is a sports photograph.  Context is everything, so compose carefully.  Too bad the likes of Dennis Rodman isn’t around these days, but searching for a local death metal football team might be a great start.

3. Face Time
That thing that stares back at you when you are standing in front of the mirror.  Not emotion per se, but more so the ear, nose, mouth, eyes, or facial hair.  Some athletes are known for their facial features and if you can zero in on it, it might make an interesting image.  Silhouettes will also work.  Think of it like a caricature artist. They pick a specific part of a person’s face and make it uglier, ahem, exaggerate it. Unfortunately, modern DSLR technology will not allow you to deform an athlete’s facial features.  The easiest is the eye, but make sure that you have your focus on the eyeball and not on the lashes or brows.  It happens a lot more than you think.  You also would want to get a shallow DOF to enunciate the specific part of the face so that it is separate from the rest of the face.

The key with details shooting is that you are fully aware that you are shooting a sports photograph.  Therefore when you go into specific details of an athlete, you might end up with a shot that might be cool, but makes no sense as a sports photograph.  Make sure that when you are selecting these photos that you ask yourself, “If I had no idea that this was a tennis match, will this photo of Serena’s obnoxious rant, I mean her right wrist stand on its own as a sports photograph?”.  These are the tough questions we ask ourselves daily.  Also important is that you invest yourself in a long range lens.  It’s one thing to get close to these athletes, but sometimes it’s smarter to get them from a healthy distance.  Focusing something whilst in the telephoto or super telephoto range can be tricky, so make sure you give yourself ample opportunities to fail miserably when you are going for these shots.

Details, details, details, not to be mistaken with location, location, location.   Oh, that might be my next blog post. :)


*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.

Categories: Ryu

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