Ryu: How to shoot Non-Action sports

Sports, action. Action, sports. They go hand in hand like Thelma and Louise, Jordan and Pippen, and Elgin and not so nice people.

For You Win (YW) this month, we told you to show us some awesome Non-Action sports pics. This meant that we are expecting you to give us moments in sports that didn’t come with the following thought bubbles: “Freezing the action. Totally awesome!” and “Peak action. Totally radical!”.

Early 1990’s aside, this is the type of shots you will need to be able to get if you are to become the complete sports photographer that we want you to become. I will give you my take on what these moments are and when and where you can get them.

1. What is non-action?
Seems completely contradictory, doesn’t it? Sports is about action and sports photography is about capturing the action in sports. Even though we love delicious dark Belgian chocolates, on occasion, you’re going to be craving for some salt and vinegar crisps. It’s all about balance and it’s the ying and yang of sports photography. From the top of my head, I can come up with celebrations, conversations, resting, stretching, praying, preparation, locker room, pre and post match, and a moment of silence during a match.

I think you understand what celebration is, but I’m talking about the subdued ones. Not the ones with Tiger pumping, rather an embrace with teammates / coaches, doing the pointing Jesus / Allah stuff, and moments before being engulfed by the teammates.

Conversations is just that. Players signaling or talking with each other. Resting can be during the match as well as during training. Might go well with stretching. Praying could be seen before the match starts or celebrating after a score, but it’s more pointing than praying I guess. Some do it before they enter the pitch. Preparation is before the match that might go with the locker room. If you can get access to shoot in the locker room, you will get some great non-action shots. Stuff that happens before and after the match, starting grid for track and field comes into mind. Last but not least, there are some great opportunities of non-action peppered during a game.

2. When is non-action?
Anytime and anywhere For example, baseball player giving a foul ball to a kid during a game. But if you are not used to shooting these moments, shift all your attention towards searching for these moments as they will go missing when your eyes are glued to that hockey puck bouncing off the walls. What you need to do is to use your peripheral vision to seek out these non-action moments and once you do, react very quickly. You might be able to get a shot of a coach shouting at his players numerous times during a match, but you might not find a player writhing in pain in front of you all that often.

3. How is non-action?
Since non-action is my favorite type of sports photography, this comes a lot easier for me than the traditional action filled sports photos. My favorite time to get it done is pre match. When the athletes take on the pitch for their warm-ups, they tend to be a bit more relaxed. Concentrate on interactions between players as well as some alone time as they tie their shoe laces, stretch, and pick their noses. Once the game starts, I tend to look for gaps and pauses during the match. Using the rosin bag, coach showing players clipboard stuff, moments before free kicks, picking up a ball, re-tieing the obi, and etc… But same as above and that if you are not used to shooting these images, you have to concentrate very hard. If you are doing it for the first time, go 30:70. 30% action, 70% non-action. This is not the number of shots you are going to take rather, time and energy spent on each type of these shots. I think Matt and I have told you in the past that there is no point shooting athletes doing the same thing over and over and over as there will be no difference from pitcher in the 1st inning and the 5th inning. After the match, jubilation and defeat are common place, but my favourite is the moment when they are just about to get back into the tunnel and back into their locker rooms. Depending how close you can get, you might get sweat, dirt, and pieces of skin from the opponent on their faces as well as rising steam if you are outside.

I have posted some of the non-action shots I have taken this past month. Motion blur might not be used all that often, but non-action shots, I believe, are as essential as its action packed brother in law with emotional problems.

Speaking of emotional problems and families… I shouldn’t go there as Christmas is way too close.


PS As always, please let us know what you want us to talk about and we will make sure to blend that into our future podcasts and blog posts. Unless Matt’s mother vetoes it, but that’s another story altogether.

*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.


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