Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why I Shoot Sports

Athletes often rely on cross-training to better condition their bodies and minds to compete at a higher level. I think that photographers too can also do the same thing to hone both their physical and mental skills. I am in the wedding photography business, but I always take the opportunity to shoot sports events: at this time of year it happens to be hockey. Shooting sports requires you to follow the action and that means you have to hold your camera up to your eye, your finger on the button, ready to shoot. This builds your upper body strength and it trains your mind to concentrate on what's going on in front of you.

One of the most important skills you hone is the ability to anticipate the action. Photographing a hockey player carrying a puck down the ice isn't all that heart-stopping, but catching an opponent driving him sideways into the boards with a heavy body check can yield some pretty impressive images. I shoot on continuous mode which means an average Jr. C hockey game can deliver over 1,000 images. My goal is to come up with three that are worthy of a front page. Of those, one will be truly stellar.

Barrel Racing - it's a Blast

Photographing these events is always a challenge for the photographer. To get this angle of view you have to be low to the ground, shooting upwards, aiming into the chunks of dirt and mud that come flying at your camera and your face. The main appeal lies in the fact that you are shooting at an angle most others won't attempt, and so it gives a more unusual point of view. Secondly, you can really appreciate when the animal comes off the ground: taking the shot from the standing position means you don't really see when that hoof is flying through space. Shooting down means you can't see the separation between hoof and ground.

If you can't kneel down, try resting your camera low-down on your leg or fence rail and aim in the general direction of the action. And don't forget to zoom out before you start shooting so that you can get all of the horse in.

Producing images like these will make that extra effort very worthwhile. You can really appreciate the hard work the horse is doing to propel it's massive, muscled body around the obstacle. Interestingly, you can shoot ten riders and only one will show the energy that this series of shots exhibits. The camera was set at about 1/1000 of a second to freeze each movement of the horse. Placed into a sequence, you really get the feel for the event.

Try these fast action shoots for yourself. If you have a point and shoot camera, take your setting off "Auto" and reset it to the fast action mode - this tells your camera to set your shutter speed at a higher rate to capture fast movement. Leaving your camera on the Auto setting will likely mean a blurred image. Action moving across from one side to the other in your line of sight seems to the camera much faster than say a horse racing towards or away from you.