Sports commentary: Click, click

-A A +A

Some observations from the world of sports photography

By Mike Forster

  I am a sports photographer.

I am also a sports reporter, a columnist, a headline writer, a page layout designer and an editor.

Additionally, on Thursdays, I clean up our break room and am on potty patrol.  (While you, the reader, are always welcome to swing by the offices of the Bulletin, could you try to avoid Thursdays?).

Working the sports pages of a mid-size weekly paper requires one to wear many hats.  Photographer is one of them.

Interestingly, there is no certification body (like those for CPAs and nurses and cosmetologists) that deems one a sports photographer.  It just comes with the turf.

I have come to enjoy my work in the photographic arts, overcoming a strong aversion when I first took this job.

I recall staring at my first professional-grade digital camera as though it were a severed human head.  By the quality of the photos I was producing with that camera, you'd have thought I was, in fact, using a severed human head.

Still, through arduous study and practice, I've gotten myself to the point where I feel at ease sharing some of my thoughts around photography.

These are chiefly observations, rather than any advice on how to be a decent photographer.  (Here's my guidance in that department:  Practice, read, practice, experiment, practice, ask questions.  That's it.)

Now, on to some of those observations.

-When you watch the Super Bowl you will see, literally, tens of thousands of camera flashes emanating from the stands.  Such light does not do a single thing to improve even one of those tens of thousands of photos.  Even the most powerful flash measures its effectiveness in feet.  These people are (in some cases) hundreds of yards away from what they're shooting.  Those flashes are just wasted battery power.

-Here's an issue that isn't really sports-related.  Have you ever noticed that when folks are in a crowd and they are getting ready to shake the hands of someone famous or powerful (such as our president), they break out their cell phone camera (or their pocket digital) and take pictures of that person as he approaches them?

Why would someone do this?  Are there no decent photographs of the president available anywhere?  Is it likely that you are going to get the primo, Pulitzer-winning shot of him as you're jostled in a crowd of well-wishers?

Wouldn't you rather look the man in the eye and get a firm handshake?  I know I would, if in such a situation.  Memories don't all come in the form of photos, you know.

-Have you noticed those camera straps that bear the name and make of a particular camera?  I don't like 'em.  Instead of a strap that reads "Canon EOS-1DS Mark III," you may as well have one that reads "This camera (without lens) costs $5,200, in case you want to grab it when I'm not looking."

By the way, I don't have anything close to a Canon 1DS Mark III, in the event you're planning to roll me.

-When you see a photo of two players celebrating via a chest-bump, it means only one thing:  The photog covering the game has gotten absolutely nothing decent from the game itself.

The chest-bump shot is the easiest, most predictable piece of photography you can get.  It is telegraphed to the photographer so far in advance, he can likely change lenses, stow his gear and grab a hot dog at the stand before taking his shot.

Speaking of lenses, what photographer doesn't have lens envy?  Actually, what photographer doesn't have all sorts of camera-gear envy?

A while back, the wife got me a subscription to Popular Photography.  It is a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, the magazine is chock-full of great ideas on how to improve your skills.

On the other, it is also chock-full of equipment reviews and ads for equipment that is so tempting, you find yourself pricing things the very next day.  The sad part, of course, is that you're most unlikely to ever see such gear.

Which brings me to my final point.  It is not the equipment that makes the photographer.  While your gear is important, it takes a backseat to perseverance, knowledge and skill.

You get those last two attributes by heeding this advice:  Practice, read, practice, experiment, practice, ask questions.