Knowledge is Power
You are ready to dive into the exciting world of sports photography. You have the camera, the lens and maybe even the fancy photo vest. You have visions of making the cover of Sports Illustrated and are ready for the Pulitzer Prize for excellence in sports photography.
What is the next step? Start by putting your gear back in your camera bag and telling Sports Illustrated they just need to be patient; you have some basic homework to do first. To prepare yourself for the fast moving action you want to capture, you first need to understand the sport you are about to shoot.
Homework Assignment – Know the game
The best part of this exercise is that you'll gain knowledge about the sport you are about to photograph and you'll make time to bond with your son, daughter or loved one in the process. Here's an example of how knowledge of the sport helps your photography.
It is the last inning of a baseball or softball game and your team is losing by one run. There are two outs and you have a runner at first. If you are really following the game and following the basic strategy, you would understand the necessity of getting that runner around the bases, so there is a good chance the coach is going to have the runner steal second (if stealing is allowed in your age bracket). Where you are positioned means the difference between whether or not you get a clean opportunity to capture the play at second. Moving over to the third base side of field will give you a better angle at that photo opportunity. Because you were anticipating the action and you understand the game, you probably got the photo
Where is the next logical play going to happen? Well, if you have done your homework, you would know that in softball or baseball, a runner at second base will most likely try to score if the ball leaves the infield. The next big play is most likely going to happen at the plate. That is where there is the best chance for amazing action and high emotion. If you are still standing on the third base side, you would get a pretty cool shot of the catcher, but only the back of the runner. You are better off moving over towards the first base side and preparing for a play at the plate. Turn your camera to a horizontal position and wait for the next play. If it happens, you will be at the right place at the right time. You will capture not only the play itself but all the ensuing drama and celebration. If it doesn't, there is nothing lost. You can still capture the emotions as they unfold.
Now you know how understanding the sport can improve your chances for getting some fun action photos but how are you going to get that information and start to understand strategy? Well you could go an academic route and crack open a book on the official rules of the game but I have a better idea. Why not take this opportunity to bond with your son, daughter, friend or spouse. Let’s stick with the baseball / softball example and next time you are sitting in the stands for a game, sit close to your spouse or a friend who knows the game and start asking some simple questions. “What do you think is likely to happen next? How did you know the coach would have the player bunt? Why did the pitcher intentionally walk that batter?” Another opportunity is in your own living room. Your daughter is watching the softball world series on TV. Grab a spot next to your daughter on the couch and start asking questions. Most likely your daughter will enjoy the opportunity to be the teacher while you play student and you gain some insight into the sport while getting a little one on one time with your kids. Now that is a win/win situation.
It is not necessary to become an expert but you will be shocked to see how fast you pick up some valuable information. I realize you are only taking photos for fun but as long as you are doing it, you might as well capture some great photos and the best sports images come from anticipation of what might happen next. Have fun!
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