Covering The Sports Beat; Capturing The Action Page 2

The finish of an event is usually the most crowded part of the course—with spectators and other photographers. So, if you’re hoping for a shot of the winner crossing the line, be prepared to get there early and wait. If you want a varied diet of images, you are better off out on the course.

The Peak Of Action
Sports provide a multitude of great subject matter but perhaps most typical are the peak of action shots made at just that right instant—the decisive moment—when all the elements of a phase or play come together. Often this happens when the subject or a ball is between the rise and fall of a movement and can be caught with a slower shutter speed. For example, a basketball player momentarily suspended before slam-dunking the ball may be moving slowly enough to be photographed at 1/125 sec. A shot taken just before that, as the player rises to the net, might need a shutter speed twice as fast.

An overhead wide angle view and a wireless remote camera mounted behind the backboard were used to catch this brilliant shot at the hoop as California Baptist University player Pete Rajniak gets the two-pointer. A wide-angle lens ensured sufficient depth of field to maintain sharpness throughout. Canon 1D, 16mm f2.8 lens, ISO 1000, 1/400 at f2.8.
© 2008, Ben Chen, All Rights Reserved

The difference between that peak of action and a split second before or after it can be the difference between a good shot and a great one. Peak action shots usually are the result of several factors, not the least being the photographer’s intimate knowledge of the sport, accurate focusing, his or her sense of timing and anticipation, and having the presence of mind to press the shutter just before the action. Taking the shot as it happens will almost definitely result in an “after the event” picture—a good one, perhaps, but not the great one.

Essentials To Capture The Action
Be in the right position and use a focal length sufficient to isolate the principal subject matter. The shutter speed should be fast enough to freeze the action but some blurring on the outer part of the shot—feet or hands or a ball—can enhance the shot. Usually a shutter speed of 1/500 sec or faster is needed, especially if a telephoto lens is used. Use the widest aperture possible. This has two advantages: 1) the shallower depth of field of a wide aperture will help throw a potentially distracting background out of focus and 2) you will be able to use a faster shutter speed, reducing the chances of camera movement.

Being ready for any eventuality was key to getting the shot of tumbling ponies and polocrosse players hitting the turf. Nikon 801, 300mm f2.8 Tamron lens, manual focus, Fuji 800 film, 1/1000 at f2.8.
© 2008, Duane Hart/, All Rights Reserved

Depending on the ISO setting—either the film speed or the ISO setting on a digital camera—you should aim for an exposure in the range of 1/500 sec to 1/1000 sec at f4. Of course, if you have an f2.8 lens, use that aperture and the corresponding shutter speed.

Timing, Anticipation, And Knowing The Athletes
These come with knowledge of the sport and being aware of what’s likely to happen. Photographer Diane Kulpinski points out that knowing the flow of the action, not necessarily all the rules, is critical to capturing good images. “That way you have a good idea of where peak action is likely to occur and what it will look like,” she said.

Duante Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings valiantly dives for the end zone. Bruce Kluckhohn anticipated and captured the action. Canon 1D, ISO 800, 400mm f2.8 lens, 1/500 at f2.8, available light.
© 2008, Bruce Kluckhohn, All Rights Reserved

And it pays to know not only the sport but also its participants. Most athletes have habits or a style that make it easier to anticipate their next move. Team coaches and managers study films of their opponents ahead of matches to plan how to counter specific moves or players. Leading professional sports photographers do much the same thing, even if for different reasons. They want to capture the action of that athlete either succeeding with a typical play, or shooting the peak of action as the opposing team thwarts the play. Knowing the players’ style and habits gives them an edge. All athletes, Little Leaguers, high school players, Olympians, and even older sports men and women in the growing ranks of senior competitions have their individual style.

A great example of an overhead view adding another dimension to sports photography. Arms and hands flail and water boils as Spanish and Australian water polo players contest possession at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Canon 10D, ISO 800, 200mm f1.8 lens, pattern metering, 1/1000 at f2.8.
© 2008, Duane Hart/, All Rights Reserved

And Bill Hurter, editor of Rangefinder magazine and a former sports photographer, advises that another good rule of thumb, in addition to knowing a sport, is to never take your eye off the ball or puck or action, especially when shooting sports such as baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey or tennis at the pro level. There’s always the chance you or your camera will get hit, as has happened to him.

USC Trojans tailback Reggie Bush hurdles over a UCLA defender on his way to a touch down. Background color strengthened the image. Canon 1D, 280mm lens, ISO 200, 1/2000 at f4.
© 2008, Ben Chen, All Rights Reserved

“Sports Photography” and other Allworth Press titles can be found in better bookstores, or ordered directly from the publisher by calling (800) 491-2808 or by going online to where full product description, a table of contents, and reviews are all available. Allworth is distributed to the trade by Watson-Guptill Publications: (888) 330-8477.


Lancaster's picture

sids surf shack - Online Surf Shop stocking latest XCEL Wetsuits, Surf Gear, Surf Clothing, rash vests, boots, gloves, leashes.

Lancaster's picture

swimming pool hertfordshire - We’re home to some of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire’s best equipped, most friendly and affordable health, leisure, sports and arts facilities.

safeer.pagal1's picture

Here is a fine gallery for sports pictures and i think the best collection,but you will happy to find an others good collection for sports quotes that have true passion for games.

spencerid's picture

i enjoy your article. great job. keep it simple

Holly Soward's picture

Philadelphia Flyers is from Philadelphia USA. Hockey always be the favorite game in the USA states there are many peoples who waited for the tickets but they cant get but gives cheap Philadelphia flyers tickets if you want to buy then go here.

ferass's picture

Wow!I have visited lots of website over the past couple of days. Upon looking at the posts of each I do think that this specific site was the only one who had grabbed the apex of my interest.Well done

mehr Info

Grace Hicks's picture

Ice hockey is worth watching game and the people are willing to get the Denver Avanlanche tickets as they performed very well during the last few matches and probabaly they will do better in their next games.

Mikayla Timms's picture

Denver nuggets is one of the most famous basketball team. There are many lovers who want to buy nuggets tickets but the tickets are too expensive.

AlejandroCraig's picture

What ever pictures uploaded here on the sports beat are truly incredible, as it's very difficult to capture those precious moments when the players win the game or defeat the opponent. As per the articles it's a fraction of seconds the moments happen and to capture it in a picture is just some kind of hard work collaborated with creativity.