Tens of thousands of screaming fans. The action right up close and practically in your lap. The energy of the stadium and the excitement of the players. Sports photography is a fast paced job that is extremely exciting and rewarding, but it does have its drawbacks. Just ask the photographer whose Canon 400mm 2.8 was smashed by Sterling Shepard a few weeks ago. That’s a $10k lens and photographers everywhere shed a tear when they saw that beautiful piece of glass snapped in half. Memphis Grizzlies guard, Tony Allen took out his frustration on a photographer’s camera at a game earlier this month. He was fined for slapping the lens which cost Allen $15,000 even though there were no hard feelings from the photographer.
[REWIND: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY: BALANCING WEDDING, CELEBRITY AND SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY WITH KEVIN JAIRAJ]
But what is it really like to be on the field during a raucous football (or insert any sport here) game, when the fans are at a frenzy, 300lb men are hurtling bodies and sports equipment toward your face and your very expensive (and I am positive, heavily insured) equipment? Some days, it’s magical. Like this weekend, when the New York Giant’s wide receiver, Odell Beckham caught one of the greatest one handed touchdown passes in NFL history. Cameras captured it from every angle and the Internet was abuzz with photos of the spectacular play for days. Jeffrey Furticella, a picture editor with The New York Times reached out to the other sports photographers that were there that night and asked them about photographing the amazing catch.
Photographers from the Getty, USA Today Sports, The Associated Press, Getty and NJ Advanced Media and more weighed in on their perspective. Each listed their equipment and settings to get their particular shot from their unique vantage point from the field. It was extremely interesting to read what they had to say and their thoughts behind making the photographs. Most said they knew they had something great as soon as the play happened.
I knew I had it but I wasn’t sure if he came down with it for a TD reception. These cameras shoot at 12 frames per second so it’s like looking at a strobe light. You never really know what you have until afterward. But I knew I had it. – Jim O’Connor, contributing photographer for USA Today Sports
As the play was unfolding I just relied on my past experience by staying calm and shooting the play through. As I was shooting everything felt good. I thought I had something after the play was over. I looked through the files on the back of the camera and when I saw the sequence I knew something really cool just happened. – Al Bello, chief sports photographer, North America, for Getty Images
Perhaps most notable was Kathy Willens, staff photographer for The Associated Press, who from her vantage point, captured an image with a very busy background and a seemingly surprised and unprepared photographer. “Unfortunately, from that angle, the picture is kind of busy in the background, including another photographer who looks like he was caught by surprise.”
When Twitter caught a hold of Kathy’s image, they were quite unforgiving.
That photographer, was Andrew Mills, staff photographer for NJ Advance Media, who endured much ridicule from the Twitter-sphere for his seemingly bungled attempt. Until halftime, when Mills tweeted that he, indeed, got the shot and what a shot he captured.
Mills tells his story about how he captured his image, while shooting with the camera at his shoulder and the mistake he made while shooting it. You can read his entire blog post, How everyone thought I missed the photo of Odell Beckham Jr.’s amazing touchdown catch … but I didn’t here.
To read about the other photojournalists’ experiences, check out the NY Times article here.
Interested in getting into sports photography? Check out our SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY – THE COMPLETE GUIDE FROM LENSES TO BODIES here.