Action Sports

Although I have an interest, I’m no big sports shooter, shooting sports requires:
1) A deep knowledge of the sport and the players involved to best anticipate the moment that will have the most impact as an image.
2) Patience. It’s a long game, and they aren’t all nail biters. In most cases, you’re looking for just that one single moment than can sum up the entire game/rivalry/event.
3) Fast, (preferably long) glass to get you up close to the action within a safe, allowable distance.
4) A complete knowledge of your camera that will allow you to use it as part of yourself. There is no way to go back in time and recapture the magic moment once it’s passed.

One of the things that is easy to overlook in a creative way, is shutter speed. In so many instances, we rely on aperture to be our primary artistic tool, to separate the subject from background and to highlight our chosen aspects of the image. We often use our camera in a way that allows our shutter speed to be as fast as possible, helping to make sure that ‘tack’ sharpness of image which is the holy grail of photography lately. But in many aspects of photography, sports included, there can be a compromise, freezing part of the scene, while allowing motion to flow through the image and create a narrative. A larger aspect of time, in an often instantaneous medium.

In the case of the featured image above, while using aperture priority, I managed my ISO as the light was falling during the evening to keep my shutter speeds lower to allow the kind of capture that while freezing the subject’s face, still showed the action and speed of motion. For this image, that was 1/100 of a second, which is really in and around the sweet spot for capturing motion while freezing expression. If you wanted to play around the with the effect, that’s the area I would start with. It’s fast enough to handhold in many cases if you’re able to get close or have a lens with stabilization (or monopod), but slow enough that most action will blur out and leave motion trails.

Capturing the Moment

On Approach
On Approach

With the kids outside playing in the backyard, they had come to let us know that there was a Cardinal in the area. I unfortunately had to grab my camera from the studio, so by the time I returned, my rather rambunctious children had scared the poor bird away. Still, with camera in hand, I had high hopes that it might return, as it often has this spring and I might be in a place to capture it.
As it turned out, my kids had put that idea out of the birds mind for the day and it had set up in another yard, however the bird feeder in my neighbour’s yard was quite active. It was only a matter of time, patience, and a bit of luck, mixed with anticipation and a decent frame rate/shutter speed before I managed to catch one in flight. Most importantly (to me, cause I’m certainly not an avid birder) was the wing extension and a hint of catch light (from the sun) in the bird’s eye. I’ve included a 100% crop of just the bird as well just for interest at the bottom.

Now I’m not even going to try to say that this is a beautiful image, or that it’s changed me to become an avid bird/wildlife shooter, because that would be ridiculous. It was however, a shot that made me feel good about some of my skills and abilities that day, and, on many days, is what it’s all about. If what and how we’re shooting isn’t giving you a warm happy feeling inside, it’s time to ask yourself why you’re doing it at all. It certainly isn’t for the money that I do it 🙂

close up Bird
Close-up Bird

A stream of unconsciouness from a guy behind the lights.