Saturday, February 28, 2009

When I started photography sports a few years ago I was overwhelmed by the commitment the genre required. Regular practice of photographing sports keeps your reaction times sharp and keeps you fresh. On top of that your regular involvement in events keeps your face "fresh" with the media folks involved in the industry. Quite simply put: if you ain't there you ain't nobody.

Accordingly, I shot as often as possible in as many different venues as possible. My emphasis was a combination of breadth and depth of experience: shoot different sports, and shoot a lot of the same sport. By going both deep and wide I thought I could expand my horizons and grain a bigger understanding of this domain.

As I've filled in the pieces to this puzzle my immediate family members have become interested. Most notably my brother Andrew, who has always had a passing interest in photography, has become notably involved. This came to a head several weeks ago when I asked him to fill in for me for an NCAA men's basketball game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Virginia Cavaliers at the Comcast Center.

Since that event he's been uniquely interested in sports photography. Wrestling is the only Olympic sport with regular events so I punted the photography to him while I sat behind the desk and wrote the stories. I'm no writer and my knowledge of wrestling is limited to 2 years of watching events (albeit through a microscopic lens). My true love is photography, but the Comcast Pavilion is anything but a photographer's Eden. Exposing Andrew to the difficult lighting of Comcast during a wrestling match was a way to throw him into the deep end of the pool.

To my surprise he swam.

Lighting in Comcast for wrestling is nothing less than despicable. A black mat, inconsistent lights above that force you to ISO 4000 or above at 1/400th for dark exposures... I think it's worse than high school gyms, although I won't swear to that since I haven't shot very many high school games.

Andrew has done well and that's allowed me to focus on writing. This season I didn't shoot any duals and instead sat behind the press area with Joey Flyntz and quietly took notes on the duals while Andrew shot.

As winter turned to spring the other Olympic Sports started up and that presented scheduling conflicts. Andrew agreed to shoot a women's lacrosse game between Maryland and UMass so that I could focus on the wrestling dual.

This afternoon was my first wrestling dual of the season behind the lens even though it was the final weekend of the home schedule. I enjoy attending wrestling duals at Maryland a lot. When I first dipped my feet into the genre of sports photography wrestling was the first Olympic Sport I was exposed to and it was very welcoming. As a result that's left a bit of a soft spot for me for the mat.

I varied my shots this afternoon and shot from both down low and up high. While shooting from up high you can get better reflection of the overhead light. However, you sacrifice the intimacy of being tight in on the wrestler's faces. As a result it seems like the best bet is to go for a combination of wide and tight. The wide paints the picture of the overall event while the tight gets you the emotion.

It was enjoyable shooting the event wide this afternoon. When Andrew showed up with my 400mm lens I decided to give it a whirl and see what I could capture. It turned out really well but you have to shoot from up in the stands to get a good composition.


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