I like sports. I will watch almost anything that catches my interest . I love football. My son loves football even more than I do. There is something about a game where you get to be so physical, and yet it can be so cerebral, like a chess match. From September to February I watch a lot of football. Professional, college, high school , youth, I watch it all. I know there are people that watch much more than me , but I think I see more than the average person, which makes my wife a little nuts; she hates football. I am prejudiced toward my son’s team ( of course, like any good parent is supposed to be ) and my former high school( who I do a lot of work for), The New England Patriots and Notre Dame. Football is about strength and speed. Size helps too, but the biggest guy won’t always win the battle. It is about guts and the ability to overcome. I love to be on the sideline. I am able to watch the action, close up. And of course I have my camera with me.
Any good sports photographer will tell you that the more you know about the sport you are going to shoot, the better your photographs will be. As you understand about how the game moves and flows, you will be better able to position yourself where the best action will be. You will also know what players or positions will often give you the best shots. I tend to concentrate on the ball, who has it, where it is going, if it is a pass or a run, those kind of things. For those of you that don’t already know, the quarterback, running backs and wide receivers have the ball almost all the time. If my team is on defense, I still follow the ball but I try to wait until one of the defensive players is about to do something that I would want a photograph of; make a tackle, go up for a pass against a wide receiver, sack the quarterback. It doesn’t matter whether it is a youth game or a professional game, the same basic principals apply. The game just gets faster as the participants get older, bigger and stronger.
I try to wait for the peak action,then start shooting and let the motor drive keep firing after the first shot. The first shot is what I am really looking to capture, anything after that is just gravy. This is a habit from when I shot film that has stuck with me. I shoot football with an 80-200 f2.8 lens ( however with my camera it gets turned into 120-300 lens) so I can get very close to the action. I usually shoot wide open ( at f2.8) to isolate the action from the background, and keep my shutter speed as fast as possible. I usually hand hold, although occasionally I will use a monopod. This is what works for me. There are many more talented photographers than me out there, I just keep trying to make my own work better.
Walter Iooss has been my idol since I was a kid.It probably didn’t hurt that he was the first Sports Illustrated sports shooter that worked on the Swimsuit Issue. I go back and look at his work and try to see how he makes photographs, learn from them and make my own better. He shoots a little of everything, and for the most part anything that he publishes is pretty fantastic. Neil Leifer, Dave Black, Joe McNally, Tim Montoani, Scott Kelby, and Chase jarvis are all photographers ( that shoot sports, not necessarily exclusively) that I follow to see what kind of work they do, and how they do it, and how I can learn from them, and have fun while shooting it.