We see it all the time. Whether it is on TV, the Internet, or most famously: the Sports Illustrated magazine. Sports photography is a form of documentation for what occurred during a game. Here is some history for the origin of sports photography. It all began with a gentleman from England named Eedward James Muybridge. He was initially interested in nature photography (in the 1870s, where photography was reserved only for the rich due to the high expenses required for a decent photograph), but then he was requested by Leland Stanford to take photos of his horses in movement (Equestrian) to prove whether horses had all four legs off the ground in a trot or gallop. A sequence of photos animated can be seen below:
And then there was the birth of sports photography. Some might debate it wasn’t true sports photography because no competition was involved. The .gif seen above involves a professional rider and a purebred racehorse, so I will allow the reader come to their own conclusions whether the genre began in 1878.
Ever since the late 1800s, sports photography has grown immensely but also is avoided by many due to the high level of mastery needed to capture the right moment in any sport. It seems that there are three major components to having a profitable photograph from any sport: location, prediction, and as expected: skill with a camera. Location is critical when deciding on a player to photograph. A sports photographer wants to find the optimal location where he can have many angles for better chances at landing the “shot.”
A good location, however, isn’t everything. You have to channel your fortune-telling powers to predict whether a soccer player juggling the ball will turn towards your camera or when a lay-up is going to occur in an intense game of basketball. Lastly, tremendous skill is needed with a camera. Auto-focus helps a lot, but the muscle memory is needed to automatically go to the AF button and then promptly press the shutter button when the right time comes.
Now believe it or not, we have our own sports photographer! His name is Dylan Heuer and he is an alumni of the Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA degree in Visual Media. His photos have been used by ESPN, CBS, MLB and the NHL. To conclude this blog, I ask him several questions to get a professional perspective on what it takes to be a sports photographer.
Ceasar – Thank you very much for taking a few moments to answer my questions. Let’s cut to the chase. Why sports photography?
Dylan – Ah, that’s no problem at all! I love sports. I love photography. When you combine the two, my work ethic is unmatched. I know how to find the right image. I know how to capture the right play at the right time. I know how to catch the right emotion in any given game. I know what makes an image look powerful that shows a story of 1,000 words. With my vast baseball knowledge and the passion, I believe my clients won’t be disappointed with my motivation and enthusiasm.
Ceasar – Which sports do you get the most excited about shooting and why?
Dylan – Baseball is definitely my favorite sport to shoot because it’s simply my favorite sport. I love to watch the game through the viewfinder of my camera. I love capturing the right moment where the ball makes contact with the bat. I love capturing the right moment as the pitcher releases the ball from his fingertips. I can’t resist the love of the game.
Victory Celebration – Dylan Heuer
Ceasar – What is the most difficult or frustrating aspect of shooting sports?
Dylan – Even though baseball is my favorite sport to shoot, I’ll have to say that it’s a harder sport to shoot, too. Baseball is a slow sport with sudden bursts. That means, just like a player, you have to be ready for anything at any given moment. Sometimes I’ve missed great photo opportunity because I’d set my camera at second base where I predicted the action would be, but it happened in left field. Also, you have to include the countless close calls that I’ve had with foul balls whizzing right past my head while I’m in the dugout.
Tommy Field, Sky Sox Shortstop – Dylan Heuer
Ceasar – What were your highest and lowest points as a sports photographer?
Dylan – My most favorite memory of shooting sports has to be the RIT men’s hockey team’s memorable run to the Frozen Four in Detroit in 2010. At that point, I was just starting out as a photographer. I captured some of my greatest photos and some of those photos are still in my top five of the best photos that I’ve taken in my life. Some of those photos ended up on ESPN and CBS. It was also one of the greatest times in my entire life. And I really don’t have a low point. What does that mean? I’ve found the right calling for me in life. This is what I was meant to do.
Ceasar – Thank you very much Dylan! I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with an old friend.