Saturday, November 28, 2015

On shooting sports: Covering action, reaction, coaches and fans

ACTION: Western Michigan's Darius Phillips breaks up a pass to Toledo's Cody Thompson at the University of Toledo's Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio on Friday. (Blade photos by Lori King)

REACTION: Alonzo Russell cries as he's ejected for targeting.
There is a saying in the photojournalism field that if you can shoot sports, you can shoot anything.
   This can be true for several reasons:
    • Action shots require precise timing and an innate understanding of fast shutter speeds.
    • Reaction shots can be just as important as action shots, so you need a keen awareness of what's happening before and after key plays. This includes capturing the antics of coaches on the sidelines.
    • Fans like to see themselves, too, so searching for strong fan shots is essential for making a slideshow interesting and compelling.
    • Critical thinking is definitely employed here by figuring out issues like where to shoot from and how to get the best angles; how to best ID the players and coaches; and how to deal with other factors, like weather, substandard camera equipment and limited access.
    The current assignment for the Wayne State photojournalism class is shooting a sports event. As part of that assignment, they are required to post their strongest action, coach and fan photos. They'll also edit their best dozen or so for a slideshow, produced in Adobe Premiere CC.
REACTION: Asantay Brown is taken off the field with an injury.
    A sports slideshow is a mini-portfolio for the vision and technical control of the shooters, so I encouraged the students to 'circle the wagon' to capture the flavor of the event.
   To demonstrate the assignment requirement, I posted these photos I took last night at the University of Toledo vs. Western Michigan football game.
    A big lesson I want to discuss here is that journalists are not cheerleaders for the team we cover, nor are we prevented from shooting moments that are hard to witness. Case in point - when Toledo's Alonzo Russell cried as he was ejected from the game for targeting WMU's Asantay Brown. Or when Brown was taken off the field on a stretcher.
    After the game, as we photogs worked up our images in the press box, another photographer asked me if a close-up shot of Brown's face on the stretcher was appropriate to send to his client. Both myself and the USA Today photographer told him to definitely send it, and let the editors decide whether to run it or not. I also shot that photo and sent it, and it ran in the newspaper today.
    So, here are samples of what I'm looking for when the students post their best three photos to their blogs.     
   Of course, I'm very aware they probably don't have the access or the long lenses that I have. But they need to do what it takes with what they have to get the job done, as do every college photographer assigned to cover their teams.
Link to Photo Gallery
Link to Toledo Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg's column, "We're not here to cheer for your team." 
FANS: Young Toledo fans don't get their wish after the Rockets lost their last home game to WMU.
COACH: Toledo's Corey Jones walks hand-in-hand with head coach Matt Campbell after their loss to WMU. It is these kind of captured moments that add emotion and mood to the game.