This morning I found out that I would not be shooting the Indianapolis Motorcycle Grand Prix this year. It’s fine and good, since I will now be able to spend time with friends that I have coming into town for it. In truth though, I will miss the event. Some people know it, and others don’t but before I worked for the Newspaper I shot sports at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN. I was by far not the shooter then that I am today (not that I’m leaps and bounds better today), but I enjoyed it. To this day in fact I continue to enjoy shooting sports because it is a difficult unlike anything else. Sports can be a ballet of action in which you are either in the right place, or you are not. You either get the shot, and are even looking in the right place; or are not. Your photos are sharp, or they are not. The horrible part is that I’m incredibly anal about photos being sharp.
(Notre Dame vs Purdue in 2005. Nikon D70s, 1600ISO, Nikon 70-300mm F4.5-5.6@155mm, 1/250th @F4.5)
Lighting challenges occur, people get in the way, you don’t have enough lens, you have too much lens, you can’t make it someplace fast enough, you hesitate a half a second and miss a shot, and many more problems can arise while shooting sports. It takes a special kind of thinking ahead, or at lesat it used to. With Today’s cameras you can shoot at 3200ISO and feel confident that you can even crop in on your images. When the image above was taken in 2005 that wasn’t the case with digital. 1600ISO was cleaner than film was, but you couldn’t crop in on it very much without showing off the ‘grain feature’.
(Purdue Womens Basketball 2/11/2006. Nikon D70s, 800ISO, Nikon 80-200F2.8@125mm, 1/320th@F2.8)
While I was at Purdue I shot all of the sports. Everything except for golf, which was ironic since I actually played golf and understood the sport better than many of the others. I shot for the Purdue Debris Yearbook, as well as the University itself later on, but it didn’t matter who I shot for to me. I just enjoyed it, and why not? I had the best seats in the house!
(Purdue Womens Volleyball vs Ohio State University. Nikon D2x, 500ISO, Nikon 70-200mmF2.8VR @105mm, 1/250th@F2.8)
Sometimes I wish I’d have been better at Shooting Sports when I was, so that maybe I’d still be doing that today. The newspaper pays better though, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about on location shooting, and lighting while working there. Honestly though, there will always be a part of me that will miss the Basketball, Football, Baseball, Volleyball, Tennis, Soccer and more that I shot at Purdue.
I can’t say that I haven’t shot any sports while for the paper. I do shoot the Indiana All Star Basketball games as you can see in this previous post. If you’ve read my blog more than once you’ll know that I also shoot for the Naptown Roller Girls Roller Derby Team. I love shooting the Derby, it’s like nothing I had ever shot before and it maintains a special place in my portfolio because just like any other sport; it’s not easy to shoot.
(Nikon D300, ISO 1600, Nikon 70-200mmF2.8VR@102mm, 1/250th @F2.8)
I guess the whole point of this blog is that when I do get to shoot things like sports I feel lucky. I just find it a unique challenge that is different every single time I have a chance to shoot it. Last year I got to shoot the MotoGP, and I”m not sure exactly what circumstances allowed that but hey I’d rather be lucky than good right? The shot below was from the 1st Annual MotoGP last year. I have a 24″x11″ version of it hanging on my wall here at home because I liked it. I’d never shot a motorcycle race before, and was incredibly pleased with this shot.
(Indianapolis Motor Speeday’s 1st Annual Motorcycle Grand Prix. Canon 1D Mark II, 800ISO, Canon 400mmF4DO with Canon AF 1.4X extender, 1/100th@F13)
Funny part about the GP shot is that it might have been during the worst shooting experience of my life. That weekend in Indy was the worst weather in IMS History that a race had been run. The rain and the wind was so bad, that Matt Detrich had to use his belt to tether himself to where he was stationed on the roof to make sure he wouldn’t fall off. With 40mph winds the rain felt like needles on your face, and visiibility was low enough that the auto focus in my camera was having trouble on the bikes traveling at 200mph several yards away. That was of course if you were lucky enough to be able to hold your lens pointed towards the bikes in the 40mph wind and rain. The weather was pretty awful, and honestly I’m glad I shot with Canon Equipment on loan to the paper from CPS that day instead of my stuff. It was an unforgettable experience, and I’d do it all over again. Why? Because I love what I do. Maybe one day I’ll figure out exactly what I’m doing. Of course if I do I think I’d still almost rather be lucky than good. More soon.
All those are the same reasons I love shooting sports too. Add on top of it, that we're actually looking at it through a very small window and trying to keep the other eye open and remain aware of everything that's going on around because you just never know when someone could come flying out of bounds and land on top of you.