How to Capture Action in Sports

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Preparation, concentration, persistence, and a little luck are all that are required to capture the exciting action at a sporting event. This fall is turning out to be a great season for me behind the camera. Here is what I do to consistently capture the action.

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First, I get in the right mindset. Athletes and coaches prepare for a game and we photographers should, too. Preparation of the mind for me begins well before the game. I get my software, Photo Mechanic, ready by filling in the metadata ahead of time and preloading the rosters. Then, I listen to a pump up playlist on my drive to the game. I try to get there early so I am not rushed and have time to take some test shots, check the lighting, and get myself ready by putting on my kneepads and shoulder harness, which can hold two or three cameras.

Thomas Jack Stephens fights for yardage against the Cardinals in Swiftwater on Friday, September 27, 2019.

Second, I try to avoid distractions both during my preparation and especially during the game. Too many photographers talk to colleagues, watch the action like a fan, and just plain get lazy too much of the time during a game. I look like a loner on the sidelines because I am avoiding distractions. Concentration on each and every play is required.

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Third, I aim and try really hard to be in the right place at all times. Sometimes, if say a football game is back-and-forth with turnovers, this might require me to run to the opposite end of the field multiple times in a short stretch of time. Some of the cheerleaders think I look like Forest Gump running repeatedly past them! We absolutely must be in the right place on every play or else we run the risk of missing the action. I do not get this right on every play, but I do get it right on most plays. I am worn out after a game both mentally and physically because I aim to be at the right place at the right time. This takes a lot of effort and plain old hard work.

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Lastly, a little luck never hurts. I always enjoy editing photos after a game because once in a while I am surprised by a capture I made with a little luck. Preparation, careful planning, and concentration help luck happen more consistently and predictably. I am proud of my results most times because I am finding that I can consistently capture the action at each game. I believe my job is to capture the action and tell the story of the game with my camera, show the effort and emotion of the athletes, and bring the game to the fans in a unique and captivating way. It is working for me and it can work for you, too!

Dimitri Rojas is tripped up by Christian Sapp in Stroudsburg on Friday, September 13, 2019.

Dimitri Rojas is tripped up by Christian Sapp in Stroudsburg on Friday, September 13, 2019.

Get the Little Things Out of the Way

Most of us photographers like to spend time behind the camera. After all, we are photographers so this is our rightful place, isn’t it?

The problem is there are so many other details and little things that can distract us and prevent us from spending time behind the camera. Think about going on vacation for example. Just to get away there are a ton of things that must be done. Our to do list grows to enormous size and we have a lot of details to wrap up before can leave.

Even preparing for a photography-specific vacation requires paying attention to a lot of mundane details: did you charge your batteries? Did you pack enough spare flash cards? What lenses are you going to bring? Do you have cleaning supplies packed? How will you backup in the field? Do you know exactly where you are going? Do you have enough money for everything? Did you put on clean underwear? (Opps, that was bad!)

But in all seriousness all these little details can get in our way. So sit down, make a list, and begin checking these items off. The sooner you take care of the little things the sooner you can focus your camera!