Shooting Sports

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For many photographers, the 5D Mark II produces incredible images of moderately paced action successfully, with a fast 3.9 fps. While not as fast as the flagship models but faster than it's predecessor, the 5D Mark II responds quickly to your touch, and AF is lightning-fast to capture that shot at the peak of action. In addition, when you shoot in Continuous mode, you're ensured to capture the decisive moment of the play over several frames. By cramming more images into that 1-second time frame, the odds are higher you can yield far more keepers of the peak action.

For anyone who appreciates fast action, shooting sports can be one of the more exciting and rewarding genres of photography. Sports photography also comes with its own set of challenges and criteria that must be met if you're to produce images you'll be proud to share. We've all seen sports photos that make us stop and simply marvel at human achievement, power, or grace. Producing such arresting imagery requires some special gear but also a certain sensitivity for the sport at hand and an ability to think on your feet while working that peripheral vision too.

Preparation is key to capturing the images you want to come away with — that define the sport, the players, or the moment. Getting close to the action requires access that you need to set up beforehand by way of credentials or passes, with the venue, teams, or sponsors. Sports are really no different than portraiture in the sense that you want to fill the frame with your subject, which isn't an easy task when that subject is engaged in competition or streaking toward the basket, goal, or finish line at top speed.

As with many types of photography, choosing a background is often my first consideration. For outdoor events, avoid shooting angles that show cars in the parking lot, portable toilets, or those orange event cones. Indoors, watch out for illuminated exit signs, trash cans, and vast sections of empty grandstand. Try to choose angles where your background holds or at least complements your subject in a clean, non-obtrusive way. Shooting at your widest f-stop aids you in your endeavors, allowing you to also shoot at the fastest possible shutter speed for your chosen ISO.

The closer you are to the action, the more choices you have regarding lens selection and composition. For this reason, depending on your assigned location, you might shoot sports with two or more cameras — one with a telephoto lens appropriate for the sport and another with a wide-angle zoom for when the action comes in close. Gaining access means more than just cool shooting angles. Often, photographers pre-position themselves and then test remote cameras or flash lighting equipment before the game in search of that unique never-before-seen

Learning all you can about your particular sport before you begin to shoot can pay huge dividends later. Think about it. You have a sport you love, and you know the intricacies of play and all the nuances of the rules. That special knowledge of the sport should become evident in your photographs. All sports have downtimes and peak moments and also many moments of unpredictability. Having the skill to predict these times helps keep you sharp and focused on the action or sends you off looking for unique compositions of the gear, players, location, or setting.

Successful sports photography is all about timing and anticipating the action before it happens. There's a saying among sports photographers that "If you saw the play, you missed the shot," meaning that if you saw that split-second action in your viewfinder, you probably missed getting a shot of it. Getting into the flow of the game helps to anticipate what may happen next.

9.2 A long-distance runner makes eye contact with the camera. Editors always want to see faces, and eye contact always adds drama and a personal connection to the viewer. ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600 sec., with an EF 300mm f/2.8L USM lens with an EF 2x II extender attached.

Keeping the camera near your face, ready to shoot, and your other eye open and watching the scene unfold speeds up your reaction time. Because my subjects are usually human — and humans are vertical subjects — I prefer to shoot with the optional BG-E6 battery grip on the 5D Mark II. The comfort level of using these vertical grips can't be overstated. Most often, I'm shooting with a heavy telephoto lens and a monopod, and not having to crank my arm over the top (side) of the camera to shoot verticals keeps my shoulder and neck relaxed and limber.

9.3 Pre-visualizing the image I wanted beforehand, I took many shots before I nailed this image of a Little League pitcher with his strike pitch superimposed on his shoulder. I lined up and shot this image through a chain-link fence. ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/3200 sec., with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens.

9.4 Positioning myself by the esses — a section of a racecourse where the track turns right and then quickly left — I was able to get tight shots of these racecars as they braked. ISO 400, f/10, 1/8000 sec., with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens.

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