Mundanely scrolling through your social media feeds, you might see a sports recap here or there with a catchy alliteration in its title, an outlandish claim or yet another way to say ‘win or lose’ that you never knew before.
The title grabs your attention but how crazy could the story really be? Add a photo to the mix and it might just give you enough of a reason to click on the post and actually read it.
That photo, which often shows a moment of glory or a moment of despair for the athletes, can help anchor the reader’s visualizations of the game. It visually shows what you’re reading about and sets the mood for the story better than any headline could. The featured photo is a large part of my job as a newspaper photographer—to capture the atmosphere of the arena or court and the shocking plays in all their glory.
I often arrive at a game five minutes into the first period, usually stressed out either because I forgot I had signed up to cover that event or simply due to the fact that I was running late. Other times, I’m worried I’m going to have to fight someone for a chair at the media desk but overall, life as a newspaper photographer is still pretty relaxed as soon as I get set up at the game.
As I’m watching the games through my lens, it’s all about the narrative. While a team photographer might be looking for action shots or the goal that hypes fans up, I’m looking for images that convey a story. The issue is: I don’t know what that story is going to be until it’s over.
I’m looking for faces, emotions or yet another creative way to show a ball going into a hoop or a puck going into a net.
My positioning also matters more than it normally would when just shooting for the game. Can I snap to the bench when a player scores to see the coach’s reaction from where I’m standing? Am I there at the end of the period to see the disappointing look on the goalie’s face? Can I see over the heads of the crowd to catch the quick pep-talk at timeout?
Not to mention I can think I have the perfect shot, only for an opponent to make the comeback of a lifetime and now I’m scrambling to showcase our team’s tense despair.
On top of all these things I’m looking out for, I have to worry about the technical side of how I’m getting my images. Sports are very fast-paced and often played in dingy, dark arenas or courts—I’m looking at you Varsity Arena. When I’m not shooting indoors, I’m dealing with how massive a soccer field is and then, on a sunny day, the worst contrast you can possibly imagine.
But despite all this, I do get to shoot some really fun events. There’s no better feeling than the roaring crowd behind me when I finally have a photo hole at the hockey rink all to myself and I find out that I’ve captured a game-winning shot and ensuing celebration.
Then I realize I have to go through thousands of images as fast as possible for an overnight publication.