Jun 212014

Every now and then a sports photographer will notice that a lot of the game hinges on one player.


Let’s set the stage:  June 21, 2014.  The Washington Spirit Reserves (in red) are playing the New York Magic (in white) for the second time this season.  The last time these teams met, Washington trounced the Magic 7:0.   Today’s score:  0:0


Washington is now leading the United Soccer Leagues (USL) W-League Northeastern Conference — after nine games they have won seven and tied two (both tie games were 0:0) having a record of 22 goals for and 2 goals against.


I shoot for the Spirit Reserves so my photography is a bit biased.  And some of you know that I don’t try to shoot the goals, preferring to shoot the match instead (there is a difference).  But looking through the almost-400 images from today’s game I realized that I was seeing a lot of this fluorescent green jersey in the pictures:  Goalkeeper Caitlin Hoffer.


The goalkeeper is supposed to be the loneliest player on the pitch — when things are going well for his/her team.  Not today.  Washington managed to consistently keep the ball on the New York side of the line.  New York was able to get the ball back fairly often, but wasn’t able to complete.  On the other hand, Washington was unable to make a single goal, despite a LOT of shots-on-goal.


I may have shot 1/3 of her saves…or perhaps not even that many.


These shots are in the order they occurred — each shot a single event.



It takes a different kind a person to be a goalkeeper.  The stress is high.  A penalty kick is like a gun fight on the streets of Dodge City — the opponents looking each other in the eye and trying anticipate the “move”.  If you fail, blame is quick.  Still…


…It’s a great part of the “Beautiful Game”, and one that’s fun to see close up.

Jun 192011

Action or Story?

Sometimes you get lucky enough to have two or more frames to choose from.  Or maybe that’s not lucky.  In this case, the first picture is mostly about the the action, while the second tells more of the story.  (The metadata embedded in the file shows that they are taken less than a second apart.)  To even be faced with a choice is a bit of luck, but as Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

I like the story shot.  Shorter on action, it shows the two key players as they realize the outcome of the play.

Observation:  It would be very rare to see a shot as wide as the second one in an American newspaper.  To make the players large enough, this would need to be close to a half page wide.  American papers just don’t allow that kind of real estate for soccer — especially women’s soccer.  But you do see more shots like that in the European press.



This last shot is another example of Woody Allen’s observation on success.

Jun 132010

When Equipment Drives the Results

Sports photography is one of those areas of the craft where the equipment really does make a difference.  (If you think you’ll get results from the kids’ soccer match like those shown in the Canon TV commercials without spending from $1,800 to $6,000 for each lens — you’re living in Fantasyland.)

I typically shoot soccer sitting on a folding stool.  One Nikon D300 on a monopod has a 300mm f/2.8 lens (often with 1.4x converter).  A second D300 mounts a 70-200 f/2.8 lens which, with a converter, weighs just under 7 pounds.  I shoot long shots with the 300, and when the action gets closer, I lean the monopod against my left leg, and reach down to my right and swing up the camera with the zoom (the 6 1/2 pound curl).

The problem with the original Nikon 70-200 is that the contacts (for camera-lens communication) tend to oxidize.  When this happens, the lens won’t auto-focus.  Some at Nikon, even after eight years, don’t readily acknowledge the problem, though it has been widely discussed online — especially among sports photographers.  The consensus solution is to use Caig DeoxIT to clean and protect the contacts on the lens and the internal connections.  Despite Nikon’s reluctance to accept the problem, the proof to many is that the DeoxIT works.  But you do need to clean the lens contacts regularly.  And I didn’t.

So for Saturday’s Majestics match the 70-200 fired about six shots — and stopped focusing.  Nothing I could do in the field helped.  So I was down to just the 300mm lens.

The team's first goal of the season.

The question is my mind is whether or not I would have made these shots if I had been switching back and forth between the two cameras.  The advantage is that with only one camera and lens, you just track the action all the time.  However, sitting just behind the goal line and near the corner, a lot of action is just too close, and the framing is difficult — and too tight.  On the other hand, there is no time lost switching between cameras.

The aesthetic and creative contradiction:  Shooting with just one lens simultaneously restricts and releases you.

May 292010

Women’s Soccer…

Today I shoot the home opener for the Northern Virginia Majestics.  They are an amateur team which is primarily made up of collegiate players — though occasionally foreign players are on the roster.

This shot is from last year (Majestics in blue)…

You can learn more about the Majestics through their web site.  All the game shots on their site are mine — I’ve been shooting the team since 2003.

Technical:  The photo was taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens with 1.4x converter, using a monopod.  1/4000 | f/4.5 | ISO 800 | Aperture Priority with Matrix Metering | Auto White Balance.

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