The sporting life

Stockton Lady Spartans’ Amanda Nunez fights for the ball with the San Jose Extreme’s Katie Hubberd during a lacrosse game at Nelson Park in Stockton.(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. 1/1000th sec @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

The other day I had an assignment to shoot a lacrosse game between the Stockton Lady Spartans and the San Jose Extreme club teams at Larsen park in Stockton. The problem was, I didn’t know much about the game. I’ve only seen it played briefly while flipping through the channels on my TV. As far as I could tell it was a bit like hockey on grass, or soccer with sticks.

The more familiarity one has with shooting a sport, the easier it is to get a better shot. Knowing the nuances of a game helps to know where to stand, what to focus on and where the action is going to be. However, if you don’t know how the game is specifically played, there are some things that can be applied from other sports in general.


Stockton Lady Spartans’ Emily Mallett, left, makes a move on San Jose Extreme’s Elly Biggs during a lacrosse game at Nelson Park in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. 1/1000th sec @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

When shooting an unfamiliar sport, I’ll just watch the game for the first few minutes, sometimes through the camera, sometimes not. Then I’ll get a sense of the flow of the action. That’s what I did with lacrosse. For the first 5-10 minutes or so, I followed the action through the camera, seeing how the game unfolded. A game like football, the players march down the field in a more or less methodical fashion and I tend to stay 20-30 yards ahead of the line of scrimmage and move further down after each play. Lacrosse was much more like soccer where play is more unpredictable and players could be across the field on minute and then right in front of me the next. Instead of walking up and down the sidelines trying to follow the action, I stayed in one spot and let the action come to me.


Stockton Lady Spartans’ Amanda Nunez fights for the ball with the San Jose Extreme’s Katie Hubberd during a lacrosse game at Nelson Park in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. 1/1000th sec @ f/5.6. ISO: 200)

Shooting most sporting events requires a long lens. The venues are usually large and a telephoto lens allows enough reach to shoot action that may be further away from your position and add impact to the photo when it gets closer.  Guessing the lacrosse field would be about the size of a soccer pitch, I brought a 300mm telephoto. While I could have used a longer telephoto (which could be said for almost any sport), but the 300 worked well enough.

To stop the action, the use of a fast shutter speed is a must. The minimum should be 1/500th of a second. That is fast enough to freeze motion in most sports, save perhaps drag racing. I used 1/1000th of a second for lacrosse. That stopped the motion and also gave me a shallow depth of field which helped to simplifying the background by throwing it out of focus.


The San Jose Extreme’s Katie Hubberd, left, clashes with Stockton Lady Spartans’ Amanda Nunez during a lacrosse game at Nelson Park in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. 1/1000th sec @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

In sports where there isn’t any direct contact between opponents (tennis, golf, etc), shooting action is all about effort and intensity. In competitive levels, all athletes are trained to give 100% and the better players, no matter what the sport give it their all. It shows in their faces and body language. In the lacrosse game I looked for the players who were running a little faster, had the ball more than the others and who were giving just the little more effort. And that way I had a better chance of getting some intense moments.


The Stockton Lady Spartans’ Savannah Peters, left, is chased by San Jose Extreme’s Elly Biggs during a lacrosse game at Nelson Park in Stockton. (Camera: Nikon D300. Lens: Nikkor 300mm. 1/1000th sec @ f/5.6. ISO: 200).

Sports that include contact (football, basketball, soccer, etc.) adds the the element of conflict and confrontation. From the sacking of a quarterback to the pushing and shoving in soccer the clash between athletes can add drama to a sports photo. Like hockey, the lacrosse game had the added element of sticks as a part of the players’ equipment. As players ran with the ball in the netted end of their sticks, their opponents occasionally tried to swat the ball out in near sword-fighting fashion.

I was only able to stay half the game and although they aren’t prize-winning but they’re decent. The more games I shoot, the more I’ll learn, but in the mean time I can just apply what I’ve learned from other sports.

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