Readers Photo Challenge: Good sports

Sports photography is hard. The first thing one has to do is to master timing. Knowing when to press the shutter button is no minor thing and, like the sports themselves, takes practice, practice, practice to learn. All that is hard enough, but on top of that one also has to consider other sound photographic practices of exposure, composition and expression. Every sports photographer knows the disappointment of missing the moment and the satisfaction of getting a great shot.

The latest Readers Photo Challenge assignment is sports and the response reflects how difficult the task was. Only 6 people entered 25 photos, but those few rose to the challenge. Here are some of the best examples.


Water polo is a tough sport to shoot. It’s fast paced and, if you don’t know how it’s played, it’s unpredictable. The refs’ whistles are blown quite often, sometimes for no seemingly apparent reason. The ball changes hands often so it’s difficult to keep track of the action.

Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton photographed a St. Mary’s boy’s varsity water polo game against Davis with a Nikon D90 DSLR with a 18-70mm lens. She shot St. Mary’s Jack Kirby as he prepared to shoot on goal. Spurgeon captured the intensity of Kirby’s face as he cocked his arm back ready to fire. Two Davis defenders with arms raised in the foreground made for a nice triangular composition with Kirby at the apex.


When is a sport not a sport yet still a sport when it comes to photography? There are some activities that aren’t sports per se but require sports-shooting skills nonetheless.

Stan Sogsti of Lodi photographed a fencing “match” at the Northern California Renaissance Faire at Casa De Fruta, near Hollister, Ca. Fencing is an ancient sport requiring skill and stamina, but in this context its more stage play than competition. The actors often train as hard as any athlete and even though the outcomes may be predetermined, photographing them needs the same level of timing, accuracy and commitment as shooting any sporting event.

Using a Canon Rebel T1i DSLR with a Tamron 18mm-270mm lens Sogsti captured a peak moment of action in the fencing match as well as the expressions of the actors involved in the scene.

One of the things to look for in a sports photo is the expression on the faces of the athletes. It often shows on their faces with a scowl or grimace as competitors exert themselves to the utmost of their abilities.

Dave Skinner of Stockton used a Nikon D7000 DSLR with a Nikkor 55-300mm lens to photograph a University of the Pacific women’s volleyball match against St. Mary’s at UOP’s Spanos Center. He caught Pacific’s Gillian Howard as she leapt to block a spike by an opposing player. Her mouth agape and eye squinting in concentration, Howard’s intensity is apparent even though the ball isn’t in the picture.


Stay tuned for next Thursday for a new challenge assignment.

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