We all know them, these wonderful photographs in newspapers and periodicals and on the internet, taken at sport events like the Olympic Games, the Tour the France, the football competitions or athletic championships. I loved to see them in the newspaper which plopped into our letterbox every evening and nowadays in my digital journal .
In the analogue days when it was impossible to shoot 20 frames per second as with the latest digital "beasts", photographers had to be keen observers. They had to know every aspect of the sport they were photographing and had to anticipate even more in order to press the shutter at the right moment. After all a roll had only 36 exposures. Even if they had used fifty rolls or more, they could never have beaten the digital generation. So it might perhaps be a bit easier to snap the right moment for the digital sports photographer, he still has to know his sport very well and he can't do without observation and anticipation. In that respect nothing has changed.
Sport is action, movement, speed, supreme concentration, passion, emotion, elegance, pain and joy . For the photographer, this means observing and anticipating in order to capture the right moment.
All of these aspects are discussed in this review, which I conclude with two beautiful black and white pictures, which show me the artistic aspect of sports photography.
To capture the essence - and consequently the right moment - a sports photographer has be a keen observer. Moreover, using the technical possibilities of your camera helps to achieve your goal.
In "Offense", Rob Li did a very good job. To make his photo, Rob had to observe the athlete very well: her facial expression - so concentrated while her eyes follow that little white ball - her movements, the feeling of speed, which were all brought together by using the on camera multiple exposure.
To capture the deep felt emotions of an athlete, you must be very much into the game. You have to look, to feel and to anticipate. I have no idea which sport this athlete is performing - it must be more than crawling in the mud - but I can feel her drive, her emotions, her will to win. That's the merit of Beppe Verger's photograph.
Because the photo is taken at close range, I can see and enjoy some very nice details. When starting her race, the athlete knew she would soon be covered with mud. And yet, she took the trouble to paint her nails and apply make-up on her face. Moreover the lovely tattooed butterflies on her body are a wonderful contradiction! It is details like these that also make this photograph so attractive.
It's all in the eyes - the concentration of the athlete before and during the performance - and you can see it in the photographs by by Haitham AL Farsi and Milan Malovrh.
Although sharing the concentrated look in the eyes of the athletes, the photographs are very different. While Haitham's is rather introvert, Milan's is extrovert.
It is a spit second moment, catching the ping-pong player in the middle of his service, just before hitting the ball that covers his right eye. The effect would have been spoiled if the ball were a bit higher or lower, or if the bat would have been in other position. It takes a keen photographer's eye, knowledge of the game or a lot of exposures to get a result like this.
"Concentration" by milan malovrh
You have to see this photograph in the enlargement. Then you can really appreciate the concentration on the face of the driver. But also his body language shows how concentrated he is. But there is more to it. In this photograph the quietness concentration is juxtaposed with the impression of action and speed by using a sophisticated technique. The result is a very exciting photo.
SENSATION OF SPEED
There are but a few sports in which speed isn't the prerequisite for success - think of mind games like chess or dams. So, it is very attractive to show that speed in your photograph.
Performing at high speed can be a bit frightening - well, at least to watch it. I am sure the athletes aren't or perhaps only a little bit - just enough to stay alert. Carlos' photograph give me some scary feeling. It is as the racer is overtaking his own front wheels and that the back ones are blocking. I quite like this way of photographing speed. It makes you feel the thrill of the race, which is enhanced by placing the racer and his bike at almost the edge of the frame. You only see him for some seconds!
Ice hockey is really a sport of speed, fast turns, and some push and pull. It is all in Dusan's photograph. Look at the of speed, which is represented is different ways: in the background by the tracking of the camera and in the action of the players, which is clear enough to tell apart the pushing and pulling. The players are well placed. It is as if they are skating into the picture and at the left side they get enough place to move on.
The sensation of speed is not always in the movements.
In David Byrne's photograph the idea of speed is created in the background by the whirling dust and splashing mud. The bikers and their machines are frozen, which makes the picture nonetheless rather static. A bit of movement in the tires would have given it more dynamic as can be seen in Wojciech Łączkowski's photo.
While the athlete is frozen, the background, the wheels of his bike, the trail of dust are in full motion. It makes you see the hard work of the biker, to keep his machine in balance in relation with the high speed he is maintaining.
THE ELEGANT MOMENT
There are many moments to record in sports photography. The sensation, the action, the tragedy and so on. There is also that elegant moment, in which the gracious side of the sport is reflected. It is only to be seen in pictures in which the action is frozen.
In "Up and over", the elegance shows itself in the serenity of that moment when the athlete is floating over the stick. Body and soul seem to be in perfect harmony.
By the way, I love that little detail of the orange stick and the orange lace of the shoes!
Part of the elegance in both Ross Oscar's photo and Jakob Sanne's is the arms and hands of the athletes. Their position has an almost ballet-like allure and yet the tell us a lot about the sport the men are performing: it is all about keeping the right balance.
Sport is also about suffering and pain. Perhaps that is what we want to see, when watching the reports on the telly and seeing the pictures in the papers. After all, a gruelling Tour de France stage is much more sensational than a cat and mouse stage. Or not? Anyway, it's part of the game and so a captivating branch in sports photography.
Most important in this kind of photography is the facial expression of the protagonists, showing their horror, their pain. It is as if their pain becomes yours. You can identify with them. And that's what happens when seeing, "crash" and "s/t". I feel empathy with the victims of their sport. I am abhorred by the fanatic look in the hitting boxers eye, the dismay on the face of the athlete behind the one who fell. It is so well photographed.
The background in Carlos Lopes Franco's photo is not ideal, but the impact of the moment is so strong, that you don't mind. You see what you have to see - the emotions on the face of both athletes in the boxing ring.
That sweet moment of Victory! The euphoria, the excitement, the joy, the release of adrenaline. The photographers saw it and documented it and so we are all a witness of that very happy moment.
Where there are winners, there are losers - that's just the way it is - and in Sarah Brooke's photo they are united in one picture. The happiness of the winner is the chagrin of the second best - a truth in any sport, but easier to depict in track sports than team sports like football or hockey.
It is funny to notice that most 1x sports photos are about some action moment in sports. There are but a few about winning or losing, or about the moment when the athletes are back stage - tired out, exhausted.
THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL
I will conclude this review with two artistic sports photographs. They show the essence and aesthetic beauty of sports. I won't comment on these beauties. Enjoy it!
"Fencing #2" by Hilde Ghesquiere