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Learning Sports Photography From a Master

When you think of a football photographer the first one that you think of is Peter Read Miller. He is much more than that, but football I think is his forte. When football season started I picked up a couple of books for both inspiration as well as learning. Someone like Peter Read Miller has shot almost any kind of sport that you can shoot. He has not just shot it, but shot it well. In this book he gives some of the insight that he has acquired since he started shooting in the 70’s. He has probably forgotten more about sports photography than I know so it is wise to learn from the man.

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Sports Photography Is Messy

This is a quote that I have heard Miller say many times. It is indeed true from what I have seen. You can have the best equipment, know your sport well, and still not get the shot. There are so many variables that make it the challenge that it is. I think that is one of the reasons that I love it so much. The shot above is the shot used for the cover, and one example of things that are not right but work in your favor. Sometimes you are so rushed that you don’t always change settings while moving. That was the case here as he shot at much too slow of a shutter speed. His technique is so sound though that he made a great picture. The luck involved is the little starburst off of the helmet of Ladainian Tomlinson. This is the prime example of luck meeting preparation for a photo.

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Preparation is Key

The above photo of Gabby Douglas can only be made if you know the routine. You have to know the routine to know where she will do this on the beam. With that knowledge you can set up your overhead remote to make the picture. This is what makes the great photographers great. You can’t always watch your subject ahead of time to make this photo. When you can though it is worth the time to make the photo. The result above is a great example of what you can do when you know your subject.

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Experiment With Your Equipment

Above is a great example of what you can do with your equipment when you push it. When the Peter Read Miller has covered many Olympic Games during his career. That has to start to get repetitive as crazy as it sounds. When he realized that he had a multi-exposure function on his camera he played around with it during the games. One great result from that was this shot above of the motion of the fencers. It was seeing this shot that really made me want to try this out for myself. I have had some success with the multi-exposure function of my camera, and it is the direct result of seeing the work of Peter Read Miller.

The Two Purposes of Reading Photography Books

Most of the time I look at a photography book as inspiration. It is much the same for me as walking into an art museum. With a book like this though it is much more. There are many pictures that inspire me to become a better photographer. You take that inspiration, and channel it into your own photography. The second purpose can be to learn. I have some how-to type books that help me with the more technical side of photography. This book is a little of both. When I finished this book I had a lot of ideas to push his concepts a little further. Some of those are still yet unfulfilled, but I am sure that you will see them on this blog in the future. One main goal that I now have when I go to a game is to tell the whole story. When I started shooting up close it was very easy to just focus close up on the action. Reading through this book has helped me remember to tell the whole story. Every now and then you need to step back to show the place and time that it is occurring in.

Fulfilling a Goal For the New Year

Last year I started writing up these little looks into some books that inspired me. I wanted to share them with you so that you can see what makes me want to do what I do. It is also a great way to share those with you. For some reason in August when things picked up for me I quit writing them. This year I plan to write many more of these as my collection has grown.

Bonus Video

With these posts I like to also post a video so that you can see more of the photographer. This video is part of a great series that B&H photo does from their New York store. Many of the concepts and photos from the book are covered. It is just over an hour, but it is well worth watching if you want to learn more about great sports photography.

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About Pinola Photo

I am a sports and lifestyle photographer based in West Lafayette, IN home of Purdue University. I cover sports for Big Ten teams as well as other colleges. You can follow me on twitter @pinolaphoto. You can also view my website at www.davewegielphoto.net

One response »

  1. […] picked up this book at the same time that I picked up Peter Read Miller’s On Sports Photography. I knew that both photographers were really at the top of the sports photographer pyramid. Both […]

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