How do you capture "The" Moment?

Discussion in 'Sports' started by jay_hector, Aug 7, 2004.

  1. 8fps and AF will let you capture moments in sports, but not necessarily the special moment that takes you beyond the average shot that the 50 shooters next to you get too. With luck the special moment will happen when your AF is on the target and your 8fps frame is fired, but for me my special moments come with manual-focusing and firing one frame. I want the FPS available, but it won't make the shot for me. My brain makes my shot and can make a moment that doesn't exist. Best Sports Stories was a collection of the best sports photos/stories from about 1944-1994 and I have about 30 volumes. Each volume is full of great moments captured on film, but my winning shot BSS 1983 was a moment that I made and it didn't exist in reality, and it's the only moment created by a photographer and not just captured in the volumes I have. YMMV with AF and 8fps, but mine don't.
  2. Hi Jay,

    First let me say that I am in total agreement with your point of view but feel that I have something more to add.

    I am fairly new to photography and have found that and it's members like yourself have helped me with the technical and developmental aspects of photography by considerably shortening the learning curve so thank you. But there is something more deeper, more important in my opinion, than that of technical prowse or ability... and that is passion. A passion for ones subject matter that I feel cannot be learned in a book or web forum. My personal passion is and has always been Formula One. Ever since I was a small child I have been facinated.. no let me rephrase that. Obsessed with the sport and everything that surrounds it. I watch every race live.. the qualifying, and to some extent the practice sessions as well. I can't stop thinking about it.

    It is from this passion that I decided while at Indianapolis in 2000 that I needed to pick up photography again and reproduce the "images" that I have had in my head since I was a child. Images that in my opinion were representative of what I would equate to "The Moment". The problem was I had an analog camera which was given to me for my 16th birthday and I only had a 50mm lens. Digital for the most part was point-and-shoot back then. I knew that in order to capture what was in my head, what I had been nurturing, even feeding into on a daily basis since I was a child, couldn't be one of the toys that the industry was producing what I really needed was an SLR. Unfortunately it took a few years for the quality to catch up to the promise of film and that is why I decided four years later after visiting Silverstone for the BGP to take the plunge and buy my first digital camera. I bought it for a few reasons (which I will not get into here) but in my heart felt that I had the instrument to finally get close to what I loved so much.

    It is from this passion that I feel I have an advantage over the casual fan with a similar photo kit because I am for lack of a better word "waiting" or anticipating the action because it has played over in my head like a training film since the days of Peter Revson. Although the cars and drivers have changed over the years, the rules of physics haven't mechanical and aerodynamic grip hasn't changed so much that a drivers line has been altered to the point that he can enter a corner from just any approach so... having said that I know where the car will be, when he will be there, and for the most part what his options are when he gets there. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't make me a mind reader or anything... It's just I am so intimate with the sport that I am able to anticipate the occasional lock-up and capture it precicely when it happens.

    I don't shoot multiple frames because I feel that the moment is over after the first shot is taken. If I did, in my honest opinion the photos would be nothing more than a series of "snapshots". Does this make me an expert at shooting F1. ABSOLUTELY NOT. I am a beginner who is learning to channel his passion through photography. But at the same time I know that if I was to photograph a sporting event such as Baseball (to which I have no interest) the photos would be more or less average because I have no experience or passion from which to inspire me. Moreover, I wouldn't know what the definition of "The Moment" was because I wouldn't have anything to draw on and the photos would be just mundane captures in time rather than moments of greatness where the lens soaked up the essence of the subject matter and it's surroundings that make up what is in my opinion "The Moment".

    In short, without passion we have no inspiration.. Without inspiration we have mediocrity. I feel a photorapher needs to be inspired to shoot but needs the passion and intimacy of his subject matter in order to convey it and make it convincing. Just my two cents.

    P.S. I am learning and appreciate everyones help, suggestions, and criticisms because they help me to become a better photographer. Please take a look at my first attempt at shooting an F1 race and lend me your experience.

  3. Norman makes a good case that passion is what makes many of us shoot motorsports and drives us to work, perfect and excel at this particular area of photography. It's passion that keeps me going back to Road America, where I first started photographing races, and to try new tracks to see what the possibilities a different venue might afford. But while passion gets me to the track and keeps me going through some often hot, sweaty days, what has become more important to me since the start of this racing season is planning. It's reviewing the schedule of practice and qualifying sessions for the main and supporting events and determining where to shoot at what time of day to get the best lighting conditions and to build up a stock of both safety and experimental shots from practice and qualifying so that when the actual race occurs I can concentrate on shooting the on-track competition. That planning extends to individual shots and the choice of vantage points to get one or several different angles. At each vantage point a composition and variations for the shots is decided upon before the start of on-track activity. For shots of cars(s) cornering my camera doesn't move much and autofocus is used to pick a point on the track for focus and then wait for the shot to develop in the viewfinder. For panning shots I've used both autofocus and the manual focus technique of picking a spot on the track and firing the shutter when the image in the viewfinder is just moving into focus. In either case it's a single shot that gets fired, not a string of shots using the motor drive. Occasionally I screw up and fire more than one, but the results are usually disappointing. While most of my shooting is a series of single shot, planned in advance compositions, there are occasions that call for both autofocus and the motordrive. I tend to think of these as "developing situations" where the action moves quickly and a fast sequence of shots is called for. A recent example would be the standing start to the Formula Junior race at a vintage event where the cars would accelerate out of view in a few seconds. Shot overhead from the starter's bridge with a wide-angle lense the fourth image of twelve shot over two seconds turned out to be the best. Another recent example is a sequence I shot last weekend of Mike Lewis exiting his burning Trans Am Jaguar. I shot a sequence of ten shots shows him emerging from the car. Three of the shots, not in order, make a nice montage of him escaping, but one of the shots alone could also tell the story (see attached). At the time this happened there wasn't much time to think about composition so autofocus and a motordrive came in handy and I might have missed these shots without them. In short, a motordrive and autofocus are nice to have, but more and more I find myself planning my shots in advance and shooting manually for a lot of my work.
  4. For me, capturing the moment is all about being in the right place at the right time - and being observant to what is going on around you. If you are passionate about what you shoot (in my case ASCAR Days of Thunder in particular) then you automatically become more familliar to the finer nuances of the event and more attuned to them and therefore as a consequence far more observant.

    I get the most kicks out of doing pit and paddock work at a racetrack purely because I enjoy watching people go about their work - my idea of "the moment" is a people interest shot such as Colin White collapsing with heat exhaustion, Ben Collins being wished luck on the grid by his crew chief or a young lad really happy meeting his hero, Tony King. For me, the candid environmental portrait of a driver is the ultimate photo capture at a motorsport event.

    On track, that's a different story - you can go several meetings where nothing happens at the point you're shooting from and that's when you've got to be creative in order to add visual interest to the shots. Whether this is tilting the camera to create angles, zooming while panning or using effects filters its all about getting a shot to look the way you want it to look.

    But while that is going on, you've still got to be on the ball just in case all hell does break loose in front of you. From a statistical point of view it will happen at some point and then you've got to be ready for it and react without hesitation to the situation unfolding in front of you. More so if you're the only photographer at that corner - then you're under pressure to "capture the moment", an experience I had previous weekend with Michael Vergers rolling his car at Rockingham. (Mike was the first driver ever to roll one of these cars...)

    The resulting sequence found its way into Motorsport News and Autosport and will also be in the nest issue of Short Circuit Magazine - though that was purely just me being in the right place at the right time and looking the right way with enough presence of mind to point the camera and hold the shutter button down. It is totally different from working to set up a shot in a particular way, whether that shot is something you have total control over, or whether you are just waiting for the right moment to click the shutter.

    In my opinion, capturing the moment in motorsport photography is about two different approaches to the problem. On track it is about timing, technique, luck and presence of mind, but in the pits and paddock it is all about observation and understanding the things going on around you.

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