Shooting the US Open Today With Film

Of all the major annual sporting events, my favorite has to be the US Open Tennis Championships. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is a beautiful complex, and during the first week of the Open, it’s incredible. There are so many matches to watch, and so many photos to take. The photographs featured were taken with my Minolta Maxxum Htsi-Plus, Minolta 135mm AF f/2.8, Minolta 70-210mm AF f/4, rolls of Kodak Gold 400, and a roll of Kodak 400TX.

Tennis, I feel, is a slower paced and much concentrated sport. It doesn’t have vuvuzelas. Overweight men aren’t topless with painted letters on their bare chests. And it doesn’t have Alex Rodriguez.

There are key moments in a player’s game that provide great opportunities for a photo. For instance, the serve.

There are more than enough serves in a match to catch a winning shot. Spend a few games studying the player’s style. In the case of Maria Kirilenko, watch her flow from dribbling the ball to launching it in the air to the racket meeting the ball. All players have a rhythm, and once you have a general sense of how they serve, you can appropriately time your shot. The above shot was taken on a roll of Kodak Gold 400 with my Htsi-Plus and Minolta 135mm AF f/2.8 at the 2009 US Open.

Then there are action shots.

Nicholas Mahut

After the serve passes, the rally begins. The longer the rally, the more time there is to study the player. In the above shot, Nicholas Mahut was about to return a shot from Matthew Ebden. There is a constant fluidity of motion in tennis, as it is one of the most physically demanding sports. There are different approaches to forehand and backhand swings. With the forehand, the swing is broader allowing for more time to get the shot. The above photograph was taken a roll of Kodak 400TX with my Htsi-Plus and 135mm AF f/2.8 at the 2010 US Open during the qualifying week.

Once you’ve gotten a feel for the player’s style, start looking through the viewfinder. Follow the player with your lens. If you’re better with manual focusing, then keep it in manual. If you prefer autofocusing, the do that. Anticipation is key in getting a solid shot. Predict how the player is going to hit the ball, and focus accordingly.

Also, keep in mind that if you go during the day, you’ll be dealing with a lot of natural light, so stop your lens down accordingly. I was typically between f/8 and f/11.

Frame your shots however you like, but do try and get in close. Shooting from the upper tiers of the Grandstand or Louis Armstrong won’t do you any good. Maneuver your way as close to reserved seating as possible. The best shots have the greatest amount of detail. If you get a photographer’s badge, then ignore everything here.

Tennis is just as much about the fans as it is the players.


Enjoying the match

If you’re watching a watching a match in one of the bigger courts—Arthur Ashe, Louis Armstrong, and the Grandstand—there are bound to be rare opportunities for photos. The US Open is about great tennis, and being with others who share the same appreciation you do. Clearly, the guy in the bottom photo had a long day even though that was taken at around noon. Both were shot on a roll of Kodak Gold 400 with the Htsi-Plus and 70-210mm AF f/4 during the 2010 US Open.

And for those lucky enough, there may even be a signature to be had.


Those kids love their signatures at the end of a match.  This shot was taken on a roll of Kodak Gold 400 with the Htsi-Plus and 70-210mm AF f/4 during the 2010 US Open.

Even if you have a mild appreciation for tennis, the US Open is a great experience.  Two weeks of stellar tennis.  There are technically three weeks if you decide to go to the free admission qualifying week before the Open starts.

And if you’re a shutterbug, you can walk home with some pretty cool photos.

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