Going Wide in Sports Photography

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Editor’s Note: We’re featuring a guest post from Ryu at Big Lens Fast Shutter, and all images are provided by him and his partner Matt.

Hello there.  This is Ryu from Big Lens Fast Shutter and with my partner Matt we run a website with monthly podcasts and videocasts on how to shoot sports photography.  I myself is a professional sports photographer based in Berlin, Germany and shoot mostly football (aka soccer).  Matt on the other hand does a lot of rodeo somewhere on the west coast of America. The Phoblographer gave us an opportunity to write a post on wide angle lenses in sports so we are here to do what we can do to introduce you to opposite end of the spectrum.  Why opposite?  Because most people think sports is all about excessively large and long telephoto lenses. I am not denying our preference for these lenses, but wide angle shots tend to add more drama and makes you feel as though you are in the picture.  Although shooting wide to include absolutely everything is what wide angle lens is meant to do, we do tell our listeners that when you shoot, it is imperative that you get as close to the subject as possible without getting harmed by the athlete or a car.  Sometimes going wide is not for the faint of heart. Below is the post I wrote about a month ago on wide angle lenses in sports photography and hope you’ll find it informative.

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As I said earlier, we have a monthly podcast where we talk about tips on sports photography, results of our monthly themed competition, and many more useful sports photography related info.  We also have a monthly videocast where we critique your photos live on air.  As crazy as it sounds, this is our most popular segment of our show.  There’s a lot of masochists out there, I tell you.

Without further ado, here’s the post.  Enjoy.

 Far

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The main subject is not close to you, but far away from you. Therefore you get a shot that encompasses everything. Like a landscape shot. This technique is used when you see something in the environment that you want to incorporate into the picture. Sunset over a stadium. Crowds in the stands. Also showing the enormity of the place where the game is going on. These shots put the viewer inside the photo and make them feel like they want to be there Unlike a long lens shot, you will really need to think about composition. Tiny mistakes at the composition stage will most likely make you cry later, so be patient and precise when composing. Don’t worry about the exposure that much since the subject is so far away, there won’t be much DOF issues.

From my experience, you can take time shooting wide angle shots because the subject is so far away. Put it this way, the subject is the entire frame. Individual athletes in it will not make or break the shot. For instance with the ping pong shot, I shot the same composition for about 10 minutes, hoping to catch a good moment. But what I care most was the composition and not what the ping pongers were doing. What I wanted to show was two athletes duking it out in a very big empty arena.

Close

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The main subject is very close to you. You should be able to smell them and lick their eyeballs (all the rage in Japan). Just a fact that security is so tough at professional sporting events these days, it’s not easy to get close to them. Hence the rise in long lenses, I guess. But if you are shooting amateurs, you can get as close as you want. Hence, I have no idea why we don’t get more shots of close up wide angles in any of our competitions. Hencing, done.

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I’d leave the camera to aperture priority or shutter speed priority and let the camera worry about exposure. You, you worry about focusing. The point of getting close wide angle shots is to get as low as possible. Therefore you are not going to be lying down on your belly. No, you are going to shoot without looking through your viewfinder. If your camera has a live view on the LCD, I’d use it, but this is only useful when your subject is not moving. When they move, you go one handed. You’ll need to take some practice shots to determine composition and trust that the camera will do its job in focusing.

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This no look focusing is not easy as 1-2-3. You need to practice (Practice?) to get the feel of where and how your camera focuses. So get on it. The point is to get as close as possible to the subject. If they hadou-ken you after you get the shot, you win. But please don’t try this with people or vehicles that can harm you permanently. BLFS condones bravery but not stupidity.

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If you manage to execute a close up wide angle shot to perfection, you will certainly wow your friends and butlers. Guaranteed.

Wide angle is underrated in sports photography. It is a shame because it creates such dramatic look that can only be matched with a wider lens. If you are shooting amateur sports where the access is crazy super cool, you have no excuse not to shoot wide angle.

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So, go wide, young (and old) BLFSers.

– Ryu

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