HOW HARD IS IT TO BE A SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHER?
SHORT ANSWER – VERY. WHEN ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE GIANTS ARSENAL FC WERE IN SYDNEY, GQ WENT PITCH SI DE B E HI ND TH E LE NS.
When it comes to sport, nothing compares to watching it live. The action, the drama, the passion, it’s unrivalled. Enjoyed from further away than you’d ordinarily do so on TV, it doesn’t matter because you can relive the winning strike or controversial sending off online or in the paper the next day. But have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the person behind the lens? After an end-to-end 90 minutes of fast-flowing football, watching some of the best players in the world, we can safely say we’d never appreciated how hard capturing the perfect photo in sport is. Post game, and 5324-odd shots later (three of which were deemed print worthy), we spoke to legendary sports photographer Delly Carr about his beloved profession, and how we can improve our skillset. GQ: What skills are necessary to be a good sports photographer? Delly Carr: A true sports professional understands light, timing, exposure, composition and forethought. An athlete forecasts their moments in which they will anticipate, react to, and live when the set day of competition arrives. The same moments that a sports photographer must try to anticipate, react to, and live when they are presented to us. A photograph ‘fixes the moment’ of an event. In that moment, the photograph preserves what the eye might otherwise not capture. GQ: The secret to a good photo? What are you looking to capture? DC: My world is about moments – quick and fleeting moments that are otherwise missed – but brought into existence by the physical photograph. GQ: How do you best follow the game? DC: It is a ballet between my lens and those bright baby-blue eyes of mine. I look at the action bold and tight. I invariably shoot with my ‘Nikkor 80-400mm’, ‘Nikkor 300mm F2.8’, or ‘Nikkor 600mm F4’ lens. I feel like I am in another suburb when I put on a wider lens. So, then I have my left eye kept open and watching what’s happening outside the border of what my right eye views in the viewfinder at that moment. GQ: What are the biggest mistakes of a sports photographer? DC: Sports photographers do not make mistakes. They make judgment calls, which at times may not payoff in full. But other times you hit the gold seam and strike it rich. Sports photography is about experience, vision and good proper mental preparation. The quality of imagery can be judged and valued when these factors of the equation are calculated. The final value of the image increases numerically as these factors increase with age and maturity. GQ: And the greatest misconceptions? DC: That once we get access on the field, and have the right equipment, then it’s easy. That’s bull. It requires a lot in a world of sport that is defined and restricted by sponsors, sporting bodies, organisers, security, TV, intellectual property of athletes and sporting organisations. Try being creative in an environment constrained by touch lines, walls, stadiums, signage and concrete. It is a highly skilled profession, more than you can imagine.
Photos, like this one, that stick in our minds, are the result of countless hours research and meticulous preparation.