Your pho­tos

Rob Huels­man talks about his pro­gres­sion from shoot­ing sports on film through to dig­i­tal, and how a vis­ual deficit has af­fected his pho­tog­ra­phy

NPhoto - - Contents -

A vis­ually im­paired sports snap­per looks back on two decades of shoot­ing high-speed ac­tion

Back in the days of film, I ap­proached the Cincin­nati Cy­clones Pro Hockey Club to learn to shoot hockey. They be­gan giv­ing me press passes to se­lected games, and – as the years passed – sea­son-long ac­cess.

I first used a Nikon FE2 with an MD-12 mo­tor-drive, in the 1994/5 sea­son. I learnt to pre-fo­cus and pan, and was pro­duc­ing good images, but not con­sis­tently enough. As aut­o­fo­cus be­came more re­li­able I up­graded to a Nikon N2020 (F-501) and N8008 (F-801), but aut­o­fo­cus was still a de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy. When Nikon in­tro­duced the N90s I saw an im­me­di­ate in­crease in my hit rate.

The dig­i­tal switch was of great ben­e­fit as I have a vis­ual deficit; now it is much eas­ier to find out if my images are good in-cam­era

Those bod­ies served me well un­til I en­tered the dig­i­tal era, with the ar­rival of the D70 and D80. The dig­i­tal switch was of great ben­e­fit to me, as I have a vis­ual deficit; I was born with cataracts in both eyes and have since lost the sight in my left eye. Now it is much eas­ier to find out if my images are good in-cam­era with­out hav­ing to wait days; I can shoot and check as I go, which gives me a lot more con­fi­dence in my images.

Af­ter the D90 was in­tro­duced I up­graded once more, and my fi­nal dig­i­tal up­grade came in the form of the D4s, which I bought two years ago. I found it to be an in­vest­ment that gives

me the abil­ity to el­e­vate my work fur­ther the more I use it.

Get­ting into the swing

My goal in com­pos­ing base­ball shots is to cap­ture the ‘ball on bat’, or as close as pos­si­ble to that mo­ment [1]. I try to in­clude as much of the op­pos­ing catcher as pos­si­ble. The chal­lenge is re­act­ing to the bat­ter at the start of his swing. Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing, as a late start mist­imes the se­quence, of­ten leav­ing the ball past the bat­ter or in the catcher’s glove.

This soc­cer im­age [2] was es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing, due to re­cent eye surgery leav­ing my vi­sion some­what blurry, to say the least. I re­lied on in­stinct from years of shoot­ing dif­fer­ent sports, as well as my Nikons’ AF abil­i­ties, to nail this im­age. I love the di­ag­o­nal com­po­si­tion of the goal­keeper framed by the other play­ers. Thanks to my D4s’s su­per-fast burst mode of 11fps, I was able to choose the im­age that best cap­tured the peak of the ac­tion, with the goal­keeper in flight snag­ging the ball in mid-air.

Pro­fes­sional hockey is fast and ac­tion-packed [3] and you can’t just fol­low the puck, be­cause so many things oc­cur ‘be­hind the play’. The aut­o­fo­cus and con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing on the D4s are so in­cred­i­bly pre­cise that I can al­ways rely on my Nikon kit to get the re­sults I’m happy with.

1 Base­ball Nikon D4s,300mm f/4, 1/640 sec, f/13, ISO400 2 Soc­cer Nikon D4s,300mm f/4, 1/800 sec,f/4.5, ISO5000, 3 Hockey Nikon D4s, 300mm f/4, 1/1600 sec, f/4, ISO3200

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