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Archive 2010 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter
Russ Isabella
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


I've been a member of FM for almost 6 years and a frequent patron of the Sports Corner for much of that time. I cut my teeth as a sports shooter here and have many shooters here to thank for the help, instruction and inspiration they have provided. The Sports Corner ebbs and flows in terms of the kinds of posts that have characterized its pages over the time I've been here. The following is based on my own personal experience as a shooter (I've been through most of the early stages listed here) as well as my observation of the kinds of posts that typically show up here. Part tongue-in-cheek, part reality as I see it. The great thing about this though is that if a shooter is willing to hang in there, play by the rules and learn from others, there's a lot of progress to be had from this process.

The Evolution of the Sports Shooter in the FM Sports Corner

Stage 1. I was there--Content of photo is largely undeciperhable except perhaps to serve as evidence (but not proof) that the shooter was at a specific event on a specific day.

Stage 2. I was there and I took this photo--From the shooter’s perspective, the photo captures something that happened while at the specific event on the specific day. Exactly what that ‘something’ is most definitely requires explanation, which usually is not provided.

Stage 3. I was there and I took this pretty good photo--A pretty good shot from the seats at the venue, meaning it was better than 1 and 2 above, but it still probably wasn’t worth bringing the gear for.

Stage 4. I was on/near the field and I got this shot--This one shows that the shooter had the kind of access necessary to grab a good shot. Unfortunatley, the good shot wasn’t quite grabbed.

Stage 5. I was credentialed to shoot this event--Like #1 above, these shots are evidence of the shooter’s credentialed presence at the event. Not much more than that.

Stage 6. I was credentialed to shoot this event and I think I did a pretty good job--These shots tend toward ‘stock’ photos, the kind of shots the seasoned sports shooter can get scads of without even really paying attention to the action on the field. They’re good shots and not necessarily simple to grab, but once you’ve gotten them, and with the help of the more seasoned shooters, you realize they’re a dime a dozen and not very special other than as markers of your arrival as a competent credentialed shooter.

Stage 7. I was credentialed to shoot and I almost got some great shots--These shots by a credentialed shooter go beyond the dime-a-dozen variety at the particular sport, but they fall short of being great because of some glaring problem with the shots (poor exposure, important part of key subjects’ bodies cut off, OOF, etc). These are the equivalent of ‘intermediary species’ in the chain of evidence supporting the theory of evolution. They show that this shooter is on his/her way to being very good at the job s/he is doing, thinking beyond the cookie-cutter photos, but is not quite there yet.

Stage 8. C&C welcome, but not required--These are shots from a shooter who clearly knows what s/he is doing. Not all the shots are great, but they’re all good, and a few are likely to be very good, serving as inspiration to other shooters of this particular sport.

Stage 9. I shot a new sport for the first time--Here we have a seasoned shooter who likely has reached the 8th stage in at least one sport but is shooting something new. This is likely to bring this shooter back to the sixth level for this new sport. Only difference between reaching stage 6 at this point rather than for the first time is that this seasoned shooter probably will jump to stage 8 with this new sport without having to pass through stage 7.


Edited on Oct 12, 2010 at 12:23 AM · View previous versions



Oct 12, 2010 at 12:13 AM
Bryan Crowe
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Russ,
Very well put.

I feel the same way about FM. It has been the single most valuable resource in my learning curve. Long though it may be.

BC



Oct 12, 2010 at 12:22 AM
timgangloff
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Hey Russ, nice post. The only thing missing was the photos to go with each number.

People always ask how I learned to shoot. Mostly, I tell them practice and "online." For me, FM is the largest part of my online or distance learning education. There a few seasoned professionals here who will post images that make me want to work a little harder (and occasionally buy a little better equipment) and improve.

With the right mindset, the Sports Forum and the knowledge base of its subscribers can be a huge asset for those looking to improve.



Oct 12, 2010 at 12:32 AM
cm0rris0n
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


So, I'll throw out a follow-up question, for those of you who feel like you're at Stage 8.

How do you stay at that level every time you shoot? Based on these descriptions I feel like I fluctuate between 6 and 8 (which maybe is what you're getting at with stage 7?), but I have moments during a game when I feel like I'm a 5 and need to get my act together (and luckily once I realize that I usually snap out of it).

Also, how do you get or keep your focus elevated during poorly contested games? When games are meaningful, intense, energetic, it seems like the photos take themselves, but when games are sloppy and played without much urgency how do you keep the juices flowing so you don't end up with a take that resembles Stage 6?



Oct 12, 2010 at 01:19 AM
butchM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Well Stated Russ ...

cm0rris0n wrote:
So, I'll throw out a follow-up question, for those of you who feel like you're at Stage 8.

How do you stay at that level every time you shoot? Based on these descriptions I feel like I fluctuate between 6 and 8 (which maybe is what you're getting at with stage 7?), but I have moments during a game when I feel like I'm a 5 and need to get my act together (and luckily once I realize that I usually snap out of it).

Also, how do you get or keep your focus elevated during poorly contested games? When games
...Show more

EVERYONE in this business goes through ebbs and tides ... ups and downs ... periods of extreme excellence ... and now and then ... running on auto pilot ... it's just human nature ... anyone who tells you different is fooling you and themselves.

The key is to stay inspired even if your subject isn't ... keep one eye open at all times looking for that little slice of the event that most everyone else misses ... if the quarterback just threw a Hail Marry pass to the opposite corner of the end zone ... and four officials, 19 players, the chain gang and the ball boy are all blocking your view of the play ... turn and find some close-up sideline reaction ... everyone from the head coach to the water boy will have a reaction to the play ... when the world hands you lemons ... make lemonade ...



Oct 12, 2010 at 01:44 AM
rsartin
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Great post, and very well thought out.

Just call me Mr. 6 and-a-half. On good days I'm in the seven category, bad days the six....

Edited on Oct 12, 2010 at 04:03 PM · View previous versions



Oct 12, 2010 at 02:22 AM
rbaker
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Great post Russ. I've been following you for a long time. I feel I've learned so much from FM....

cm0rris0n wrote:
Also, how do you get or keep your focus elevated during poorly contested games? When games are meaningful, intense, energetic, it seems like the photos take themselves, but when games are sloppy and played without much urgency how do you keep the juices flowing so you don't end up with a take that resembles Stage 6?

This is a great question, and one I find myself dealing with all to often. I try and isolate certain moments and think about the player/parent/SID seeing the photo, without seeing the game. Meaning they weren't drawn down by the lack of action or poor performance, they only have my photo to set the stage. Well, it makes me feel better anyway...



Oct 12, 2010 at 02:42 AM
JohnR84740
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Thanks for that excellent summary of the growth curve Russ. As a 5.5 shooter, I know that I have come a long way in the last three years, and it is good to know what the road ahead holds thanks to the instruction, advice, and critiques from people like you on this forum.


Oct 12, 2010 at 03:43 AM
Bryan Crowe
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


cm0rris0n wrote:
So, I'll throw out a follow-up question, for those of you who feel like you're at Stage 8.

How do you stay at that level every time you shoot? Based on these descriptions I feel like I fluctuate between 6 and 8 (which maybe is what you're getting at with stage 7?), but I have moments during a game when I feel like I'm a 5 and need to get my act together (and luckily once I realize that I usually snap out of it).

Also, how do you get or keep your focus elevated during poorly contested games? When games
...Show more


Cmo, I think I'm where your at...... floating from 6-8. As a part timer it's hard to get a rhythm that an every day journalist gets. That said I believe we expect 6-10 standouts because of the # of frames we are able to shoot and that's not always possible.

The weaker contests push me to shoot more feature images away from the game. I also look for dejection in the team on the wrong end.



Oct 12, 2010 at 06:06 AM
pappawheely
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


cm0rris0n wrote:
Also, how do you get or keep your focus elevated during poorly contested games? When games are meaningful, intense, energetic, it seems like the photos take themselves, but when games are sloppy and played without much urgency how do you keep the juices flowing so you don't end up with a take that resembles Stage 6?


That's when you earn your chops. When you can create a shot out of a no action, poor access, crappy light situation.



Oct 12, 2010 at 06:29 AM
 

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rbianco
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


pappawheely wrote:
That's when you earn your chops. When you can create a shot out of a no action, poor access, crappy light situation.


With one quarter to shoot and a deadline to meet :-)



Oct 12, 2010 at 06:44 AM
polarbare
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


I definitely feel like a 6-8 floater as well. Great post Russ.


Oct 12, 2010 at 01:19 PM
Brad Barr
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


nice thoughts...i think there is a 10th level also...

something like this

Level 10. A very seasoned shooter in a variety of sports and possibly other shooting disciplines as well. Can adapt ideas and techniques from the others as an advantage in each. Is capable of delivering the goods (top notch imagery) even when the field, lights, action, weather, subjects are not first rate....or even third or fourth rate. This is the true pro.

The key is....sure you can deliver under optimal conditions, but what do you come back with under less than optimal. Same goes for wedding shooters, sports shooters, news guys...its one thing to come back with great images for a great game, at a great venue, in early evening light....where you were in the right place at the right time. We all know thats just not reality every time out. BUT....you still are expected to produce the shots.

Would you be proud for a prospective client to look at your last shoot? How about your last 10 shoots...unedited. Thats where you start to separate the men from the boys.



Oct 12, 2010 at 06:20 PM
Jon Uhler
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Great post from one of the fellow floaters in the FM Sports section.....


Oct 12, 2010 at 07:01 PM
Marty Bingham
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


I'm at level 11. Bought the tools, paid my dues, made the show, got the money shot, headin' to the parking lot with with the warm fuzzies from a job well done............then it hits me. Where the hell is my backpack with my computer and backup hard drive with all my photos?

Flag down the media cart, trudge back through the stadium to the elevator, up four floors the the media center (which I just left) say hello to everyone there (who I just said goodbye to) and sheepishly pick up my backpack and start to leave (again).

That's when I discovered there is a level 12. One guy looks up and says, in a deadpan voice, don't feel bad another guy just came back in a panic to pick up his 600mm .

Thanks for your thoughtful post Russ. For me.........I hope there is always another level to shoot for!

Marty

Edited on Oct 12, 2010 at 09:19 PM · View previous versions



Oct 12, 2010 at 08:01 PM
Jon Uhler
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


^^^Now that is funny.....^^^


Oct 12, 2010 at 08:17 PM
ACNYPhoto
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Very well put... I've lurked here for years before finally making myself an account and I'm happy I finally did, I always have this site open in a browser tab and it's mostly on the sports forum...

We all have our days where we can be a 6 or a 7 or maybe even an 8, some days even a 9... Sometimes it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time...



Oct 12, 2010 at 09:14 PM
bconrey
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Marty Bingham wrote:
One guy looks up and says, in a deadpan voice, don't feel bad another guy just came back in a panic to pick up his 600mm

Now that's a problem I look forward to - owning a 600mm so I can be fearful of leaving it behind.

Great post, Russ, from a guy who isn't even ranked on your list (somewhere slightly above DWAC, but probably not much).

Brian



Oct 12, 2010 at 09:15 PM
P Alesse
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Russ...


Oct 12, 2010 at 09:55 PM
clarence3
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Evolution of a Sports Shooter


Add Stage 4.5 - "I've really enjoyed taking pictures from the stands so I bought a 1D Mark IV and a 300/2.8L - but my pictures still don't look like Paul Alesse's... so I think I'll switch to Nikon."


Oct 12, 2010 at 11:27 PM
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