Club Meeting 18 February 2016 (Sports Photography)

This week we had two special guests. First, George Neilson, our area representation and president of the Scottish Photographic Federation, gave us some information about the SPF Judges’ Assessment Training Course. There is usually one training course per year, and George is organising the 2016 training course. All club members who are interested in becoming SPF judges are welcome to apply.

Next, Ron Russell of St. Andrews Photographic Society entertained us with a slide show of images and stories about his life as a sports photographer. He also showed us his impressive selection of equipment. A professional sports photographer needs several lenses and camera bodies, as there often isn’t enough time to change lenses between shots. Ron uses a sturdy tripod with a gimbal mount to follow the action but keep his shots steady. He switches to a monopod with a gimbal mount to follow very fast action. Getting a sharp image of the action is crucial in sports photography, and there is often poor lighting in situations where flash photography is not allowed. Ron uses a high ISO setting in such situations. Ron uses autofocus most of the time, with enough focus points to track the action. Ron prefers to use back button focusing to keep the control of the focus separate from the shutter release.

Note: Most cameras are configured so that autofocus is triggered when the shutter release is pressed halfway down. This makes it impossible to take a shot without focusing, but it also means if you have already focused on your subject the camera might refocus on something else in the background. In back button focusing, the camera is configured so that a button on the back of the camera triggers the autofocus and the shutter release only fires the shutter. This makes it much easier to keep control of the focus, but it also requires more discipline, as you have to remember to keep pressing the focus button.

Ron explained that photographers often say they are envious of the privileged view which professional sports photographers have at major sporting events, but there are, in fact, several events where amateur photographers can practice and take good shots. The forthcoming Scottish Athletics events at the Emirates Arena is one such example, and so are the Six Nations Rugby matches taking place in Glasgow. There are also plenty of outdoor events where any photographers can get close to the action, such as the Edinburgh Marathon, cycling events such as the Tour of Britain, and the Scottish Highland Games. The waterskiing at  Townhill Country Park, near Dunfermline offers some spectacular action shots.