My Blog

Monday, November 23, 2020

2020: Photography During a Pandemic

Army vs. Georgia Southern game action taken from the upper deck
 of Michie Stadium due to Covid-19 restrictions.

2020 certainly has been an interesting year.  

As a sports photographer, 2020, and the Covid-19 pandemic, has provided unique challenges, but also unique opportunities.  As the year nears it's end, I'd like to take a minute to reflect on some of the experiences, challenges, and unique learning opportunities that 2020 provided for me.

Before even worrying about about how to make the best images in a potentially less than ideal situation, make sure to have your mask, or other face covering, with you.  While sitting, or standing, outside for hours in the summer sun to photograph a youth baseball tournament while part of your face is covered by a mask may not be the most comfortable experience, the added bit of health safety measures is well worth it.  Additionally, some venues, or teams, may even require it.

My perch to photograph the Army/Georgia Southern game. 
I used a 100-400mm, f4.5-5.6 lens for the game.
Now, to delve in to the actual photography...

First, a long lens is a must.  Chances are, unless you're either from the local news outlet, a wire service, or are the team/organization photographer, you're not getting on the field, or court (and, if you are, you may be back further than normal from the action).  I have been using a 100-400mm, f4.5-5.6 lens for field sports (although if you have a 300mm or 400mm, f2.8, that's even better), and a 70-200mm, f2.8 lens for indoor/court sports where I don't quite need the zoom of the 100-400mm lens.

Next, it's time to take the lemons that you have been dealt and start making lemonade.  

While this photo was taken in 2020, even
under non-pandemic circumstances I'll
photograph a few sets of volleyball from
higher angles.
Depending on the rules of the venue, or organization, that your photographing in, or for, your ability to make lemonade might be easier or harder.  Since some organizations, or venues, may allow you to photograph from the first few rows in the stands, but others, in an effort to keep tested and untested event patrons apart may relegate you to an even higher position.  While the latter, higher angle, may not be ideal, for a sport such as football, I have found that some of the images that I have captured from up high have shown play development in a way that cannot be captured from field level.  

For a sport such as volleyball, on the other hand, having to take photos from a higher angle is not necessarily a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, even under non-pandemic circumstances, I'll photograph a set or two from higher up as I feel it's a good way to help get players' faces in a better position where they're not blocked by players on the other team when they're going to spike, or block, the ball and I'm photographing them head on.

Furthermore, flexibility is key.  Beyond the fact that you're probably not going to be photographing from your first choice of locations for games and events, that game, or event, that you were supposed to be photographing may end up getting postponed, or cancelled anyway.  While constantly changing schedules are not optimal, I've come to expect it.

Finally, if you're like me and wear glasses, you may also notice your glasses fog up when you breath when wearing a mask under the right conditions.  There are masks that supposedly help alleviate that somewhat, but since I have never used one, I can't really speak to their effectiveness.  What I have ended up having to do is find more creative ways to help mitigate this.

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