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portrait of a coach


I generally work in-studio, a place where I can dial my lights to f/2.8 at 1/125 and create exactly what I expect to see. If I need a bit more sharpness, I dial my lights toward f/8; I place my subject where I want them and give them a reason to be there; at this point, if I see something I don’t like, I remove it; if I can’t remove it, I crop it; if I can’t crop it, I don’t shoot it.

And while the occasional two-year-old gives me a run for my money, it was football season that rocked my photographic world to the core. I can’t dial the sun to output the f-stop I want; I can’t output flash to put pretty catchlights in the shadows of players eyes under their helmets as they run the ball toward the end zone; I can’t re-do the play if I miss a shot or the sun casts unsightly shadows; the field is littered with distractions beyond my control; the moms standing next to me want the shot of their son even IF I can’t crop out that car parked in the background…yadda yadda yadda.

One of my biggest frustrations at the beginning of the season was coaches stepping in front of my lens. So finally, rather than be frustrated, I challenged myself with an assignment: create a portrait from a coach crossing in front of my lens. I initially picked Coach Wiley because of his tattoo — the image I envisioned was the line-up of players before the whistle framed by Coach Wiley’s tattoo in the foreground. But he kept moving. He’s always moving, that guy. Coach Wiley is Movement with a capital M, and the more he moves, the more determined I became to freeze him (digitally).

His tattoo started it, but it was his shadow that made the portrait.

[All of this to explain to the Gladiators why our team photos in the client section of my website are peppered with Coach Wiley’s tattoo.]

moxie noun [informal]: force of character, determination or nerve



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  • Christine - You can — and you will! Here’s how: a personal project. Give yourself an assignment. For example, spend a week shooting nothing but (choose one)




    Pick a category that is totally different from what you WANT to be shooting (and perhaps isn’t something you want to shoot at all) and don’t finish shooting each day until you’ve got at least one image from that category that you love (or at least would venture to share with others). This kind of exercise will stretch your brain from looking to seeing.

    Think about that as you’re shooting: it’s not about looking, it’s about seeing. Instead of looking at the coach, see the shadow; instead of looking at the street sign, see the image of numbers; instead of looking at the rear-view mirror, see the image in the reflection. Does this make sense?

    Sometimes the best images are mistakes, and sometimes they’re just dumb luck; I think the best photographers are the ones who have so much experience, they’ve made many mistakes and gotten lucky a few times, but most importantly they’ve learned from those experiences to see in ways they didn’t previously think of looking, going on to use that technique to visualize images and possibly even create them. At the very least, the experience teaches them to SEE. Photography is a journey. I don’t know any great photographers who would tell us they are done learning and just simply work. Those who are passionate about imagemaking are passionate about learning new ways to see.

    When you’re finished with your first personal project, come back and let us know where to see your results and what you learned from it, okay?ReplyCancel

  • Paul - wow….
    I am way too narrow minded when I shoot!!
    I hope I can develop the ability to create an amazing shot even when “it” messes up the “perfect shot in your mind.”ReplyCancel

  • antisocialist - Rationalizing?

    Not at all.

    On the contrary, I think you’re right on the money,

  • Christine - Really what started me down this road of sports photography is my quest to fill in the disconnect between my images as a Mom and Sports Illustrated’s. At last weekend’s game, I stood on the endzone, under the goalposts, way far away from all the other team Moms. One thing I’ve decided is that SI can probably afford many photographers, at each end zone and on each side of the field (not to mention that camera that careens on a wire across the top of the field, boldly going where non-flying humans have never gone), all shooting from different vantage points and for every one shot that is published, at least three other photographers captured the same play and got closer what I get — far away and blocked by a mountain of players. Do you think I’m rationalizing a bit? 🙂

    I’ve determined the solution for Moms all across the board of life, but especially at football, is the ability to be in several places at once. ???ReplyCancel