Know your subject inside out
Get to know your subject meticulously. With sports photography, it is important to understand the rules and the technical aspects of the sport you are shooting to get the best results; from knowing the peak of a movement, to the inside moments of a sport. Action sports photography can be very fast paced and you cannot afford to miss a thing, so knowing as much as you can is key. Participating in the sport itself can help, and this is something I often do, particularly when photographing climbers. I also like to get to know the athletes I am photographing, and have developed close relationships over the years. Gaining their trust is so important; it allows you to become an ‘insider’ in the sport and really push creative concepts.
Look for new perspectives
Search for new angles and be inspired by your surroundings. Be creative and look for something different. Your photograph needs to stand out from the crowd, so be bold and take risks – you won’t regret it. One way I capture new angles is by using remote cameras, particularly when I am photographing sports such as cliff diving. Remote cameras allow you to reach angles you physically cannot, and shoot from multiple positions at the same time. However, for me it doesn’t stop there. When photographing climbers for example, it’s no use being at the bottom! In pursuit of the best shot, I like to learn the skills of the athletes I am photographing. Becoming a climber myself has allowed me to take some fantastic images from all angles; one of my favorites being on a 3000 ft verticle wall, El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park.
Master your equipment
Often you will only have a few seconds to capture that one shot, so you need to know exactly what to do in that moment. Practice with your equipment and make sure you know which camera, lens and settings will work best before you start shooting. The thing I love about my Nikon cameras is that I can do almost everything I need to, without taking my eye away from the view finder. This is perfect for when you are shooting sports, as can’t afford to miss a moment. It is important to become familiar with the functions and what works well in different situations. Using it should become second nature.
Preparation is key
It is important to plan every aspect of your shoots carefully; the location, timings, subject and how all the pieces fit together. Being prepared will make your job much easier and help ensure you get the shots you need. Preparing well and communicating your ideas with your subjects can really help get them on board to push for the perfect image. The more prepared you are, the more time you will have to be flexible and respond to changing situations.
Go light and keep up
Choosing the right equipment to take on a shoot is essential for adventure sports photography. The last thing you want is for your gear to slow you down, get in the way, or stop working! So, if you know you’ll be climbing a mountain or photographing cliff divers, then ensure you have the minimum amount of core gear and only the necessary additional items which will make your life easier. Admittedly, I can sometimes struggle to downsize! I always want to have the right tool for the job, but it is important to scale your equipment to the shoot. I try to stick to the old alpine saying – “Light is right”.
It is important to have an idea of the image you want to create. Having a vision and developing it is key to being a creative and successful photographer, regardless of what your subject is. However, it is also important to remain flexible and open to what is happening around you. Sometimes I have a certain image in mind; however, once I talk to an athlete the whole vision can change. They can often provide you with the inspiration and insight you need.