Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bring On the Games

Sports are a great American tradition, but for photojournalists aiming to document the great contests of 2009, it’s crucial to look beyond the obvious and familiar. That was the message Saturday night from sports photographer Al Bello, who urged students to step outside their comfort zones and experiment with gear, angles, lighting, remote cameras, shutter speeds, ISO setting, anything. “Try something different,” Bello said. “If you make no mistakes, you’re not trying.”

Bello, the chief sports photographer for Getty Images, whose work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek and elsewhere, sounded much like a coach as he breezed through a presentation of dynamic images from his career. He’s captured unusually vivid sports photographs by setting up cameras on catwalks above boxing rings, on the floor of tennis tournaments, he's strobed bull-riders inside arenas, created a series of boxer portraits on Polaroid film (“Rest in peace, Polaroid”), and shot into the sun at baseball games.

“Angles are huge in sports photography. A pitcher pitching is very boring. You might want to spice it up sometimes,” Bello said. “You’ve got to put the work in to get lucky.”

Bello also reminded students to take full advantage of the Barnstorm experience. The professionals among the faculty and staff are here to help. “You learn from the people in this room,” he said. “You learn by asking questions. It’s a world of knowledge in this room.”

At the end of his talk, Bello said that after all the images of war and sadness presented earlier in the day, he had one more story to share: “I need to make you guys happy again. I want to take you to Santa Clause school!” What followed was a playful multi-media slide show of his pictures and sound from two days he spent at a Michigan Santa Clause academy. Turns out sports are not the only way to have fun.

Steve Appleford

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