Sports Photography – Only For The Toughest

I have been to Zurich over the long weekend to shoot a number of travel photos of this beautiful city. The weather was excellent, and it was just a three-hour-drive from Munich. The shooting was good, yet unspectacular. When we visited the main central station, we were baffled that they had put a complete beach volleyball court into the station. Apparently they were opening the Swiss 2007 beach volleyball season this weekend, starting in Zurich.

So we went inside and sat down to watch some amazing matches. I was shooting a number of photos, just to see whether sports photography is interesting and where the pitfalls are. I also wanted to see what I would come up with. :-)

Now, honestly, I draw my hat for those talents over at Getty Images Sports. Sports photography is only for the toughest of us with plenty of experience. You have to know the sport you are about to shoot, inside out. You have to have a feeling for those exciting shots that actually capture the interest of the viewer. You have to have the fastest equipment around, yet still be able to find the right moment. And you should be prepared to shoot hundreds of photos for just one match, let alone a full competition.

I started with a couple of rather boring shots, visually not too appealing. Part of this is the empty tribune in the background.

Coop Beachtour 2007
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

But then suddenly I started to feel the pace of the sport (and believe me, there were plenty of shots without the ball in the frame), and I happily shot away a number of action-laden photos of Paul Laciga. He also expressed his emotions more than other players, obviously paving the way for good shots. At the end of the day, we as photographers want to see action, power, emotion, drama. This is what our customers want to see. And Paul delivers this: power and precision when accepting a ball, pure emotions after having lost a point.

Coop Beachtour 2007
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Coop Beachtour 2007
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

We came to the train station for a second shoot on Sunday for the semi-finals, and I wanted to “get closer”. I love those close-up shots because they usually tell a story to those who have not been there, who would never even think about visiting a beach volleyball match in the first place (do it – it can be breathtaking!). The two photos below do exactly that: the story of a boy admiring Matteo Varnier taking a short time-out during the fight for 3rd/4th place. The boy is soo close to the player, and yet so far. At the next time-out, I asked the boy whether I could briefly take his position for a photo. He agreed, and the result is stunning IMO. You really can not get much closer to these power-packs.

Coop Beachtour 2007
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Coop Beachtour 2007
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

As to the technical data for those shots – I used the 1ds mark II (remember, I was there to shoot travel photos) which appeared to be OK, even if a bit on the slow side. I would have preferred my fast 1d mark IIN which does 8 frames per second. You will appreciate this speed as beach volleyball can be very very fast. All photos shot at 800 ISO, and all of the action shots with “AI Servo” and the 70-200mm L at f 2.8

Coop Beach Tour 2007 (official site)
Getty Images Sports Blog

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