It’s fair to say that being an expert on the subject you’re shooting is helpful. But it’s not a necessity.
This is true for most any shoot, especially a sporting event. When on the basketball court, it’s nice to know the situation to try and predict where the shot will come from. In baseball, it’s good to know if a runner is likely to try and steal second base. And as I found out this weekend, it’s good to understand down and distance in football.
I’ve always been a sports guy, so this part of the job comes easy to me. I basically take the approach of watching the game through my camera as I would if I were a fan plotting out tactical discussions. Obviously the ball doesn’t always go where I think it will, but for my style I like having a bit of a head start.
That’s what helped me at last weekend’s Earl Barden East-West All-State Classic football game. High school stars from around the state converged on Yakima, with five local kids playing in the game for the East team. After falling behind by a score early on, the East were faced with a 3rd-and-12 from the West 40-yard line.
After surveying the players on the field, I found Zillah’s Brady Widner — a small-school wide receiver playing in possibly his last-ever football game. Widner is the reigning Class 1A State Player of the Year, so I decided to focus my shot on him — because he was both a talented player who might have the ball thrown his way and a local kid.
When the East quarterback took the snap, I panned on Widner as he ran a fly route straight up the gut of the field. After about 20 yards, he stretched out his right hand and called for the pass — he was open. The East QB saw the call and tossed it toward Widner who — still in my frame — turned to pull down the pass and scamper into the end zone for the score.
Sure, I got a little lucky in following the player who just happened to haul in the touchdown, but it was also part understanding that in a third and long situation and with man coverage on one of the state’s best receivers, the highest odds for that outcome were exactly what happened — and it all happened right in my shot.