Aug 2, 2009

Golf Photography

I love golf! Pure and Simple. So combine stunning photographs with a super cool sport and I'm in.

Golf - Images by Darren Carroll

This is a funny and informative post for those of you ever following a live PGA event with your 10fps slr in hand ready to get the POV "Tiger" shot as he tees off on the 18th...think again...\

I've decided, after years of preaching until I'm blue in the face, that trying to teach photographers who don't regularly cover golf about shooting golfers on their backswing is akin to trying to teach teenagers about sex: we can preach abstinence all we want, but at some point we have to be realistic: it's not going to stop anything. They're still going to do it. So knowing that, we might as well adopt the attitude that while we're not encouraging it, it's best to teach them to be practical (and safe) about it.

Shooting a golfer at the top of his or her backswing is the single most distracting thing that we as photographers can possibly do. Put aside any arguments or criticisms of how a golfer can possibly be distracted by that when a baseball player can hit a fast ball, or a basketball player can shoot a free throw, in front of thousands of screaming fans, as such arguments miss the simplest of points: Golf is a game that demands concentration and mental focus, and the expectation that the player has is for silence. A sudden, unexpected intrusion on that expectation--like, say, the sudden ear-splitting crack of a 10 fps motor drive firing away--is most unwelcome. For us photographers, it's also against the rules. So shut up and stop complaining.

Now, the more argumentative in the audience will point out that images abound of golfers at the top of their backswing. And they're right. But what they often neglect to mention (or, perhaps, realize) is that those images were shot by photographers who possessed a combination of three things: 1) Knowledge of the game and the player they were photographing; 2) Judgment (based on lots of experience) of the surrounding environment and its ability to minimize noise and distraction, and 3) the right equipment.

With that in mind, here's the skinny on shooting on the backswing. Don't do it if you have a testy player who can hear a bee fart. (Colin Montgomerie and Cristie Kerr come to mind.) Don't do it if you have to get close to a cranky caddie who possesses an overwhelming desire to protect their player. Steve Williams (Tiger Woods) and Fluff Cowan (Jim Furyk) fall into that category.

If you're within a hundred feet of a player, don't do it unless you have a Canon G9 or G10, and you've turned off all the beeps, clicks, and whistles (not to mention the flash).

If you're more than a hundred feet away, but still close enough that the player fills the horizontal frame from head to toe with a 400, don't do it unless the wind is blowing towards you.

If you can, activate the "silent" shutter mode. If you shoot Canon, you can. Do it.

If you can't, then also check to see if there's a source of strong ambient noise around to help mask the noise of your shutter: A power generator from a TV tower, a low-flying blimp overhead, a four-lane highway on the other side of the fence lining the fairway.

But above all, if you have even the slightest doubt in your mind; if you think there's even the most infinitesimal chance that you will distract the player, then DON'T DO IT. Period.

This photo of Michelle Wie was made on the 15th tee at Mission Hills Country Club,with a 400 mm lens from a distance of about 100 feet--with Bob Hope Drive (and six lanes of traffic) in Rancho Mirage, CA hard on the left side of the tee box. Tiger Woods

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