Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Get A Grip

Unbelievable. Back when I was Newspictures Bureau Manager for United Press International (UPI) in Des Moines, Iowa, I recall covering something so popular it might outdraw Springsteen, The Stones, and U-2 all on a single stage. Tens of thousands of rabid fans would pack Veteran's Memorial Coliseum to cheer, jeer, and show their support for the state's premiere social event--the boy's high school wrestling tournament.

Throw a newsphotographer into this madness, and the assignment was no reason to celebrate. Unlike the big three of athletics, wrestling coverage offers no formula. There's no court, diamond, or field, just a circle--with no beginning and no end. These arbitrary photo positions can make success a crapshoot.

Overcoming this challenge requires a mixture of patience, planning, and pure luck. For starters, always select a spot with the cleanest possible background and use the longest possible lens (I prefer a 300mm F2.8, even from the ring's edge). Pace your shooting to maximize times when at least one wrestler is clearly visible, and time your bursts or sequences for action pointed directly at the camera. Wait. Six minutes is longer than you think.

When it comes to wrestling, both grapplers and photographers face the same struggle . . . to get a grip.