Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Charity Stripe

Now that another NBA season appears poised to tip-off soon, I hope one lesson both the owners and players learned from their prolonged employment battle is this: don't expect anything for free . . . unless of course you're a photographer covering the game!

Not many sports offer shooters gifts - perfectly posed portraits of nearly every player nearly every game (they even stop the clock for them!) - the way basketball does. I'm not talking about game action shots either, as way too often photogs focus strictly on capturing them while ignoring the simple yet effective "sportraits" happening right in front of them . . . on the free throw line.

I can't recall how many times I've been ridiculed for taking these pictures too. "They happen every game." "They're too easy." "No sports magazine will buy them." These are just a few of the comments I've heard. My responses: yes, no, and are you nuts? Let's quickly examine each fallacy about the free throw line portrait.

I don't know about you, but I'm thankful free throw line photos happen every game, multiple times during the game, and for multiple players taking part in the game. Sometimes it takes a couple of chances to get the picture just right, as every player displays their own unique form and observing their motion first often helps in anticipating the moment to grab your shot . . . or at least what to expect next time.

If you've ever peered through a camera outfitted with a 300mm f/2.8 lens while sitting on the baseline and aiming it at a NBA star standing on the free throw line, then you'd know that player's bust nearly fills the entire frame and movements of even inches will render a photo fuzzy -- concentration and timing are critical. "They're too easy" . . . you tell me.

Finally, believe it or not, back a couple of decades ago when black and white stock basketball photography was in high demand by several sports publications, I made more money from free throw line portraits of players than any other type of roundball photo. In my opinion, that's easy to explain: the images were tight, sharp, clean, and active; or in other words, the ideal sports portrait. So tease me if you want, I'll continue to shoot the stars at The Charity Stripe because that benefits my favorite charitable cause . . . me!