I use a variety of lenses and equipment for different sports. Generally, telephoto lenses are required for most sports as you are far from the action and must bring it closer. Long lenses allow you to do this and in the days before auto-focus, that meant manual focusing and "tracking" focus as an athlete moved.
I like to watch a game and a player a little before I begin shooting. I don't like to be in the position of "reacting" to events but prefer to feel somewhat in tune with the flow of the game.
It's good to stake out your position before the competition begins and anticipate by being in a spot where the action is likely to flow your way. Some sports like tennis involve sitting in a fixed position while the action plays out in arelatively confined space before you. Other sports like football involve a larger playing area and constant movement by the photographer to record the action. Generally, you work at fast shutter speeds (1/500 of a second and higher) to freeze the action, but there are times when a slower shutter speed is permissable for a desired effect. Another challenge is that the game can often be played in constantly changing conditions.
A receiver can start his pattern in bright sunlight, only to cath his pass in the endzone just as a cloud has obscured the sun or in a corner of the endzone where the lip of the stadium renders that area in shadow. A game can begin on a cloudless day and end in a rainstorm. The demands this places on a photographer's equipment and his nerves is considerable as he or she is expected to anticipate and respond to those changing conditions. An assigning editor will care little about the reasons you missed the picture. Beyond that, by seeking unusual angles and positions you can give viewers a different perspective on the sport.
- Adam Stoltman