Photo focus: Oct. 23

(Photo focus will run every two weeks or so on Rattling Chains. The idea is to focus on disc golf photographs submitted by staff members and readers. To see the guidelines for submitting a photograph for this feature, click here.)

Raw emotion at PDGA Worlds. (Photo by Kevin Morrow)

The story: As a sports photographer, your skill set is very refined. It’s nothing like art, feature or scenic photography. I tend to call it dog photography. You wait around for something to happen in front of you.

The key is understanding sports and being able to put yourself in the right spot and be ready when the event happens in front of you. Whether is professional football, NASCAR, baseball or even high school sports, understanding the game is critical to be able to put yourself in that position to succeed.

Disc golf presents unique issues similar to ball golf, but a bit tougher — the fight between wanting to get the best possible imaging without bothering the golfer.

Getting good images of disc golfers putting is a real trick. You make your way to a basket and scan on the discs around the ground then figure out the best position to get as many players putting as possible. Once you pick your spot, you can’t move and most group fairly quickly. That means it’s over before you can move, anyway. So, if you pick the wrong spot, you’ve wasted that opportunity.

That’s also if a golfer doesn’t complain that you are in his line of sight, which then ends that shot anyway.

During the 2012 PDGA Worlds in Charlotte, I averaged about 1,200 frames per day. I edited those down to about 150-200 files that would make the cut. My goal was to get some great pictures of my friends playing and experience Worlds up close. It was a long week with long days and long edits at night.

Out of all the images I shot, the one of junior player Braxton Lawrence is my favorite. The story behind it is even better.

I had more fun photographing the junior players more than any other group that week. I was at the Eager Beaver course, trying to get as many groups as possible. Braxton’s group came around and was getting some good shots. The group of juniors had spread their shots all around the basket. The basket was also in heavy shade on a bright and sunny day, which made setting up the camera quite difficult.

I used my old timer’s trick of setting up the camera based on the inside of the box of Kodak 400 because it was too bright to chimp. If all else fails in sunlight, set up at 400, f/8 and 1/500th.

I did this just as Braxton was stepping up to putt, so I set up behind a tree. As the disc left his hand, I start to fire off frames and when the putt missed, he reacted.

Usually when a player reacts like he did after a bad shot, I usually try to get out of the area quickly because it could have been me that distracted the player. But after he dropped his putt in, he walked over and wanted to see what I got. When he saw the image of his reaction, he started laughing and his mood immediately changed for the better.

If only every disc golfer played the same way.

Techie info:

  • Camera: Nikon D2X
  • Exposure: 1/500
  • Aperture: F/3.5
  • Focal length: 155mm
  • ISO: 400

— Kevin Morrow

If you have any comments, questions, thoughts, ideas or anything else, feel free to e-mail me and the crew at: pj [at] rattlingchains.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

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