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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Photographing Bowling Well: Is It Possible?
Guy Rhodes, Photographer
East Chicago | IN | USA | Posted: 7:30 PM on 08.07.13
->> I was reminded today why bowling is one of my least favorite sports to photograph. Every time, it seems I struggle with the poor lighting and very limited shooting positions. Of course, whenever I fall short at anything I do, I feel challenged to tackle it next time in a unique way, to walk away with images up to my standards.

My event today was a tournament, part of the PBA tour, at a local bowling alley. The only place I was allowed to shoot from was directly behind the bowlers (from the "aisle" that runs along the front of the alley). I managed to shoot a few frames from the side end of the alley, (about a quarter of the way down towards the pins) but was quickly shooed out by a very polite and apologetic PBA official.

I tried to work the area between the ball racks and the lanes (where you'd sit with your friends as others are taking their turns), but was told by one of the competitors that I shouldn't be in that area either.

Straight down the lanes from up in the aisle seemed to be the only "safe" place to shoot from, but from this angle, you get the back sides of the bowlers as they throw, and their often stoic expressions as they walk back to their seats.

Compounding the often total lack of emotion is the fact that the lighting at the front of the lanes is almost nonexistent, while the lighting on the lanes themselves and the pins is quite bright.

To get "correct" exposure on someone facing the front aisle with their backs to the pins (enough to see their face and not have them in an artsy silhouette), the pins and lanes almost totally blow out. I won't even tell you what ISO I ended up at. Flash isn't an option either - it's forbidden during competition.

I left the shoot feeling extremely discouraged, almost as if shooting action under these limitations is impossible.

I realize the good photos here would probably come from the *reaction* rather than the action, but I suspect this wouldn't come until the final rounds when something was at stake for the finalists. Even then, I've been at bowling tournament final games where the winners show no emotion at all.

Long story short, I'm looking for some bowling photography inspiration. We talk a lot on this site about people who excel at football and baseball photography, but what about bowling? Is there a "rock star" bowling photographer who's work I should see? How have you all handled similar limitations in the past to create good work?
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Jim Karczewski, Photographer, Assistant
Hammond | IN | USA | Posted: 8:08 PM on 08.07.13
->> I feel your pain, I did it Tuesday.

Thankfully, for tomorrows finals I stopped in today and talked to the tourney director and they are going to set up a "curtain" for me to shoot behind tomorrow for the finals. Since it will only be 4 bowlers and 2 lanes..

But that absolutely sucked. Celebration shots? Are you serious? 1Dx had issues focusing in the seat area it was so dark that I had to go center focus point only which made it more palatable. Besides that, it was either blow out the background completely or get one dark subject in front of a bright background. It's like shooting in the sun, but your subject is in a tunnel and you have to make sure you can kind of get both of them without using a flash.

Hey, you couldn't use flash, but how about a big ass 1000W video light? They use them when they are doing it for broadcast. So they shouldn't mind that, right?

Bowlers are worst than golfers in their restrictions. I mean, not even being able to walk up the side lines and shoot in front of the door because it might be distracting?
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Jack Kurtz, Photographer
Bangkok | Bangkok | Thailand | Posted: 8:22 PM on 08.07.13
->> Bowlers don’t like distractions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PUZyDycj1M
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Perrone Ford, Photographer
Tallahassee | FL | US | Posted: 9:42 PM on 08.07.13
->> Interesting challenge...

Would you be able to shoot a remote? The point of release is pretty constant and I'd imagine with a 70-200 you could frame nicely and get some decent shots.

I've never rigged for bowling so I don't know how realistic this is.
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Eric Francis, Photographer
Omaha | NE | United States | Posted: 9:54 PM on 08.07.13
->> My first thought was a remote also.
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Jim Karczewski, Photographer, Assistant
Hammond | IN | USA | Posted: 10:05 PM on 08.07.13
->> I'm sure a remote would be possible. Would be even better if you were able to get one of those new remotes where you can see your images instantly and adjust the camera remotely... That would really make it easy...

I'm sure a remote would had been possible, but I'm guessing one would have to set it up the previous night as they started at 9AM and I believe they had warmups before that.

Honestly I think the big shots are going to be the final rounds, I don't know what the pot is for this PBA50 event, but with 4 bowlers (at least this event) I'm hoping that curtain works some magic vs the crap that Guy and I had to deal with.

They obviously don't have a lighting person working with them when designing these places. Or a Photographer for that matter. However, if this was a televised final you could be damn sure it would be bright enough to shoot from anywhere!
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Guy Rhodes, Photographer
East Chicago | IN | USA | Posted: 10:24 PM on 08.07.13
->> Well, clearly the rooms are designed for bowling, and not photographing it. Part of the challenge with our job is to create technically sound and content-rich images where an average person wouldn't be able to, hence this thread.

I also considered remotes, however, with this morning's tournament featuring somewhere around 40 bowlers playing ten games throughout the day, the specific people I had to capture moved from lane to lane to lane for each game.

I would have had to have a specific lineup of what bowler was in which lane, then throw in the usual hours-early logistics of mounting a remote (and hope the bowlers don't complain about it when they show up). It doesn't seem feasible for this, but perhaps for a more important round.

I'm still looking for examples of inspiring bowling photography (and not from a designated "good" photo position) if anyone has something they can share. I've done some poking around in Google and haven't seen much outside of lit portraits.
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Brad Mangin, Photographer
Pleasanton | CA | USA | Posted: 12:23 AM on 08.08.13
->> Sounds like a nightmare Guy. I just found this old story in the newsletter archives by Rod Mar:

Oh Spare Me: Covering the Pro Bowling Tour
http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/1103
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Jim Karczewski, Photographer, Assistant
Hammond | IN | USA | Posted: 1:53 AM on 08.08.13
->> haha.. and Walter Ray Williams Jr. is one of the players now in the 50+ tourney we've been covering....
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Guy Rhodes, Photographer
East Chicago | IN | USA | Posted: 2:28 AM on 08.08.13
->> I'd give my viewfinder eye for the light / angles that Rod had in that article!
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Will Powers, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 9:42 AM on 08.08.13
->> Bowling is tough, but it seems that the shot isn't the bowler throwing the ball, it is the reaction that would be more interesting. Shooting the bowler as they turn around and reacting after the shot would be the shot that I would look for.
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Garrett Cortese, Photographer, Photo Editor
Orlando | FL | USA | Posted: 10:15 AM on 08.08.13
->> Guy,

Have you considered a GoPro as a remote? They are obviously small and easy to set up/mount almost anywhere (with the GoPro app you can use your smartphone as a liveview screen to see exactly what the camera is seeing, too). The quality of the images from the new Hero3 Black Edition models is pretty amazing, and you can set them up to shoot in a "normal" mode rather than the super-wide, almost fisheye mode. I feel like you could get some interesting results if you were able to mount one right near the foul line or just past it, looking up at the bowler. A camera above looking down the lane could be cool, too.

On another note, these photos won't help you at all, but you'll probably get a kick out of them. Photographer Bryan Soderlind organized a 70's/80's themed bowling event here in Orlando and got a good amount of the wakeboarding industry and friends to dress up and play the part, myself included.
http://journal.bryansoderlind.com/uncategorized/high-rollers-classic.html

Good luck!
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Delane B. Rouse, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | US | Posted: 10:40 AM on 08.08.13
->> Garrett...thanks for that link. Bryan Soderlind deserves some sort of award for pulling that off. AWESOME. FLAT OUT AWESOME!
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Ric Tapia, Photographer, Photo Editor
Los Angeles | CA | USA | Posted: 11:51 AM on 08.08.13
->> Guy,

I shot the Bowling's US Women's Open last year in Reno, NV. It was unique because it was outside. Here is my blog post:
http://tapiaphoto.com/blog/2012/06/28/bowlings-us-womens-open-under-the-ren.../
Hope it helps.
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 2:13 PM on 08.08.13
->> I'm just stoked that bowling is still a popular thing.
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Corey Perrine, Photographer
Naples | FL | USA | Posted: 2:34 PM on 08.08.13
->> Candlepin is better...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zw4r5urviA

So is duckpin...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3AXNwOgkXQ
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Michael Proebsting, Photographer
Barrington | IL | USA | Posted: 6:11 PM on 08.08.13
->> Not sure how they did it, but this is some of the best bowling photo journalism I have seen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-IxeEHBFdU
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Guy Rhodes, Photographer
East Chicago | IN | USA | Posted: 6:19 PM on 08.08.13
->> Michael - I'm sure Fred Flintstone's cave had better light than my alley did.

Corey - I got to play a few games of candlepin in Boston a few years ago. Good times.

Garrett - That gallery is a lot of fun! I hadn't thought of the GoPro, that's a fantastic suggestion, though the low light could be an issue.

Of course, Ric's outdoor bowling gallery is fantastic, as are all the other ones that are lit for TV.

I'm starting to think compelling documentary photography of the sport outside of these "crafted" situations might not exist? Surely, someone has to have done a photo story about bowling / a bowler?
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Darin Sicurello, Photographer, Assistant
Gilbert | AZ | USA | Posted: 7:41 PM on 08.08.13
->> I'm sure we all studied cinematography as well. Of Course, it's a major (motion) setup but also great composition(s) to consider.

Here some technical DP Roger Deakins work in
the "The Big Lebowski" (shot in film)

http://www.rogerdeakins.com/forum2/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=740
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 11:54 PM on 08.08.13
->> @Darin,

That's like your, uh, opinion, man."

Also, thanks for the link. As a cinephile, I love learning how stuff was shot.
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Thread Title: Photographing Bowling Well: Is It Possible?
Thread Started By: Guy Rhodes
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