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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 1999-04-08

Tips From the First Tee: The "secrets" to successful golf photography
By Robert Beck, Sports Illustrated

I hope you've got a good pair of light hiking shoes (preferably with Gortex lining) that will still feel comfortable after trekking through the rough for a few miles.

If you are by yourself I hope you've got a 400 2.8, a 80-200 2.8, a 35-70 2.8 and a 1.4 converter. If you are lucky enough to have an assistant, give 'em a 600 4.0, a 300 4.0 and maybe a 20-35 2.8 for good measure. Nikon equipment seems to work the best.

Photo by Robert Beck

Photo by Robert Beck

Tiger Woods
If it's going to be hot, eat a couple of aspirin with breakfast and drink lots of water. Drink water all day. As much as you can...not soda coffee or milk or beer. Water.

If it's going to rain pack a light Goretex jacket and pants and have that assistant carry a golf umbrella (they're BIG) and a towel. If you are just shooting neck & steel stock stuff on a sunny day Velvia or the new Kodak VS will be okay. If you are shooting the tournament for what it's worth (in the trees, shade, backlit, etc.) Fuji MS 100 or Kodak E200 is a must.

Keep those shutter speeds up around 500th or more and you'll lose less shots to movement. Think those golfers don't move much? Think again. A golf swing clocks in around 80mph. Keep the film, small lenses and a couple of extra battery racks with you in the sideline shooter bag from LowePro. A hat and sunscreen will help you do it all again tomorrow. By the way, put the sunscreen on in the morning. Keep something on you lips too.

All right. You have all the equipment and a press credential. Now what? Pressroom meal? Maybe. If they have doughnuts. Okay. Now out to the course.

PGA RULES (My Rules):

1. STAY WITHIN ONE ARM'S LENGTH OF THE ROPES (Cheat out further if you must but stay out of the way of your fellow photographers behind you. Be aware of what the golfer is doing and stay out of his way at all times...whether it is to his side, behind him or in front of him. A pro golfer is just like any other whiney ass wipe millionaire athlete...he will blame something on a photographer if he can! Do not give him that opportunity. If he or his caddy ask you to move, do so with out saying anything.)

2. DO NOT SHOOT UNTIL AFTER THE GOLFER HAS STRUCK THE BALL
Photo by Robert Beck

Photo by Robert Beck

Tiger Woods

(Every golfer has a different routine when getting ready to hit. Watch a guy and figure out when you can shoot as he lines his shot up. Once he steps over the ball do not fire again until he strikes the ball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you shoot before hand be prepared to be thrown out then and there. Also be prepared to have your ass handed to you by your fellow photographers because you just made the rest of their day reeeaaaallllly miserable. I make sure that trigger buttons on my camera are taped in the off position. I don't want to
bump one by mistake and have the thing go off at the wrong time. Turn off that auto rewind function too. You don't want your camera to start zipping back film as he steps over the ball because you just finished a roll of him lining up his putt.

3. GET IN POSITION BEFORE THE GOLFER IS READY TO HIT Damn right. Get there and get quiet too. If you are late and can't get to a spot, forget about it. You don't need every stroke. It is better to wait for the next shot. Maybe you'll hustle a little more next time. For God's sake be quiet about it. Don't rumble onto the fringe of the green with a light meter banging into your lens hood, film flopping out of your fanny pack and you auto focus on that audible beep. YOU ARE NOT THE SHOW! The golfer is. Be as inconspicuous as possible. Around the greens there are frequently hundreds of senior citizens who have camped out since December to see their favorite
golfers. I always try to squeeze my 250 pounds around them so they can see. Sometimes I might move to a slightly less advantageous shooting position to sit down in front of someone who is standing. Try and be nice to those folks. I have found that common courtesy and a smile go a lot further than a "Fuck off...I'm just doing my job."

"Where the Hell Do I Go?"

Most often you want to be somewhere between the golfer and the pin when on the fairway and put the pin between you and the golfer when on the green . Sometimes you can get a very nice shot from behind a golfer but in this day of multi camera angles for TV coverage some TV guy with his crew of mindless cable pullers will be in your way. Use trees, bushes and crowds to help frame your golfer. Be aware of ropes, trash cans and marshals with quiet signs cluttering up your beautiful compositions.

Stay on the golfer even after he hits the ball...he might throw a club or scratch his balls (a Craig Stadler favorite). Once you are done with that stroke look down the fairway to see where the ball went. They are usually pretty easy to spot if they are on the fairway. If they are in a bunker or in the rough, a marshal will probably be marking the spot and a crowd will
Photo by Robert Beck

Photo by Robert Beck
start to gather around. Get your ass down there!

That is the shot you are looking for.

Fairway shots and tee shots are a dime a dozen. A good shot out of the rough or bunker is not to be missed. If you really can't find where the ball went ask a spectator. They love to feel like they are helping you out. Line that thing up...is it better horizontal or vertical? How about the crowd? Do you work them in? For Christ sake...how is your exposure!? I do not carry a light meter...very often.

Lots of times you cannot meter where the golfer is. He might be in the shade and you are out in the sun. I use the spot meter in my camera. meter off of something neutral or the grass near the ball. If you are close enough to meter off of the players face that is best. If a player is in the deep shade under expose by a third so it shows that he's in the shade. If
you are both in the bright sun...open up two stops if he is back lit and one if he is side lit.

Don't forget about the practice green and driving range. The golfers are bit more at ease in those spots and they can offer up a few more good images.

One more note. Sometimes around the green you will feel desperately out of position for a good picture. Keep that camera up to your eye anyway. The golfer might sink one and do a two step all over the green. He might miss one and hit the space shuttle with his club. He might do something in your direction. Be ready.

Feel free to ask me anything if you see me out there ... unless I'm eating a doughnut.

P.S. A six pack to the person who comes up with the best answer to the most oft asked question on the golf course: "How far can you see with that thing?"

Frequently men with their wives or girlfriends in tow will look at me and my lens and say "Look at the size of that !" I say, "Please. We are in mixed company!"

I sometimes get the ladies asking me, "How big is that?" I answer, "That's kind of a personal question."

(Robert Beck is a staff photographer with Sports Illustrated based in the San Diego, CA. Area.)


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