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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2012-06-08

Sports Shooter Academy IX Report - Paul Bergstrom
“My goal was to make one great image everyday and to learn something new everyday. “

By Paul Bergstrom

Sports Shooter Academy was one of the best workshops that I have been to. I learned so many different approaches to covering sports. All of the instructors had their own personal aspect to add. Whether it was while shooting or processing the learning never stopped.

Photo by Paul Bergstrom

Photo by Paul Bergstrom
The workshop had a very simple breakdown, the first day there were speakers who talked about everything from marketing to using flash in a triangle. The next four days were simple; go to the workshop in the morning for a group critique, break off and shoot the event you chose, edit while having dinner, then go to the workroom to get loose edit critiques, and send in the final edit.

That is a rundown of the event as a whole, but that is just the beginning. When going to one of these workshops one has to come with the right attitude. Before I got to California I came with the mentality that they told us to have the first day. My goal was to make one great image everyday and to learn something new everyday.

Day One
This was the morning where we picked what we were going to shoot for the rest of the workshop. A little word of advice: on the first day sit in the back. It was a free for all for the sign-up sheets, I would say almost survival of the fittest, or the person with the longest arms. Nikon and Pocket Wizard were also there lending out really nice gear (Thank you!).

So for the first day I decided to pick baseball as the sport to cover. I checked out a 24-70 and pair of Plus III.

I got to the game about two hours before it started; I rode with two new friends that I made the night before. Matt Brown was the instructor and I do not even know where to start on what I learned that day.

I properly learned how to mount a remote. There are a lot of things that I would have overlooked if I did not have the help I received; changing everything to manual (including exposure), taping down the focus, smaller aperture (but nothing smaller then f/11). Then there was the one thing that I learned that I was blown away by; Auto ISO. If I did not have that on, half of my remote shots would have been really under exposed. By putting on the Auto ISO, I was able to keep the shutter speed and aperture I wanted.

Now off of the remotes, I also learned how to follow the action, or the lack of action. Looking for features when nothing is happening in the game was one of the most valuable things that I learned. Since I got back I have been looking for features and emotion more and more.

This was also my first editing night, something I would like to forget (not really) but can’t. There were so many things that I did not even think of when processing.

The difference between a good image and a great image can be as simple as the crop. I was in the room for about three hours getting many different critiques. It is a huge eye opener, to hear “why would you crop like that” or “what made you think that should be in your edit”. It was probably the most useful critique that I have ever had.

Day Two
Friday I decided to shoot a lacrosse scrimmage. I decided to shoot lacrosse because it was something that I never covered before. I wanted to learn about the game so that when I do need to cover it I am prepared. I will be honest that it was not exactly what I thought it would be. I originally thought it was going to be a real game. I was a little disappointed. I did not let that stop me though; I came with a good mentality and pushed through. I no longer cared what it was; I was focused on one thing and one thing only, making a great image.

I will say that even though it was a scrimmage I did learn a lot about the game. I also know that I am ready to cover one now, if the opportunity comes up.

After scrimmaging for about 30 minutes the instructors wanted to set up some trick shots. I thought it was a very weird thing to do at first because, when covering a game you are not going to ask the players to try that again. Then I realized it was not about the trick shots, it was about finding a clean background, so that polls or trees do not become limbs or supports.

So after everything wrapped up I went back to the hotel, had dinner, edited, and then went back to the room against my better judgment to get critiqued again. While editing that day I kept in mind my critique from the day before.

I started getting critiqued and I noticed from the critiques that I was shooting better, or at least processing better then I was from the day before. It took one day of shooting to improve my photography.

Then I made the mistake of showing my sports portfolio to Rod Mar. Yet another awakening moment; I was told having a shot of Wayne Rooney was like having a photograph of the President, the only reason it is in there is because it is Wayne Rooney.

About 20 minutes later I had Matt Brown look at my photojournalism portfolio, and sure enough he told me to get rid of my Obama shot because the only reason it is in there is because he is the president.

Day Three
In the morning we assembled as usual in the room and had the group critique of every ones final edits. These critiques helped a lot with my shooting, there is nothing like seeing ten other peoples work of the exact same event you covered. It gives you a chance to see what others did, what worked for them and what didn’t. They were a great exercise to look back at the event and see what you could have done.

Photo by Paul Bergstrom

Photo by Paul Bergstrom
This was the day I was looking forward to the most. I get to shoot one of my favorite sports that I have not yet been able to shoot yet rugby. I also decided to try and create a small story this time as well.

I decided last minute that I wanted to get an extra body, 24-70, and a tilt shift. They all served their purpose for the day, I still do not know what possessed me to get the tilt shift, but it was really cool for features.

I got to the field with plenty of time to think trough about what I wanted to do, get set up and get all of the information I needed. Not kidding I think that is harder then shooting, I was never good at homework. So after walking around the field a couple of times I found my spot for action and my spot for reaction.

After the game ended we also were able to shoot a beach volleyball scrimmage, this was when I decided to drag out the tilt shift and see how it works and if I can use it at all. I learned my lesson that a tilt shift is practically useless; I already had my thoughts about it I was just reconfirming. It is a fun lens again for features.

Fast-forwarding to the workroom, I remember getting there the moment it opened and just power editing my take. I got it down to 50 then 30 then finally 10 after a bunch of critiques from the first class staff.

Then I started to order the story and get it down to a couple of essentials, after another couple critiques, I had it down.

Day Four
I am not sure if I can completely recall Sunday. I remember a great critique in the morning, getting a lot of gear from Nikon, and a pair of PocketWizards. I will admit that I was completely beat and worn down, but I was worn down in a good way (if that makes sense).

Sunday funday, I was signed up to shoot track. There were lots and lots of remotes; they fired in complete harmony during the hurdles. I think I set up my remote at least 15 times, most of them were failed attempts, but I did learn more about positioning the remotes. I also learned a little bit more about the range of the PocketWizards, and not to share channels.

Track has always been one of those sports that I dreaded covering for the newspaper. I always found it to be very boring and uninteresting, but taking what I learned from the previous days, I found a way to make it interesting for me. I started to focus more on emotion. I find those images to be more powerful then running in a circle.

The last critique was a breeze, started to think about the cropping a lot more then when I first came. I had two very quick critiques and sent my images in with a lot of time to spare.

This was the last night so all of the usual morning critique was at night. After the critique we had the awards and then had time to say thank you and exchange cards with the instructors and other attendees.

Rundown
Basically early morning group critiques, breaking off into carpools, shooting, workroom, sleep (maybe).

Who Should Attend:
I believe you should attend if you are not where you want to be with your photography career, and want to better your craft. The smallest thing that you can learn at Sports Shooter Academy is worth the trip.


Paul Bergstrom is a student at Columbia College – Chicago. You can see his work at his Sports Shooter member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/members.html?id=9701

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