The end of the season soccer party last Friday was the end of era on many levels. Instead of the usual gathering at a restaurant, one the parents opened their home for a more personal get together. The boys are finishing 4th grade and the team is splitting up. The serious players will join the bigger, more competitive leagues. The rest of the players will either quit or join the purely recreational groups. For me, it will be the end of sports photography, at least on a regular basis.
For 5 years, from Kindergarten through 4th grade, I was the team photographer. And over these years, I have a total of nearly 1,000 carefully selected and processed photographs. The highlight of the evening, at least for me, was the backyard slide show. The parents were sentimental — seeing the boys as 6 year olds. Over the years, I’ve honed my skill to get a more dramatic point of view. I shot sitting on the ground to be at the same level as the kids. The 1/1000 per second action shots, up close, made the most clumsy player look like a pro. The slide show of my photographs set to music held the kid’s interest. I was more than happy that I was able to record a slice of life for the team.
I’ve also upgraded my gear too. I started with a Canon Rebel XT with a 28 – 135mm zoom. I then added a used Canon 20D paired with an old Canon 70 – 210mm lens. Somewhere along the way I ended up with the Canon 7D and the 70 – 200 f4 IS. My technique improved too. Quickly creating balanced compositions out of apparent chaos, became my weekend challenge. I also shifted from JPEG to RAW and experimented with different styles of processing. As I look back through my archives, I noticed that 3 years ago, I was into adding vignettes. Luckily, I got over that.
My earlier images were dull and technically inferior, but I noticed a passion. A passion that is no longer there in my more recent shots. Years ago, getting these action photos is what drove me. That was before the urban landscapes, going on photowalks and the broadening of my photographic repertoire. Relatively speaking, my son was a better player too, back then. While I photographed the entire team, I have to selfishly admit that my main motivation was getting great action shots of my son. As my son’s soccer interest and play decreased so did my photographic effort. The team began to play on larger fields and it became increasingly difficult to get that dramatic up close poses.
My son and a few others are distinctly in the social soccer camp. It’s unknown if he and his social group will continue next season. As for me, I’m giving up my sports oriented Canon 7D and switched to the more modest, for action, 6D. If pressed, I’ll still use the 6D for action but more as a test and with less seriousness. I suppose the 6D shouldn’t be much worse than my old 20D that I used with intensity and drive. And it will at least be better than my Olympus Pens. I tested those mirrorless cameras and I can confirm, they really don’t work well for fast action sports.
With a touch of melancholy, I’m moving on to different things. My family photographs are still the most important but there’s going to be a lot less action. There is a whole world out there waiting to be captured. I’m curious how a change in focus will alter my photographic trajectory over the next 5 years.
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