LPGA – Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in Vancouver - Joe Ng

2015-11-06

The Canadian Pacific Women’s LPGA Open returned to Vancouver this past August. The event came at the perfect time since I just received the Fujifilm XF1.4 teleconverter prototype with the paired factory specific XF50-140mm lens. It was a no brainer to put this product to the test at the LPGA event.


People tend to have a presumption that golf is the easiest sport to shoot. Unlike hockey, you don’t have to make split second decisions on which player to follow. My view on shooting golf is that there are certain aspects that make it easier to shoot, but there are also some reasons that make it much harder to shoot as compared to fast-paced sports. In no way am I an expert in shooting golf, but I hope that by sharing my experiences and takeaways, you will find some of these points to be useful.


Photographing a golf tournament isn’t as easy as one would think. It may seem like a simple task, where someone can just stand in one spot and capture images of different golfers coming by the same tee off. However, it’s an entirely different story to shoot golf well.


In this blog post, I will be covering several topics:

- Rules of Golf Photography

- Minimizing your Presence

- The Big No-no’s

- Timing

- Knowing your Subject

- Shooting Angles

- Thinking and Seeing Differently


The Rules


I’m going to start off with these so we can get them out of the way, since these “rules” of golf photography apply to everything else that I will mention later on. They’re pretty straightforward, and when you think about it, they all boil down to one thing:


Do not distract the player. Never, Ever.


That is it. Simple as that. Golf is a game where each player is really battling with himself or herself more than with anyone else, typically with no teammates to rely on, a generally large but quiet crowd, and the players expect to be able to concentrate without any distractions.


Minimizing Your Presence


Minimize your movements as much as possible so that the golfer isn’t constantly reminded that you’re there, while still being able to do your work. In addition, you do not want your shutter sound to be the star of the show. This means that you shouldn’t shoot during a practice swing. It also means that if a golfer is lining up for a putt, it’s okay to squeeze off one shot. However, there’s no reason to fire off ten consecutive shots. If you’re shooting with a camera that allows you to switch your electronic shutter onto silent mode, then essentially you can shoot at any time without worrying about distracting the golfer (though the downside of that is it tends to distort images when you’re trying to capture fast-paced motions due to the rolling shutter effect).

Shooting on the Backswing:


A Big No-no Shooting a golfer at the top of his or her backswing is one of the most distracting things that we as photographers can do. Putting aside any arguments or criticism on how a golfer can possibly be distracted by this, let’s focus on the bigger picture. Golf is a game that demands concentration and mental focus, and so the player expects a silent environment.


Thanks to the silent electronic shutter, I broke this rule for the first time with my X-T1.

All About the Timing


Shooting golf is all about the timing, but none of that matters unless you know when that moment of impact will occur. Just pressing the shutter button down and keeping your fingers crossed will 9 times out of 10 result in poorly timed images, instead of that perfect shot you were hoping for. So my advice: go for a single shot.


If you think about it, there are really only three frames you want from a player hitting a golf ball: impact, follow-through, and reaction. In between these moments are a lot of wasted frames. Would you want to go through 3,000 images if there are only 400 that you actually need?

Knowing Your Subject


The more you follow the game of golf, the more you’ll learn about each player’s tendencies and playing style. For example, if you try to shoot a tight vertical of Alison Lee, who is known to habitually “flatten out” during her follow-through, you’ll cut off a big chunk of the clubhead. However the tight vertical shot can be applied to Michelle Wie as she’s very flexible on her follow-through.

By knowing about the players that you’re covering, this will help you decide whether to take a vertical or horizontal shot.


Shooting Angles


There are usually three things I keep in mind when I’m evaluating where to shoot a player from: background, lighting direction, and position relative to the player.


Background


Can I get a clean background? Is there a big red tent in the background behind the player? A marshal with a “Quiet” sign? If so, it might be time to move somewhere else.


Lighting Direction


Whenever I’m shooting, I take into account where the light is coming from, which is mainly affected by what time of the day it is. For example, an early morning light can give off a stunning effect, but there tends to be a shadow cast by the brim of a player’s cap (and so shielding their face) when the midafternoon sun is out. The workaround is to try and keep the sun behind them when taking the shot.


Unless you are shooting a wide angle, the lower you are, the better. Crouch, sit down or even lie down. I used to lie down on the ground when covering cycling and golf events. The low position increases the angle between the player and any background elements, thus eliminating most distractions. It also helps you get underneath the players’ ball caps, so you have a better chance of seeing the players’ eyes.

Putting these puzzle pieces together, my shooting preferences would be a dark, clean background; backlit or side-lit, and low positioning from the player’s right-hand side. Of course, these things don’t always pan out exactly how I’ve imagined it, nor will the outcome of the images turn out the same even if I have the same setup each time. But keeping these ideas in mind is a good starting point.


Thinking and Seeing Differently


Photographing golf isn’t solely about taking tight shots of players swinging their clubs. Although we do need these types of shots for editors, but don’t be afraid to step back and look at the bigger picture, in a literal sense. Golf is unique in that the venue is oftentimes as important as the tournament itself.

So there you have it. Hopefully you have found these tips useful, and who knows, maybe this blog post even peaked your interest to shoot the next PGA/LPGA tour?


Enjoy more photos below.

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