Summer Camp – Getting Ready for the Sidelines
“I got it” Lauren announced loudly to her new friends gathered nearby as she peaked up from her Canon Rebel T5 viewfinder. She just captured Phoebe dressed in her ballerina outfit as she leaped in flight. She turned the camera’s 3-inch LCD screen for Darby and Reese to see and then smiled. Jacqui and I knew instantly that on this final day of shooting sports photography the camp was a success.
Summer Camps at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg, Maryland was the location for Jacqui South and I to perform as day camp teachers. The Arts Barn is situated in the small, intimate neo-traditional community on the lands of the former Kentlands farm in suburban Maryland. The city of Gaithersburg created a district center for the arts in the old Kentlands barn and adjoining mansion complex. The Arts Barn houses a 99-seat theater; numerous art studios and common area exhibit spaces. The barn was full the first week of summer vacation with a variety of camps. We were in Studio 104 for our first ever week of Sports Photography Views from the Sidelines camp.
Our curriculum was created for students aged from 12 to 17, middle school through high school students. Various age ranges signed up. I will admit the all female camp participants surprised me at first since I had envisioned that the subject matter would attract a few budding Walter Iooss Jr’s. We both quickly learned from the campers that sports and photography were not necessarily a focal combination because not one family had a subscription to Sports Illustrated. Thanks goodness we had a dozen old SI’s for them to look at as teaching examples.
The camp’s daily structure included small group discussions, lectures, short videos, a review of nightly assignments, photo editing and theme days. Blessed by the scenic Kentlands Arts District where we safely allowed all to wander nearby and practice, this was the real plus for those Arts Barn student campers who have a passion for photography. Our classes were aligned in this manner:
Day One – Get C.L.O.S.E – covered subjects such as composition, lighting, opportunities, seeing well and exposure metrics. Time was spent on learning how to use a DSLR camera and lens, either the ones they brought or one of our own NIKON’s.
Day Two – Get Wet – baptism by rapid-fire camera motor drives was the theme. Here we had a long session on sports field composition, on field positioning and sports field layouts all leading towards how to best take advantage of space and time. We also covered ways to seek proper permissions to gain on field access. Together we focused on the processing of digital captures and analyzing magazine photography – what makes good photos and what key items to look for. Then it is off to shoot swimming and tennis at nearby pools and courts crowded with swim teams practicing and tennis camp participants.
Day Three – Get the Shot – shooting wide open was our theme for the morning and it was practiced at a local outdoor basketball court and tennis court. By the afternoon we were deep into basic photo editing and discussion of sideline photography as they and we experienced it. Jacqui gave the camp participants her perspectives as a women photographer and what it is like working in a male dominated environment.
Day Four and Five – Get a Sense 4-It – The Who’s infamous rock opera Tommy tune See me, Feel me, Touch me – was the theme for the day putting together the learning’s gathered in the prior three day to compose the ultimate sports photos. The best fun was saved for the final day when we had a Sports Portrait session using camp participants. Schlepping photo materials, setting up gear and then photographing the occasional wild life whose lakeside habitat we now invaded. Students modeled their own brand of action sports wear/paraphernalia as we all directed and photographed them.
Showtime – Artwork display on the final day – it’s parents’ day. Now all the photo editing made sense to our students. Over the course of the camp we had the students judge each other’s work daily with the objective of them editing the best photos for a slideshow montage display on the last day.
Well over 3,000 photos were taken during camp week and in the final 45 minutes before the show time deadline they choose the 50 best photos. Our daily editing efforts paid off, as this less glamorous side of the sports photography business challenge was met head on with students equipped to know what makes a great sideline photo, the when and how to get a photo and, of course, the why.
The first British women’s sports photographer to shoot from football sidelines [touchlines], Hy Money, would be proud of these budding women sideline photographers, both Jacqui and I are.