How to Capture the Iconic Sports Moment
Photographer Q & A
How did you get your start shooting sports photography?
In October of 1986, I went to Hawaii to shoot the Ironman Triathlon for a small stock agency. After checking in at the media center for the Ironman event, I found out that Sports Illustrated had hired me to officially shoot it for them. Since that day, my assignments for Sports Illustrated have taken me to the Olympic Games, the World Series, and more golf majors than I can count. I've also covered ice hockey, basketball, boxing and World Cup soccer.
Do you have a memorable moment that turned into a cover shot?
In 1999, I wound up in the right spot to shoot Brandi Chastain put in the winning kick for the USA in the Women's World Cup Final. That image made the cover of Sports Illustrated. It was a huge event and that victory played a great role in furthering the cause of women's sports. It was fun to have an image play a part in that.
What is a typical work week like for you?
Because I shoot for a weekly publication, the pace is fast. Assignments are usually given on a Monday, followed by making travel arrangements, booking assistants and gathering all the gear I'll need for the week. Then there's the background work required for any feature assignments and planning how to "complete the vision". Most of our images receive little or no post production. I go to sleep thinking up ideas and wake up thinking of ideas, "making" a shot in my mind before I "take" a shot in the field. Things don't often work out that way and putting out fires and creating on the run are so important to my work. That goes for anything from portraits to shooting positions on a football field to remote set-ups at baseball games.
What advice would you give an up-and-coming photographer who wants to cover sports?
This kind of work is a sports fan's dream, but there's a lot of pressure, too. It's hectic and there's just a split second of opportunity to get the shot. The actions at a sporting event do not wait for you to get ready. You'll get some good ones and you'll miss some good ones. You can't get too excited about a good one or be consumed by a miss. You never know when that "moment" will come. You have to stay focused and keep working.
See Robert Beck's thrilling body of work at his web site: www.robertbeckphotography.com
"Every shoot I have starts with Lowepro. As soon as I get an assignment, I begin packing gear and that gear goes into one type of Lowepro case or another. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. It will stay that way as long as I'm shooting because I know that a Lowepro case is going to get my gear to where I'm going in one piece."
Robert Beck's introduction to sports photography came as a staff photographer for Surfer Magazine. His images have regularly graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and taken him to some of the greatest sporting events in the world: the Olympic Games, World Cup, World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, The Masters, NBA finals and more. He has photographed celebrity sports figures, including: Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Pelé, Shaquille O'Neal, Tony Hawk, Brandi Chastain, Emmet Smith, Michelle Kwan, Shaun White, Rod Laver, Monica Seles and Kelly Slater.