Photographers' Blog

Shooting the perfect dunk

Kids playing streetball or millionaires performing in a highly choreographed show? Sport or showbiz? Welcome to the NBA All-Star weekend slam dunk contest.

Singer Rihanna performs during half-time of the NBA All-Star basketball game in Los Angeles February 20, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

One of the most satisfying moves to watch in basketball, and one of the easiest to photograph is the dunk, as the player soars above the rim and jams the ball through the net.

West All Star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks during the NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles, February 20, 2011.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The contest pits some of the most athletic NBA players against each other as they compete to execute the flashiest, most difficult, or original dunk.

We’re only given one floor photo position next to the basket, so the challenge is to capture the winning dunk from the best angle. Previous winners have leapt over other players, twisted 360 degrees in the air, extended the height of the basket with a forklift, and jumped over tables.

I mounted a camera with a 400mm lens in the catwalk in the roof of the arena, which I triggered with a Pocket Wizard radio transmitter, to give an overview of all the dunks. I positioned another remote camera on the floor to the side of the court with a wide-angle lens. I was sitting on the baseline to the right of the basket, Gary Hershorn was up in the stands with a 400mm lens and Danny Moloshok was shooting the action from the far end of the court.

My first Australian Open

Photographer Yuriko Nakao stands on centre court at the Australian open in Melbourne.

When I was first told that I would be covering the Australian Open tennis tournament, I was very excited as it is a major global sporting event and I would get to fly out from Japan where it was cold, to a hot and sunny down under.

At the same time, frankly speaking, I had a feeling of fear and worry, since I had heard scary tales about shooting the event from a photographer who had covered it multiple times. Dreadful stories of heat, the scorching sun, cameras getting too hot to function and sometimes so hot that I wouldn’t even be able to touch it. I was told that one photographer’s computer had broken because of the extreme heat, and that sometimes the photographers’ chairs at the courtside got so hot that it was unbearable.

Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return to Marin Cilic of Croatia during their match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2011.            REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Another worrisome issue was the physical intensity of the coverage, especially the first few days, as I was told I’d be busy as there are nearly 130 preliminary matches in total. It would be so demanding with no time to rest and eat. When I heard about this, I wasn’t sure whether I could survive what sounded like a major ordeal. So the advice was to never wear short sleeves but instead, wear a white long-sleeved shirt, a hat, put on sun block, drink water constantly, cover up the gear with towels to block the heat and don’t over pace. Everything is a build up to the Men’s final, the finale of the two-week-long tournament.

Pitch perfect picture

Photographing the pitcher is the bread and butter of baseball coverage, especially in the playoffs. But photographs of the pitchers are important when two of the teams’ aces face each other.

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum delivers to the Texas Rangers in the first inning during Game 5 of Major League Baseball's World Series in Arlington, Texas, November 1, 2010.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Generally, the moment you are looking for is when the ball has just left the tips of the pitcher’s fingers. But in a game where the pitchers are likely to be a big part of the story (and therefore there will likely be demand for more images of them), you need to look for other moments in their delivery that look interesting. A pitcher’s motion slowed down to a series of still images can look very strange indeed. Their limbs can look as though they have been disjointed and strange looking pieces of skin can seem to poke out. Remember too that the pitcher’s motion will look completely different from my angle as opposed to another photographer’s view farther out the baseline or closer to home plate.

Watching the delivery of the San Francisco Giant’s Tim Lincecum, I noticed a moment early in his windup where, from my perspective, his face was framed by his arm. All that was left was to time my shutter to capture that point in his delivery.

Fans, fire and fury

Fenerbahce’s hopes of winning the Turkish league title for the 18th time were all resting on the final round of games in the 2009-2010 Super League. Expectations among their fans were high, with the major Istanbul club knowing a win at home against Trabzonspor was enough to clinch the championship.

Second-placed Bursaspor were one point behind Fenerbahce on 72 points and faced the tough prospect of a match against last year’s champions Besiktas. Some 50,000 Fenerbahce fans wearing navy blue and yellow jerseys took their seats at the Sukru Saracoglu stadium with their attention focused more on celebrating their imminent title triumph than on watching the game.

Fenerbahce's Daniel Guiza of Spain celebrates scoring a goal against Trabzonspor during their Turkish Super League soccer match at Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul May 16, 2010. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Spanish striker Daniel Guiza scored the opening goal in the 14th minute, but nine minutes later Trabzonspor equalized with a goal from Burak Yilmaz. The first half ended 1-1. Even at that stage, Fenerbahce fans were very confident of victory. There was an atmosphere of celebration in the stadium. In the second half Fenerbahce played more attacking football.

Straight off the bat

It certainly is the best seat in the house, but sitting close to the boundary of a cricket field does not necessarily ensure you would have a good time watching the match. Cricket is like a religion in India. An unusual game, that goes on all day even through lunch and tea. Naturally then, covering this game in India is like covering it nowhere else in the world.

At least four hours before a match, photographers start out for the stadium, winding through noisy, mile-long lines. The lines of spectators are so long that one wonders if the last man actually gets to see the full match.

Security is often difficult. Parking passes are virtually impossible to get. So there’s little else a photographer can do, but walk along crowded dusty paths carrying heavy equipment. Certainly not a good thing for the faint-hearted!

from Raw Japan:

Call me “Crasher”

MOTORCYCLING-PRIX/MOTOGP

My nickname among the Reuters photographers in Tokyo is "Crasher".

They call me that because I always seem to get pictures right at the moment of a crash whenever I cover motorsports.

One colleague sometimes teases me saying "You’ve got to stop pouring oil on the track," and I answer: "I would never use oil -- I only use banana skins!"

In motorsports the most exciting moment you can capture in a picture is a crash.

Self-made Bionic Man

Bob Radocy of TRS Inc. lost his his left hand when he fell asleep at the wheel and side swiped a semi-trailer truck. He now designs and builds prosthetic attachments that allow amputee athletes to participate in multiple sports. Bob tells photographer Rick Wilking about his motivations in this multimedia piece.

New home for the Yankees

I came to New York in 1971 to work for the Associated Press and I covered the weekend shift at both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, where the Mets played. I’ve spent a good part of my life covering baseball in New York, the last 21 years for Reuters.

The Yankees ballpark had the air of a grand old lady, slightly down on her luck. At first sight it was an impressive structure with the historic field and that magnificent original copper frieze that lined the stadium’s roof above the upper deck. But a close look revealed a stadium deteriorating almost everywhere.

For a working photographer it was no fun, one had to kneel in an aisle to shoot pictures or work in a “crows nest” box hung over the upper deck wall behind the Yankees dugout. But there was a palatable sense of history present, for me, every day I worked there.

The most difficult sport to shoot

People often ask “what is the hardest sport to shoot?”. I always say “downhill skiing”. Sure there are 5 hour long baseball games and 5 day cricket matches, football games in the rain, sleet and snow. Heck just making it through an Olympic games is a bit like boot camp. But when you add up all the work and skill that goes into making a good downhill skiing picture, for me, it’s the most difficult sport to shoot.

Lake Louise hosts “Winterstart” each year. The season’s first World Cup alpine downhill skiing races is held at what has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. They come because Lake Louise is cold.

It’s beautiful, but it’s cold. If it’s -20c when you head up the hill in the morning with 50 lbs of cameras on your back it’s an average day. The cold means snow making , and they always have enough snow here early in the season to hold the races; take that global warming!