It’s a popular belief among many that the sports photographer has the best seat in the house when it comes down to the full experience.
The view from the floor or the sidelines is pretty much unobstructed, minus the often-but-fleeting referee’s behind. Curse words ring from the bench with pristine quality, and the smell of sweat can be profound.
To be this close, however, comes with a price. Just ask any photographer who’s had the unpleasant experience of being annihilated by a player charging out of bounds to save a ball.
A general rule in the business is that when faced with a situation of imminent collision, it’s best to first shield your cameras and then let your body take the hit. The reason being, after insurance factors in, you are cheaper to fix than your gear.
I realize that the “Behind the Lens” series is designed most importantly as a way for us to provide tips and suggestions to aspiring and amateur photographers. However, I would feel remiss if I never mentioned the proper means for protecting oneself while in the field and more specifically along the sidelines of the field of play.
There are three distinct methods for minimizing the potential for bodily harm.
• “The Heisman”
This maneuver mimics the pose of the coveted trophy. With this being said, imagine Sherron Collins has just converted a bucket and is sent sliding across the floor toward the photographers seated along the baseline after being fouled by the defender. Using this maneuver you must first clutch and protect your camera equipment with your arm farthest from Collins. Turning your body at a 45-degree angle, swiftly extend your near arm, locking the elbow and use the palm of your hand to redirect Collins’ momentum into the photographer sitting next to you.
• “The Duck and Cover”
This is more of a submissive approach for protecting oneself. Consider a scenario where a proud parent is photographing his 6-year-old’s first soccer game from the sidelines. Unaware yet of the concept of out-of-bounds, the entire pack of stampeding 6-year-olds, goalies included, chase the ball directly toward the parent. With this maneuver, the parent must quickly turn his back to the wild pack and in a fluid motion go down on both knees. With elbows also touching the ground, he should cover the equipment with his torso, placing his hands over the back of his neck and head. This method minimizes the risk of any vital organs being punctured.
• “Swarm of Killer Bees”
The final maneuver can best be described as a frantic, last-ditch effort. Imagine it’s a few years back and the then-highly unstable Kansas forward Julian Wright has just stolen the ball and is charging up the court with teammates coming up on the wings. Wright sends an ill-advised, behind-the-back pass away from his intended teammate and rocketing directly toward the photographers. With this method the photographer should quickly abandon his or her grip on the camera, allowing it to hang freely from his or her neck by its strap while swatting wildly at the air directly in front in an effort to deflect the ball and protect the face.
Note: Insurance will not cover your broken pride when ESPN runs a replay of this maneuver demonstrated by you on SportsCenter.