• I hear photographers say that soccer is one of the hardest sports to shoot, and I wouldn’t disagree. But autofocus, digital technology, and fast, computer-designed lenses with ultra-low dispersion and fluorite elements have clearly lowered the entry threshold to sports photography. They’ve also made it possible to produce better work than ever. In particular, pictures taken at night and under poor light, where a great deal of sports photography is done, look much better now than they did in the days of pushing 800 ASA color negative film a stop or two. I’ve never seen so many good images from such a wide range of photographers.
• A surprising number of sports photographers have been successful athletes: my friend Dave Black was a gymnast; Dave Cannon, a Getty photographer from England, is an exceptional golfer; and Michael Zagaris, San Francisco 49ers’ photographer, was a college football standout. No surprise they are some of the best photographers covering those sports.
I have a significant advantage when covering soccer because I’ve played it all my life, including several seasons as a minor-league professional player. Soccer is a fluid, constantly changing game, with few stops or set plays. In a sport where the distance between photographer and subject can change dramatically in an instant, it is a huge help to have a sense of what is likely to happen next.
The ability to anticipate the action has unquestionably given me an edge in a very competitive field.