When coaches give interviews, whether to the local media like us or to the television networks before the Super Bowl, they sometimes talk about staying in “their game.” They are essentially telling us that their playing strategies have been effective so far, and they don’t want the other team to dictate to them a new tactic.
As a professional photographer in relative isolation, I have developed my own “game,” one that I think has been very successful over the years. Sometimes, though, when I encounter other photographers, usually in big news situations or at sports playoff games, I have to be careful also not to let them and their styles draw me into their game. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I know my “game,” yet when I see other photographers, it can be tempting to shoot something the way they are shooting it. Just like teams and coaches who talk about playing their game their way, I have to shoot my game my way.
It’s not that i think I am better than other shooters, or that I disagree with the way they shoot. It’s simply that I know what I want to shoot, how I want to shoot it, for what products I am shooting, and what kinds of images I will need at the end of the day. One significant example of this is that I have a very different set goals for shooting sports playoff and championship games than when I am shooting regular season games. At some recent baseball games I ran into some of my friends from the Daily Oklahoman, the biggest newspaper in the state. As we worked the games, it became apparent right away that we had very different objectives. For one thing, since it was the first time they had seen these teams play, they were shooting tons of action shots, whereas I already had dozens of action shots of pretty much all the players, and what I really needed more than anything else was the emotional result of the game: celebration, dejection, elation, camaraderie. The other photographers needed it too, but not in as great a quantity as I did. It was likely they would publish one or two images from each game, whereas my newspaper might be able to use a dozen or more as a picture page, particularly if our team won the championship.
My friends from the Oklahoman all had big lenses, 300mm or 400mm, which is a good choice for tight action, but I didn’t even bring mine, since I knew what I needed. I stayed in my game and got what I wanted and needed to shoot, and I’m sure my friends from the Oklahoman did too.