Alberta Calgary Canada Photography Rugby Sports photography

Celebrating World Photo Day with rugby

The BC Bears celebrate their first try in the Canadian Rugby Championship final at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

Saturday was World Photo Day and I celebrated by shooting three games of rugby in Alberta. As well as the four hours of match time, the driving plus the collation and editing of about 1,600 photos made it a long, but enjoyable day.

Rather than giving match reports, I thought that I would write something about rugby photography to mark this global event. The idea was triggered by a conversation I had while packing up my gear after a music event recently. I was asked how I can compete with all of the smart phones around and the instant images they generate? Like millions of others, I use my iPhone for photography regularly and love the results (especially with the new portrait mode) and the ease with which you can do a quick edit (I typically use Photoshop Express) and send it out on social media.

But with “real cameras”, meaning digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, there are three big advantages: you can get closer to the action; you can shoot a decent photograph when the light is not great; you can freeze the moment with a high shutter speed. Taken together, it could mean you can capture an amazing image of a precise and special moment that a smart phone simply cannot achieve.

Rugby creates wonderful imagery of athleticism, strength, agility, guts, and determination as well as true team work and (for much of the time) respectful aggression. While the most popular action shots feature tries, there is a great deal to explore in moments of emotion in tackles, scrimmaging and line out play.

Why the big lenses?

As with all sports photography, knowing something about the game is an advantage as it helps you to follow the most likely action.  Outdoor play means that generally speaking, the light will be good. There are exceptions, however such as the Canada versus Georgia international that I photographed in bitterly cold, driving rain and pretty dark skies in June. Fast action calls for fast glass, that is photographic lenses that can gather a lot of light. These lenses have larger maximum apertures (the opening for light to enter), which are described by their f-stop. Confusingly, the biggest apertures have the smallest number, so lenses used in sports photography usually go to f2.8.

Capturing that precise moment when the try is scored also requires a reasonably fast shutter speed, which determines how many frames, or pictures you can take in a second. A professional camera might be shooting between 8-12 frames per second, a lot faster than smart phones.

Finally, having some magnification helps to get shots right across the field of play. While a 35 mm or 50 mm lens is great for creating images in streets, the lenses used in sporting events are typically capable of going up to 400 mm (and sometimes higher). Of course, those big lenses will be no good for action right in front of your face, which explains why sports photographers are usually seen dragging a lot of cameras and other gear around.

BC Bears versus Ontario Blues

Andrew Ferguson scores for Ontario Blues under a setting sun to take the lead, momentarily, in the game against BC Bears. The Bears went on to win30-29 to take the 2017 Canadian Rugby Championship.
© J. Ashley Nixon

The last game I shot in the day was the Canadian Rugby Championship final between the BC Bears and Ontario Blues. In a terrific, fiercely contested match, the West Coast team pulled off their first championship win since 2009 by the thinnest of margins, 30-29.

Here is the link to the photo gallery.

Prairie Wolf Pack versus Atlantic Rock

Carl Pocock scores one of his two tries in the Canadian Rugby Championship bronze game against Atlantic Rock at Calgary Rugby Park.
© J. Ashley Nixon

In the previous round between these two teams, the Rock came out winners but that wasn’t repeated on Saturday when the Wolf Pack, spurred on by the local fans at Calgary Rugby Park came out tops, 41-19 to take the bronze spot in this year’s Canadian Rugby Championship.

Here is the link to the photo gallery.

Bow Valley versus Calgary Canucks

Action in front of a white house at Milford Park, Cochrane between Bow Valley and Calgary Canucks.
© J. Ashley Nixon

My day of celebrating World Photography Day began out in Cochrane, a town of around 25,000 people on the banks of the Bow River, about 30 km west of Calgary. The early afternoon game played at Milford Park went the way of the local team, The Grizzlies, by a margin of 15 points.

Here is the link to the photo gallery.

3 comments on “Celebrating World Photo Day with rugby

  1. Lydia Bentley

    Yes, those were large lenses-thanks for all your time and effort!


  2. A pleasure, Lydia. Nice to see the Canucks talent progressing.


  3. Pingback: Writing about Images: 17 pics from ’17 | NixonsCan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: