On Monday, September 1st, I covered the final round of the Bellingham Amateur Tournament for The Bellingham Herald. I like golf as much as I like to be bitten by a swarm of yellowjackets. But, I will say i like a challenge. And when something is difficult to photograph, I take on that challenge. No matter how boring!
Look at that BOKEH!!!
Photographing golf is a major challenge. There are two things you MUST pay attention to when shooting it:
- 1. Be quiet. Don’t shoot while they are getting ready to put or drive.
- 2. Stay out of the line of the golfers when they are putting. or driving.
Out of the Sand:
Yes, being quiet and unobtrusive is a challenge. The shutter is louder than you think, the carts can be noisy, and sneezing or coughing is like dropping a bed pan in a maternity ward. Seriously, you need to be as quiet as possible.
While I i was a photo intern at the Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner, my assignment one fall day was to shoot the final round of the Utah State Amateur Open at the Alpine Country Club in Highland, Utah. No problem I thought. Grabbed the 400 f/2,8 pool lens and headed down for the day.
Following His Shot:
When I got there, I met the reporter and we grabbed a cart. Lugging my F5 with a 400 f/2,8 attached was not my idea of fun. Anywho. During one particular putt, Todd Tanner was up and as he was getting ready, I accidentally hit the shutter button. He looked at me while pointing his club and gave me a stern look. Thoroughly embarrassing.
Studying the Green:
This happened a few times during the day. But, good thing was that the golfers became used to me. And I got what I thought at the time was a great shot. Until I showed it to my photo editor. He just said “nice shot. I get 2 or 3 of those a day.” My ego was quickly deflated.
But I did learn a lot shooting. To put it simply, the most important thing I learned was to be patient.
As for equipment, longer glass is necessary. For this shoot, I used a Nikon 400mm f/2.8 lens on a Nikon D3s. I kept my 80-200 f/2.8 on my D300s (which made it equivalent to a 300mm), my short glass was in my camera bag as well as and SB-910 strobe, SC-29 off-camera cord, and lens cleaning supplies.
So to sum it up, here are a few things you need when shooting golf:
- A golf cart – Don’t try to lug your gear nine holes. You’ll quickly get tired.
- Patience – You probably won’t get a shot until the 3rd or 4th hole. Keep shooting.
- Long glass (golf is not a wide-angle feature fest) – 300mm or longer.
- Knowledge of the players – Not just who’s leading, but who has a stronger short game, who drives the longest, etc,
- Awareness of your surroundings – Don’t wander onto another hole, quickly leave the green after your done, golf balls heading your way
- Plenty of water and a few snacks – You will be outside usually on a very warm day so stay hydrated. You will need to keep your energy up.
Salvaging From Bad Luck:
As I get better at photographing golf, it is becoming more fun to shoot. As for playing it? Naw. If I want to go for a walk, I’ll head to the mountains and hike. Not really my sport.
To the Green:
For more images from the tournament, please visit my gallery “40th annual Bellingham Amateur.”
For more of my sports images, please visit my gallery “The Games We Play.”
Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.
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Paul “pablo” Conrad
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Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally and internationally published freelance photographer living in Bellingham, Wash., in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe.
His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings. He is available for assignments.