Looking back, I wouldn't say I've come a long way, but I'd say the photographs I made did improve. My first few photographs were not of sports. But my first sports photographs were of my basketball teammates at a gathering we had in December 2011. I wasn't even serious. I was shooting pictures for the fun of it. And I had all my settings wrong, because I didn't understand any of it. Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, you name it.
Becoming a photographer today isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s most definitely not about owning professional gear. Contrary to what everyone says, owning professional gear simply doesn’t make one a photographer.
I didn’t pick up photography at a young age, as most photography greats do, but I don’t regret picking it up late either. In fact, I was glad I did.
Growing up playing basketball, naturally, I was too active for something that would require me to be deskbound. Then photography came along, and sports was a no-brainer for me, because that was something I could practise a lot without the need for accreditation. I tried other types of photography – portraits, weddings, landscapes, events, concerts and stuff – but at the end of the day, I still love sports because it's different. The variety of emotions and the adrenaline rush you get from covering sporting events are indescribable. And partly also because I grew up playing sport to begin with.
I had with me, originally, a Canon EOS 600D, with just the basic kit of the 18-55mm lens. It was a birthday gift. I was a student. My family wasn’t well to do and I couldn’t afford the gear. Of course, when I saw people around me using top-of-the-line gear, I was envious, but I was contented with what I had. Because at that point of time, I wasn’t sure I was going to go down with photography as my career.
And in fact, shooting with the kit lens helped. Over time, I saved up a little and bought myself the cheap but trusty EF 50mm f/1.8 II, and it gave me better control over depth of field and also a nice background blur, because everyone likes nice background blurs. Both lenses helped hone my eye over time, because they forced me to work within limits.
Fast forward a couple of months, I began my little adventure with sports photography. I did a lot of self-learning online through photography websites and portals and through sitting down in the library for hours flipping through photographic magazines. I photographed my friends at their basketball games, and went on to further develop my skills at Red Sports, a local sporting news site dedicated to journalistic coverage of school sports.
I started out with basketball, but I didn't stick with it. In fact, because I doubled as a reporter, I covered other sports as well and that made me learn the concepts of various sports and that helped a lot in photography. The understanding of a sport can help get you better pictures through knowledge of angles and restrictions and whatnot. I started covering different sports, and I grew addicted.
But finance issues bugged me at a point, forcing me to take a year off college to work and pay my fees. That year away from college helped, because I was shooting almost every other day. Viewing work from top photographers worked as well. Everyone has their favourites. I have my own too. In fact, I have a lot of them. There are too many talented people out there in the world.
Through the little bit of money that I earned, while paying my fees, I gradually invested in better gear because I sunk too deep to get out. For the first time in my life, I knew what I wanted to do and I was passionate about it. Fast forward a couple of years, I get to where I am today, but I'm still far from reaching my dreams and goals.
In sport, you have to keep practising. Practice makes you better. In photography, the same principles apply. And I want to share what I picked up over the course of my journey because I believe it will make me a better photographer. Sharing is learning as well, and no matter how good we get, we still have to learn, because that's how we get better.