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July 26, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams once said, “I think, without question, the hardest single thing to do in sport is to hit a baseball." Along the same lines, the hardest thing in sports photography might be capturing that
When a photographer captures an image that perfectly frames the emotion felt during a legendary moment, the result is often an iconic photo. These pictures are few and far between with only a few per year that end up lasting for generations.Related Articles
To achieve this high skill level, many sports photographers are specialists, such as Ric Wilborn, co-owner of Photogliff in Columbia.
For Wilborn, the best example of iconic sports photography is the shot of Muhammad Ali after he knocked down Sonny Liston.
“I think that shot is the one that resonated with me the most,” Wilborn says as he strikes Ali’s victorious pose.
Sometimes the photo takes on greater meaning by telling a story beyond the game. Wilborn once got several shots of a pitcher at a high school baseball game, and just weeks later, the pitcher lost his pitching arm.
“It’s moments like that that remind you what you’re shooting for,” Wilborn says.
Photographer Laura Lewis says being able to anticipate what will happen allows her to stay ahead of the action. Sports knowledge and positioning are crucial to this effort.
Kyle Spradley, the field editor for Rural Missouri magazine, says, “A lot of times with sports photography, you’re limited to a very small space, and you’re asked to get pictures of every inch of the field.”
To overcome the spatial limitations, a photographer might risk his or her safety for a better shot. Lewis found this out the hard way. Once, she broke her nose while lining up for a photo on the sideline of a football game because a referee backed up into her camera.
All three photographers say luck plays a big part in getting a lasting image. Sometimes they get it, and a majority of the time, they don’t. But that challenge makes it all the more thrilling when they snap an all-encompassing photo that tells the whole story.