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Monday, November 26, 2007

Axel Heimken - The Art Of Selective Focus

Using a lens modifier, sports photographer Axel Heimken gets a look that allows him to isolate his subjects for creative effect

axel heimkenWhether at the Olympics, the World Cup or international championships of the world's most beloved sports, the excitement of competition often hinges on a single moment when the crowd roars, muscles flex and the world fades away for an athlete for just a second. German sports photographer Axel Heimken has built a career on capturing these unique moments in ways that set him apart from the competition. His artistic, even painterly approach—showcased in high-octane shoots for Adidas, German sports magazines and the German Soccer Federation—have earned him a reputation for moving beyond a literal, “who did what, when?” approach into the more aesthetic realm.

In a field largely ruled by the telephoto lens, Heimken's images stand out as different and, above all else, dynamic. What drives Heimken on every assignment is what he emphatically calls “the hunt for the shot—the one and only shot that you might not get—but even if you don't, it propels you onward to the next time.”

The shots that have earned Heimken the most fame are his highly kinesthetic action shots and portraits, achieved through judicious use of a selective-focus SLR lens called the Lensbaby. This bendable lens allows the photographer to assign a sweet spot of sharp focus to any desired point within the exposure, with a gradually increasing blur flowing from the assigned point, such as an irregular sunburst.

“Sports photos are very often taken in a standard way, with a wide-open 400mm lens that shows the play, but not the player's personality,” says Heimken. “When I'm able to get closer than normal to an athlete, the Lensbaby lets me extend my creative range and capture a more abstract kind of dimension—the concentration that happens in the critical moments of a game.”


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