Rich almost always shoots manually, and the subtle variations in exposure that you can see between similar frames are the result of small changes he'd make to camera settings while he shot—and he shot plenty. In order to capture the decisive moment, Rich would "machine-gun" sequences using the rapid-fire capabilities of his Nikon D800 and D4 full-frame DSLRs while Lafountain powered through repetitions. "I'm doing bursts of images," Rich says, "and I'm doing that for the simple reason that I'm handholding. I'm not much of a tripod guy, in fact, I almost never use a tripod unless I'm shooting something that absolutely mandates or necessitates keeping the camera still for more than 1⁄8th of a second. I feel like right up to about 1⁄8th of a second I can handhold if I do a burst of images, even on a relatively long lens.
"In this situation, my subject isn't moving; he's relatively stationary, at least in my final composition. He's standing there relaxed, waiting for his next kettlebell swing, so I'm doing bursts of images so that I can make certain in a burst of 12 frames, for example, that one of those frames is going to be razor-sharp even though I'm handholding at relatively low shutter speeds. The low-light capabilities in the D4 combined with the burst capabilities are pretty remarkable. That camera has changed the world in the way we see low light. We never before could shoot at such high ISOs and have it look so great."
But perhaps Rich's most significant talent is that he continues to push himself even after he has succeeded in capturing a number of very usable exposures. "Never be satisfied with taking a few images and feeling like you got it," he emphasizes. "You have to slow down and methodically look at your situation and try to block out all of the other pressure. All you're really focused on is what's happening in that rectangle: How am I going to make the most compelling image from the light, from the composition and from a moment in perspective?
"Most sports photography is about capturing action," he continues, "whether that's freezing action or whether that's motion or creating a feel for what the athlete is doing. Some of that's action photography, some of that's the before and after—the jubilation, the defeat, the contemplation in advance. I think this image really fits into the broader category of sports photography in that this is an action moment. Here, we have this amazing athlete, poised in his venue, which is the gym, and the shot implies that he just did all of these kettlebell swings. And you can see that at the beginning of the shoot, I was trying to shoot him swinging the kettlebell, where the kettlebell would be over his head, and it just didn't look that good. It was creating awkward body movements. It put his body in a weird position, and it just wasn't working for me. So then I stepped away from actually shooting 'action,' from trying to freeze the moment with the kettlebell over his head, or midway up, and then I switched him into a more contemplative 'thinking about the workout' pose. And that was more effective to me.
"That's open-mindedness," Rich concludes. "It's being open-minded about going in with a preconceived idea, but then you need to be adaptable in terms of what's actually going to generate the best, most compelling, most engaging and interesting photograph."
See more of Corey Rich's photography at www.coreyrich.com.
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