by William Lulow
It has occurred to me lately that making interesting photographs often involves “access.” By this I mean, if you’re trying to make great sports images, you need to be firstly, in the arena. Be it a stadium, basketball arena, football field, etc., you need to be there. Secondly, you need to be in a position to be close enough to the action to get a meaningful shot. You can’t always do this if you are in the stands as a spectator. Spectators, by definition, simply observe the action. They are really not “involved” in the action.
The way I was able to get images of famous musicians was to be asked to make the pictures from a unique vantage point. I was either on stage with the musicians or very close up. That’s why for sports photography, there are photographers’ boxes. If you are shooting motorcycle races, like a friend of mine once did in Baja California, you need to have clearance and then position yourself in just the right place in order to catch the action.
It also helps to know something about the subject matter, be it sports, music, dance, meetings or just people. You will need to be able to anticipate actions so that you can be in the right place at the right time to make your images. I remember when I was photographing the players on the ladies pro golf tour. Back in the days of Nancy Lopez, I was given the chance to photograph for promoters of the tournaments and thus had access to all the players. Being a golfer myself, I was able to anticipate where Nancy, for example, was going to have to stand when she came up to her ball. I could then position myself to get a good shot of her as she swung at the ball.
If people come to your studio for portraits, say, this automatically gives you access as well as the opportunity to control the session from the standpoint of lighting as well as psychology. You have an edge when people come to you. That’s why, when you go to them, you are really in their world and you need to understand what they do and why they do it.
Getting “access” is half the battle in producing top-notch images.
Elton John, in concert, 1972. (c) William Lulow
This image of Elton John was shot from the press seats at the Denver Coliseum.