Epic Moments in Sports (Part 1)

6/2/2012 3:18:34 PM

With a passion that burns strong for capturing dramatic moments in sport, California-Based photographer Tim Tadder talks to Jordan Butters about breaking free of the constraints of shooting from the sidelines

I GREW UP with a professional sports photographer for a father. When I was a kid he'd let me stand with him on the sidelines while he covered the games: it was the coolest thing in the world. Sometimes he’d let me take the pictures: my passion developed from there. Although I worked in various areas of the photography industry, including photojournalism and teaching, I ended up in my father's shoes - shooting sports from the sidelines of NFL and Major League games.

Description: Photography by Tim Tadder

"In the beginning, I was competing with amazing photographers and had to find a way to stand out. I got thinking about ways I would shoot sports if I could control the event, which led to me building a portfolio of test shots with my vision of sports photography. A year or two later, I threw in the photojournalism towel and concentrated on my style of sports photography. I wouldn't say it’s commercial as much as creating images that capture what makes sport epic, whether that be struggle, strife, competition, integrity, violence, passion or aggression.

"Most of my client work is campaign related. I do a lot with beer and soft drinks companies such as Miller High Life, Bud Light, Coke Zero and Pepsi. My style attracts clients outside of sport too. I bring drama and intensity to whatever I'm shooting: taking the most mundane character and introducing a heroic powerful nature.

Description: Tim Tadder Photography

"The briefs I receive are often either extremely open or extremely limited. If the brief is too specific it can kind of hurt; you might not agree it's the best way to communicate the story, but it's what that client wants. I like a happy medium. Over-direction puts you in a box, and it's difficult to think outside of it. But if you have zero direction, you might shoot apples and they're expecting oranges. I like working with creative people who engage me in creative insight and articulate what they're seeing. I love it when I'm getting 'it would be cool if' or what do you think about adding this' during a shoot.

"I take the same approach whether I'm working with a professional athlete or a model, engaging with them during the process and showing them the results as we go. With athletes, I find it's easier for them to get into character when they're re-enacting their profession rather than static in a studio. The hardest part is getting them to amp up their performance to a believable level. I recently photographed Sir Chris Hoy for Gillette's Olympic campaign - we started out slow and I gradually pushed him to the point where he was in a frenzy; pounding the pedals on his bike and going crazy. That's the goal: to push them into a believable moment of sport. Chris pedalling gingerly on the spot isn't going to convey that through a picture.

"Lighting is a crucial element; it's another means of communication and I get the best results when I plan in advance. It's all about control and balance. The light needs to blend with the scene but yet create separation between the subject and their environment. Each shot is so different from the next that I tailor the light to whatever the image requires. Take my boxer shoot, for instance (above left):

Description: Tim Tadder Photography

I see a boxer as an individual warrior. He trains, works and fights alone and I interpret that solitude to be a silhouette -a nameless, faceless person. To show that, I used backlighting and a lot of focused, but feathered, light to illuminate just enough of the environment to bring a three-dimensionality to the subject.

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