Bob Shank Photography

Lessons Learned from Photographing the USGA US Women's Open

Spending three days at the USGA US Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, Long Island, NY was a blast! I was shooting alongside the big boys and girls of the photography profession and I learend a lot!

Tuesday's practice round was helpful to get the lay of the land, but I should have scouted out more of the course that day. I was so focused on these amazing athletes, but I could not see the forest for the trees at first. In hindsight, I should have spent some time without my camera up to my face, scouting the entire course. Figuring out the pathways from hole to hole would be helpful in the future, for example. Finding the best holes to have the clubhouse in the background is also helpful to figure out beforehand. Lessons learned; and studying the course map more indepth is on my list for the next time!

My editor made a great suggestion on Friday night: he said, "Looked like a tough day to shoot. Fog didn't help. Just a suggestion (and I am not a photographer by any means) look for tighter shots. The second pic you sent was pretty close, but it looked a little soft." He was correct. The fog and humidity made for a rough day of shooting, especially in the afternoon. The round was called short because of this weather as the daylight was shortened by the fog. I am learning editors prefer to see faces in the photos and tight shots usually win out. There were times on Saturday's round when I framed a shot and said to myself, "Get tighter!" It worked and I got my first photo golf published in the next morning's edition of our newspaper!

Most of the women are righthanded, so working down the right side of the fairways was helpful to get their faces in the photos. This proved helpful at the tee box and on the fairway. I was not always in the best position with this tip, mostly because I did not pre-plan well enough to figure out the course flow from hole to hole. Watching the other photographers helped, but I often try to find a unique and different perspective on my own.

One tip, which I think about all the time, is: Watch the background! Marshalls, spectators, and buildings can get in the way of the background. However, sometimes this can be helpful, such as the spectators looking on as a golfer hits a shot. I almost always use a larger aperture to throw the background out of focus and "pop" the subject out in the photograph. This also helps keep my shutter speed faster to freeze the action.

Pre-planning in the media center is helpful, too. Knowing where the food and drinks are located helped me to keep my visits in the media short and get righ back to the action on the course. Unfortunately, I did not think to get the wifi password until I was trying to upload photos to my editor. I didn't waste more than a minute, but pre-planning is always advised.

Another uploading issue I encountered was using filenames that were too long. This caused some grief for my editor becuase the newspaper's system could not handle these long filenames. Using acronyms and keeping filenames short is helpful and necessary sometimes. US Women's Open - Saturday, for example, can simply be "USWO-Sa.t" Hmmm, this is not rocket science, but a very practical tip.

One last tip: look at your own photos and compare them to others'. This can be humbling but extremely helpful. We can always learn and I have a goal of learning something new in photography every day. Be critical and compare your work with the pros. We can all get better!

So there are a few tips I learnd while photographing the US Women's Open 2013 at Sebonack Golf Club. It was an honor and privilege to be there and take my sports photography to a new level. I have many levels to go, but I am progressing and getting better, quality sports photographs!

Keep shooting!

-Bob Shank