The Art of Shooting Sport

Chris Swacha throws a stinging jab as his brother Paul holds the pads.

When I took on the Artist in Residency with Sport Calgary, I never imagined I would end up swimming underwater with a camera, skating on the ice with my gear, or looking over the edge of a rock. But here I am working with six different amateur athletes in six very different environments. Every shoot is an intriguing puzzle requiring a different way of thinking.

So what am I doing?

My goal is to show what sport can develop in people, and I want to show it across a variety of sports despite their obvious difference.

Karate for example is a high impact sport with the ballistic sounds of fists bashing against pads and flesh. In kumite (sparring) it is a dance between two competing individuals. In kata, it is a display of excellent body control.

Amy Sutley tries for her next grip and fails.

It many ways though it shares the same display of body-like elegance as rock climbing, where it is the individual against the rock. Every sport shows grace in its own way. Sure, the rock climber’s fingers may be bloody from reaching for impossible holds, while the combattants of a sparring match end up with concussions and bruises. But there are clear moments where excellence is displayed in all its beauty.

If there is one thing that obviously runs through all the sports, it is the dogged determination of the athletes. Pain is something to be fought through. Obstacles are meant to be overcome.

Sledge hockey is often harder hitting than it’s standup counterpart.

Sledge hockey is ice hockey in every way except that the players sit on sleds-on-skates and they carry two short hockey sticks with metal picks on the end of them. The passing is furious. The hitting is hard. And the players love it.

Sledge hockey was the only team sport I shot as logistically it was too difficult to invite out a whole team. However, it bears mentioning that team sports add an entirely new social dimension to the game not represented in solo activities.

Triathlon on the other hand is a solo sport, but with three different environment. Steve said it’s like having three loves all in one.

Stephen Robinson, the triathlete, practicing the swimming component of his sport.

Three environments means three mentalities and three shooting modes. To go from the open roads where a bike whizzes by the camera to the distorted underwater views of a slow moving swimmer requires a transition in thinking as well as physical movement. And that is exactly the challenge that the triathlete faces.

The pool though is nothing like the white water river in Kananaskis where kayakers slalom up and down the course at times flowing with the river and other times fighting upstream against it. To Adrian though, he is always at one with the river.

Adrian rides the white water on the river as he slaloms down the kayaking course.

So far this production has been very rewarding both as a technical challenge and as an inspiration for me to stay involved in sports.

As Michael Novak said, sport may not be life, but you can learn a heck of a lot about life through sport.