It is often said be careful of what you ask for. In my case, I asked for and received the chance to shoot my first Ultimate tournament for UltiPhotos.
The path to this assignment is long and winding, and started with me playing Ultimate in New Jersey in 1981. It continued when I picked up my first SLR camera shortly afterwards. Both the camera and Ultimate have been part of my life since then although my competitive Ultimate phase finally came to rest during the mid 1990’s. The camera, not being as demanding on my body as Ultimate, still accompanies me today. However, I quickly found out that it was my mind, not my body, that would be an issue for my first assignment.
The assignment I was granted was the 2014 New Year Ultimate Festival (NYF), a tournament in its 32nd year. I had been part of this great tournament in Phoenix, Arizona for the first seven years of its existence as a player. Now my point of view had changed and I would be telling a story from a photographer’s perspective.
The day of the shoot came, and for the first two hours after the curtains drew I felt like a Broadway stage actor in full costume with nothing to say. Shot after shot, miss after miss, blur after blur. This was the lowest feeling that I had ever experienced in my photography career.
During the NYF mid-day break, I found a quiet spot to do some interrogation of my photo skills and to refocus my mind on all the tips that I had absorbed during my tourney preparation. I reviewed many of my shots and decided to try some different angles and take advantage of the beautiful Arizona scenery as a backdrop to the action. However, it was the words of a fellow photographer at NYF that gave me the real direction I was striving for.
“Alex,” he said. “You are not looking like you are having fun.”
This was my eureka moment. Was it that obvious to others? I latched on to the word “fun” and used it as my inspiration to let my artistic instincts take over. By the tournament’s end I delighted in knowing that I did receive what I had asked for!
Late on Sunday, after I had published my highlights gallery, I reviewed some of the emails I had exchanged with the UltiPhotos staff in preparation for the shoot. To my amazement there was that word fun again. “Have fun during the shoot,” many of them had written.
The pressure of expectation can often overwhelm the power of instinct. My first tournament shoot will not be the last time I experience the pressure to produce top class action photos. But one thing that I will strive to keep as my ever present mantra will be the words: “If you have fun doing it the rest will follow.”
Alex Rentzis is a professional photographer in Arizona. NYF was his first assignment for UltiPhotos. Find more about Alex at SpartaPhoto.com.
UltiPhotos is made possible by the collaboration of dedicated photographers whose shared goal is to showcase the amazing action and wonderful moments experienced in the sport of Ultimate. This blog shares their perspectives on the photos they take and provide updates on UltiPhotos plans and initiatives.