Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spherical intersection, aka soccer headers

In the last two soccer games I shot, I decided to try to catch some headers, and had a few chances to do so. I'm hired to cover a team, so I essentially follow their players, rather than going for action regardless of who it features. Anyway, I saw a few instances of using the noggin to propel the ball, and tried to anticipate them, time the shots, and focus at the right place. Even shooting at high fps (frames per second), action like this moves so fast that the best chance of catching the peak comes from timing the shutter release. Of course video at 30 fps, or even better, 60 fps or higher, would mean a very high probability of catching any desired moment of action, but as of now, the quality of a frame grab for a print is not equal to what comes from a still camera. Technology moves fast, and eventually high speed video will be ultra high resolution...and some of the fun and challenge may disappear from action photography. It's wonderful the things that have been studied and revealed through ultra high speed photography in scientific research, so I certainly have no regrets about the way things are progressing. But back to my little world of photography.

Aside from technology and reflexes, there's the whole issue of being at the right place for the best view. When you shoot from sidelines of the field instead of a raised press box, you have to scurry to get a clear view through closer players, referees, and sometimes spectators. Here's a shot that was a little late (about .05 second after contact - no I'm not exaggerating). I like it because it shows the leap, the player's face shows concentration, and the opposition player is watching.

Got the timing here, but everyone was facing the other way. I haven't worked out how to teleport to the other side of the field!


A glancing header.

Ah, caught the moment here.

I had this one anticipated, but the opposition player was taller and intercepted with her head.

This could have been a successful shot if the ball had come down more on my side of the player.

Here's what I like to catch! A clear view, and timed well enough to show the compression of the ball.

Here's a closer look at the same shot. I think that's pretty much maximum compression of the soccer ball.

And one more. My only disappointment with this shot is the cluttered background, but of course I can't control that. I was shooting with the widest available aperture for this long focal length, to blur the background as much as I could.

Cropped, it doesn't look bad. Some compression too.



  1. Love these awesome headers! You can tell that the girls are throwing their emotions into the headers! Thanks Jess!

  2. Jess-I would like to use one of your images in a book I am writing on the schience of soccer for high school kids--can you let me know how I go about doing that? The image is the third from the end in this sequence of heading photos. Thanks, John

    1. Sounds intriguing! I've contacted you to make arrangements.


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