May 24, 2018

In-Motion Sports Action Photography

Vintage framed wall hangings by Classic Sports Pictures  are unique because they feature images that come from 16mm films.  In the design, planning, and production of every new in-motion sports action photography project comes the challenge of selecting the right images out of the many available in order to capture the best in-motion action of that great moment in sports history.

Sports Action Photography

Films are comprised of thousands of individual frames. When films are projected the individual frames pass through the film gate at 24 frames-per-second and you see movement.  To give you an idea of time and frames – a pitcher winding up and throwing a baseball might take 4 seconds which represents 96 individual images and 28″ or 2 1/3′ of actual film.

History of Sports Action Photography

Motion pictures actually has it roots in action photography – a series of still photographs that when placed in sequence shows a subject in-motion.

In-motion sports action photography requires precise skills of being in the right place at the right time. Understanding the timing of specific actions you are trying to shoot allows you to capture the moment when the action is most dramatic.

Since photography is a still medium, it’s up to the photographer to employ specific camera techniques to shoot a series of shots that will convince the viewer they are not missing a moment of the action.

No one understands the principles behind action photography better than the men who are credited with inventing motion photography.

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)

Eadweard Muybridge was born Edward James Muggeridge in England in 1830 and is credited with inventing action photography. Using a sequence of pictures showing running figures he was the first to use photography to analyze movement in a systematic way.

Sports Action Photography

To document galloping horses, Muybridge set up a row of a dozen cameras rigged by a wire that connected to the shutters. The cameras shot a series of photos capturing the different phases of the animal’s motion. Muybridge’s experiments with action photography greatly influenced Thomas Edison and inspired the subsequent introduction of high-speed shutters into movie-making technology. For this reason, Muybridge’s work is considered the birth of early motion pictures.

To produce this sequence of pictures, Muybridge used fast-shutter cameras working simultaneously from three viewpoints. Muybridge was one of the first photographers to analyze body movements accurately.  Some of his pictures freeze actions occurring too fast for the human eye to follow. By presenting these pictures rapidly in sequence, the subject appears to move, a fact which influenced the inventors of the movie process. 

George William Beldam (1868-1937)

George Beldam descended from an English cricketing family, but went on to become a noted photographer when he learned how to combine his two passions. He is considered by many as one of the founding fathers of action photography.

Sports Action Photography

Beldam used the game of cricket as the focus of his first motion shots. He was also involved in other sports. Here is an example of his work showing sequential in- motion images of a golf swing.