Being someone who is 6 ft. 6 in. tall, every so often I am asked the question, “Did you ever play basketball?” Aside from informal pick-up games with friends on the playground, I never played organized ball in school. I was always drawn more to sports like baseball and cycling. But I’ve always enjoyed watching basketball and following the progress of certain teams and athletes, both professional and collegiate.
So I was very excited to have the opportunity early in 2011 to photograph a couple of University of Richmond basketball players at the campus’ Robins Center arena. Brittani Shells and Justin Harper were two standout players who’ve gone on to play for professional teams since graduating last spring, Shells with a team in Israel and Harper with the Orlando Magic of the NBA.
With each of them I wanted to create a portrait that was somewhat unique, and not simply a headshot of them holding a basketball. Way too many of those kinds of media shots out there. With Brittani, I wanted the camera to have a very low viewpoint, so that she would appear more prominent in the setting. This meant I had to be flat on my stomach with camera at the floor, looking up. Being a tall photographer, getting myself smaller is always a challenge I’m faced with when doing shoots. I also wanted dramatic light, so I lowered the ambient (available) light of the arena with the exposure and lit Brittani exclusively with off-camera flash, one to camera right through an umbrella and one to the left for a slight edge light. I may also have had the on-camera pop-up flash triggered for a slight fill light.
For Justin, I did some shots of him on the court with the basket in the background, but then moved to a second location, the seats near courtside. One thing I had underestimated with the 6 ft. 10 in. senior was getting his huge frame into a spectator’s seat (something I should have realized, as I am always apprehensive about things like movie theatre and airline seating myself! Where to put the knees?) This setting also required a step-stool for me to get up to his eye-level while shooting, always a handy thing to bring along on a shoot! I wanted his shots to be somewhat more relaxed and not as “game-time” intense, so I tried to keep up some light conversation as I shot, to hopefully, capture a genuine moment with him. The lighting setup was somewhat similar to Brittani’s, with the key light on the right and rim light above and to the left.
They were really great to work with during these shoots, and I’m so proud to see these two student-athletes go on to fulfill their dreams of playing basketball after college. Good luck Brittani and Justin! And go Spiders!