With the super-telephoto zoom in the stadium

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With the super-telephoto zoom in the stadium

Exciting football photos need some experience. No problem for Dierk Kowalke. The professional photographer already shot his first sports photo over 40 years ago. Now he returned with the Tamron SP 150-600 mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD back into the stadium - and he was delighted with the performance of the zoom objective.

"Yes! Final whistle! Away win, "Werder Bremen tweeted after 4: 1 in Leverkusen. Not a jubilee for Bayer fan Dierk Kowalke. The passionate sports photographer had kept his fingers crossed for his home team. Hi followed the game most of the time through the viewfinder of his professional DSLR - and thereby attracted the looks of the other photographers on the sidelines again and again. "Many of the colleagues rubbed their eyes in amazement when I attached the quite compact telephoto zoom by Tamron to my camera," says Dierk Kowalke. "They did not want to believe that I achieve equally professional image results with the rather cost-efficient zoom as with the high-intensity super-telephoto objectives."

Dierk Kowalke has been taken photos for 50 years, since he first held a camera in his hands at the age of 13. Even at school he worked as a photojournalist for local newspapers. His talent did not go unnoticed and the Düsseldorfer Nachrichten and the Rheinische Post soon printed his photos. "I particularly love sports photography - no matter what sport," says Dierk Kowalke. "At the end of the 1960s I the applied successfully to the press agency dpa and the Sportagentur Horstmüller". He was taken on promptly and thus regularly stood behind the goal line with the single-lens reflex camera during games of the German Football League as a pupil and a student.

Exciting moments: With the SP 150-600 mm, Dierk Kowalke also captured this foul on Bayer-04-striker Stefan Kiessling.

Fascination human being

Professionally, Dierk Kowalke has been driven towards the economy over the years. Since 2001 he mainly works as a business photographer. "The journalistic embossed photography, the documenting of events and the human being are thereby quite clearly in the centre," says Dierk Kowalke. "I call it people at work - whether supervisory board chief, boiler suit or sportsmen, they determine my motives."

A few months ago, Dierk Kowalke rediscovered his old passion for sports photography. What fascinates him about this until this day? "In sports photography, the appeal is the premonition of what will happen. You usually do not notice anything about the sport itself. Just only snapshots. And if they were okay, you only notice afterwards. Furthermore, there is always dynamics in play. Whether it is football, athletics, golf or aero wheel. And above all, you have master your hardware and your craft as a sports photographer. Technical mistakes are unacceptable. In that case, others take better pictures, and I do not earn any money. "

Close to the action: with the large focal length range from 150 mm to 600 mm, remote and close game scenes can be set optimally in the image.

Storytelling with the camera

Each sporting event follows a dramaturgy. Careful scanning after the whistle, full of emotions into half-time and then the final phase, in which the tension heats up to boiling point. "This story of a game is told with the large number of photos, there are often several thousand or more per game," says Dierk Kowalke. "As a photo motif, I mainly need the the fight for the ball, the foul, the yellow or red cards, the emotion, the joy and the sadness. Of course, also the goal, though not necessarily together with the goal keeper and the ball in the net. This is usually carried nowadays by the fixed position, remote-controlled cameras behind the goal. The right trigger moment is important, which I have to guess in advance. The fast continuous shooting of modern DSLRs only helps here conditionally."

Throughout his career, Dierk Kowalke has witnessed many developments in the photo technology at first hand. How much has sports photography has changed in recent decades? "The introduction of digital photography has logically brought on great changes. Before, I sat behind the goal with a SLR, which was equipped with a 135-mm telephoto and set at a distance of 15 meters. This functioned quite passably. In addition, we still had a 400-mm or 560-mm super telephoto at the ready. The agency business was exciting and fast, after the game, we often had develop 200 large black and white copies in about ten minutes. This is different nowadays: you are still sitting behind the goal, but mostly closer to the corner flag or even to the side edge. The standard objectives during the game are the 300 or 400 with brightness F2.8, additionally perhaps the 70-200, and later the 24-70. The images are partially already processed on the laptop during the game and are uploaded to photo websites. "

Beautiful releases: even though Dierk Kowalke photographed with an aperture f/8, a sufficient low depth of field results with the telephoto focal lengths of the zoom. The focussed main motif optimally comes into its own in front of the blurred background.

Autofocus virtually perfect

But not only the focal lengths and the image delivery have changed. The camera technology makes it easier than ever for the photographer to shoot beautiful pictures. "The DSLR technology is now virtually perfect and superior to analogue photography by far. This is shown especially in the fast autofocus and the accurate focus tracking. Only during the exposure measurement, the current systems in sports photography still reach their limits. For floodlights in the stadium or in the hall, the manual exposure adjustment is often the best solution. "

With which camera settings does Dierk Kowalke typically work during German Football League games? "A fast shutter speed is important in order to be able to image the fast movements sharply. In the case of the Tamron SP 150-600 mm, ISO 6400, 1 / 1,000 seconds and aperture 8 are my choice, "he says. "Sure, an aperture of 8 is already bold, and ISO 6400 especially, but it works."

Fully running: even fast game scenes like this duel, which is delivered by Karim Bellarabi with a Bayer player can be captured sharply with the fast USD autofocus of the SP 150-600 mm.

Constantly on the ball

The best Dierk Kowalke likes about the 150-600 is, that he, unlike many of his colleagues, shoots 90 percent of his images with a single objective – never mind whether the motif happens in front of a penalty box or in the opposite penalty box. "I appreciate the zoom application simply because I am constantly on the ball. With the autofocus, there is nothing to complain about, even with fast movements towards the camera, it can provide the fast fixed focal lengths Paroli. "

The SP 150-600 mm is also at eye level in terms of sharpness. "Mathematically, there may be disadvantages in the zoom objective, but in practice this is not decisive. The 600mm of the zoom are superior to the 400-mm fixed focal length in the section, this is an advantage, as I do not need a section enlargement. On top of that, the 150-600 is of course lighter and less ؘ- this also shows when working with a monopod. "

Tell stories: not only the game scenes, but also the team line-up is part of the compulsory programme of a sports photographer. Dierk Kowalke could choose a perfect section from his location with the SP 150-600 mm.

The appeal of photography

In his long career, Dierk Kowalke has already photographed a lot and seen much more. What motivates him to press the trigger again and again? A short answer is not easy, the photographer smirks. "In short, it is the appeal to create an image of reality, of which the viewer says: hey, it’s impressive how many details can be captured in a photo! Admittedly, I often say this the next day myself, if I have enough distance from the shoot. "

5 Professional tips for budding sports photographers

  1. The technology of photography is in principle unchanged for over 175 years. Try to understand the operation of optical systems and camera technology at least to some extent!
  2. The photographer has to guess what will happen. When I watch and then decide to shoot, I am usually too late. Think ahead!
  3. Be inspired by others, good ideas can be copied. This means: look what other photographers are doing, implement this for yourself and develop your own photograph from this!
  4. Play with the camera! There is nothing like experimenting. This is not a problem with the DSLR: after all, there is a delete button.
  5. Train communication with customers! Beyond the edge of the field, the advice what can be possible and is feasible, and the understanding of customer needs is essential.
Start of the season: on Mallorca, Dierk Kowalke accompanied a cycle race team in the spring during their first excursions. Atmospheric images of the training group were achieved with the SP 150-600 mm.

About the author: Dierk Kowalke

Dierk Kowalke works as a freelance photographer, business advisor and lecturer in Leverkusen and Cologne. His areas of expertise include, among others, economic reports and portraits of business leaders. After his course of studies, he completed a traineeship as a text editor at the Rheinische Post in Düsseldorf. Later, he joined the Handelsblatt and the Prisma publisher, before he took over the post of press officer and head of internal communications at the Metro group. In 2001 he started his own business with a communications agency with a focus on photography. Since 2012, he is a lecturer of photography at the Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Cologne.

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