The University Photographers’ Association of America (UPAA) conference in Allendale, Michigan is just days away, and we can’t wait!
We’ve been counting down to the conference by catching up with some incredible UPAA members. So far, we’ve shared some exciting projects these photographers are working on, their workflow tips and lessons learned, and their take on how video is affecting university photographers.
Today, we asked these pros to share the backstory behind one of their favorite images. We asked: What makes this image special and why are you proud of it? We want to know everything from why you took the image, to the gear you used, to how it moved your audience.
Check out their answers below, and share your own in the comments!
Donny Crowe, Louisiana Tech University
I was covering a football bowl game in Texas a few years ago. The score was close but we were a little behind. During the closing moments of the game we were getting closer to the goal line. As our team was lining up for what would be the winning field goal it started to rain. Action on the field didn’t slow down or stop so that I could cover myself or my equipment. I got a little wet but I did get a great photo of that field goal and the celebration after. I thank the manufactures of that gear for making it at least a little weather sealed.
As with almost everything I’m shooting right now I’m carrying a Nikon D500 with a 16-80mm lens. I’ll usually have a SB 910 for fill flash and extra cards and batteries. If I have a bunch of people with phones and other cameras trying to shoot the same group I’m shooting, I’ll turn that group so they are backlit put on a fill flash and know I may have the only property exposed group.
Cydney Scott, Boston University
BU’s physics department has an annual pumpkin drop around Halloween. They toss pumpkins of all sizes – painted or filled with shaving cream, thawed or frozen, from the roof to the concrete below and everyone Oooos and Ahhhs as they watch the pumpkins smash to the ground.
In 2016 I was shooting this now-redundant event, when something new happened – a bus load of kids from a nearby elementary school came to watch, and the result was one of my favorite shots. The variety of expressions in the kids’ faces reminds me of those in Alfred Eisenstadt’s The Dragon Is Slain, which was taken at a Paris puppet show in the 1960s and published in LIFE magazine (and was the photo what inspired me to become a professional photographer when I first laid eyes on it as a high schooler).
In my photo, the kids are reacting to the pumpkins dropping, while behind them, the adults hold smartphones up in the air to record some very bad video of the pumpkins dropping. I hope it brings a message to the viewer (if they are observant); Put your phone down. Enjoy the moment. Be a kid and just scream at the falling pumpkin as though you have NO IDEA WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN WHEN IT LANDS! I shot it with a Nikon D3s and a 70-200mm 2.8 lens.
Samantha Strahan, Ball State University
Heights have always been an iffy subject with me. When I joined the team at Ball State, I was informed our sports arena has a light right (catwalk) that makes for an interesting angle. I always vowed I would never make it up there because of my fear of heights.
During a gymnastics meet, all three photographers were covering to hopefully gather marketing materials for new graphics in the arena.
I’ve learned the more spontaneous I am about my decisions, the more likely I am to follow through rather than overthink and worry. I finally made my way up to the ring— albeit white knuckled the entire climb— telling myself, “it will be worth it. It will be worth it.”
Deep down, I wanted to go up at some point. I always try to be better than I was the last time; try something different. I had photographed the gymnastics team a week before, so I had a good idea of their routines for each event and where I should position myself. I was right; one of the moments I captured from my high perch quickly became my favorite photo (and definitely worth the climb.)
Kristen Grace, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida
Six years ago, my husband and I purchased a 3-acre property in an oak hammock that backs up to a 5,000 acre preserve. The preserve is one of the healthiest and most unique ecosystems in Florida. We dreamed of having green space where our daughters could immerse themselves in nature on a daily basis. This was our spot. We’ve encountered so many amazing wildlife sightings in our backyard… everything from deer and rabbits to otters and alligators. We’ve seen bobcats and heard coyotes. My daughters call back to the bard owls, and the variety of butterflies, moths, frogs and other small creatures is just astonishing. My most favorite surprise was the fireflies. I was born and raised in Florida, and until living in these woods, I did not know fireflies existed in Florida.
I first saw fireflies when I was a little girl visiting my grandparents in West Virginia. We would visit every summer, and I would squeal with delight chasing their twinkles in the hills. One spring at our home here in Gainesville, there was an incredible emergence of fireflies. Our woods were illuminated by what looked like thousands of twinkling green stars. They were crawling on our windows and in the grass. We were giddy with the sight.
I grabbed my youngest daughter, slung her onto my back and galloped through the trails we had blazed in the woods on our property. We both giggled with amazement and wonder as we ran through the humid spring air.
At that moment I longed for my camera. I brought her back into the house and grabbed my D700 with a 50mm 1.4 lens. I only took a few frames, as the emergence quickly dissolved into the night. This image was my favorite from that evening, and has become one of my most favorite images in my portfolio.
In 2016, the graphic design team was looking for a keystone image that would serve as the foundation of the design for the 100th anniversary materials for the museum centennial celebration in 2017. This image would be the driving force for the color scheme of the entire gala event. We scoured the museum photo database for “magical and whimsical” imagery. They weren’t finding what they wanted. On a whim, I sent them this firefly photo and it was a perfect fit.