Travel Photography Subjects: Sports

Travel Photography Subjects: Sports

081130-150725-5867 This post is number five of twenty one subjects that will help you focus when on your next journey and you wish to bring back a well rounded story of where you were.  If you’re just going on vacation and only want pictures of yourself by the pool sipping boat drinks, then you can probably skip this one.  These posts are not intent on telling you everything you need to do, step by step, to capture perfect, cookie-cutter pictures while traveling.  Instead, they are intent on pointing out some vital elements to capture when on the road and ask thought provoking questions you may want to ask yourself.  My hope is they help guide you to find your own means to better expressing what your travels have meant to you and present that in the best light possible.

It’s easy with the World Cup happening right now to see many countries’ interest in sports.  Indeed, soccer or football or fútbol or whichever name you give it, is the most played sport by any account.  I’ve seen it played along the Inca Trail in small villages with not enough space for a full field (pictured here) and in the town of Moulay Idriss along the Moroccan countryside.  Kids in the streets of Ireland, Nepal and the USA will pick up games with little provocation.  It blankets Latin America and many parts of the world with its influence.

Beyond the professional teams, sports can be viewed and photographed a couple of ways when traveling.  First, there are the players and action.  The younger crowd of any sport can usually be found out in the streets.  And by that I mean open lots and fields or recreation areas.  If you’re trying to catch the older, more serious crowd, you’ll often need access to a sports club.  If you’re unfamiliar with the sport, just sit with your camera off for a bit and try to get a feel.  Ask a likely spectator to help you understand.  Learning about how the game is played will help you anticipate the best time to take a photo.  But don’t forget to also get some shots when there is no action.  It’s often comical to catch a baseball outfielder zoning out while a new pitcher warms up.  Also look to faces when capturing action.  The concentration most sports require shows on the faces of those playing in vastly different manners.  Emotions are high and often extreme depending on the fervor of the match.  Turn to the spectators too and get some photos of those cheering on the players.

Second, take a look at how the sport has impacted the country.  From clothes to street names to the massive stadiums built for professional events, the love of certain sports will make itself known in any fanatic country.  Are the major teams logos and likenesses plastered every where you see?  Does getting around a city turn to a standstill when a match is about to start, or just finishing?  Where do locals congregate to watch a game?  Does the favorite sport change as you move around the country?

Lastly, take a moment to set down your camera and join in on a game if you get the chance.  Sports, especially team sports, can be an excellent tool for bridging a language or cultural barrier when visiting a foreign country.  A strange photographer standing on the sidelines quickly becomes a deserving teammate who gets a beer and makes new friends when she takes the chance to ask to enter the game.

If you have favorite sports photos from your travels, please share them in the comments section below.


Previous articles in the Travel Photography Subjects series include Water, Old People, Young People and Religion.  Be sure to subscribe to the this site to receive the other 16 subjects as they are posted!

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

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  • Reysbro September 4, 2010 05:31 am

    Boys playing soccer at 4100m above sea level in Nepal.
    Every once in a while they'd sit down to get some air...or whenever the ball went flying down a precipice.
    [eimg url='' title='425698508_rmG5D-M-2.jpg']
    [eimg url='' title='425699246_k6aKN-M-3.jpg']

  • Jim Chisholm July 13, 2010 02:37 pm

    Great article. I captured this image of a long jumper as she explodes into her jump.[eimg link='' title='Long-Jumper' url='']

  • Jim Chisholm July 13, 2010 02:14 pm

    Great article. I love capturing the intesity of sport. This was taken at the Harry Jerome track meet in Burnaby. I like the way the light captures the intensity in her face.[eimg url='' title='Long+Jumper.jpg.html']

  • Marie_Chouette July 10, 2010 01:35 pm

    You have to be on the look out for sports picture while traveling. Sometimes opportunities happen only a few seconds after you turn the corner street.

    In Ubud, Bali after school is over.. kids still wearing their school clothes run out and have fun before they head home.

    [eimg link='' title='MCDupuis enfants5' url='']

  • Katie-Lee July 10, 2010 12:06 am

    [eimg link='' title='IMG_1331' url='']
    Playing soccer is at the center of every young boys heart - even in Eastern Chad! Can get rather dusty though - particularly in the dry season.

  • Bhaai Cassim July 9, 2010 06:51 pm


    As much as I enjoy watching action sport, I have even greater pleasure in photographing those moments which make these occasions special.

    I request your advise on fast moving subjects under artificial lighting conditions (e.g. floodlit sports such as football, rugby, etc.) and in particular camera settings to attain crisp photographs with no motion blur under such conditions.

    I await your reply in anticipation.

    Thank you for a fantastic website!

    Kind regards,

    Bhaai Cassim
    South Africa

  • Sonia July 9, 2010 02:31 pm

    Working at a local Thai school, gave me the chance to photograph the local kids playing football.[eimg link='' title='Free Kick' url='']

  • Phill July 9, 2010 11:01 am

    Timing and knowing how the action happens are 2 very important aspects for good sports photos

  • Lori July 9, 2010 10:28 am

    [eimg link='' title='Chargers vs Giants (11/8/09)' url='']

  • Erin July 9, 2010 03:49 am

    I just got back from a trip to a few baseball games and a MLS game, took pictures at each event. The pictures here are from a single A baseball game. I like the idea of getting shots of spectators, I'll have to remember that for next time.

  • Danielle Bright July 7, 2010 01:52 am

    I had the opportunity to photograph a coupe girl's softball teams. I didn't travel out of the country, but I will keep in mind sports photography if I ever do.

    [eimg url='' title='sports.html']

  • Maik-T. Šebenik July 7, 2010 12:19 am

    Interesting article! I never payed much attention to sports photography while traveling.
    Nevertheless, here's a shot of swimmers in a pool in Barcelona:
    [eimg link='' title='Swimming Pool' url='']

    With kind regards from Germany,

  • Killian July 7, 2010 12:00 am

    I love doing sports shots! I do all of my son's soccer team's shots, along with any other sports I can find.

    Recently, I did some surfing shots as well that were fun.

  • Katie July 6, 2010 07:27 am

    I LOVE taking sports pictures! Probably my favorite to shoot. My son played T-Ball this year and I took pics for our team and started a blog. The last 2 games never made it up.

  • Bastien July 6, 2010 06:50 am

    I was actually quite happy with this picture i took from kids playing basketball in the center of Ulaanbaatar last Fall Your picture above directly made me think of it. Thanks for the great tips.