The Skill of Preparation

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In omnibus negotiis prius quam aggrediare, adhibenda est præparatio diligens. (Cicero)

The above Latin sentence can be translated as: In all matters, before beginning, a diligent preparation should be made. It is authored to Cicero and thus is quite old. So it must be true ;)

I have previously covered two skills I consider important for successful^ picture taking: observation and improvisation. Today I will conclude the trilogy by discussing the most important of all the skills: preparation. (^ not that I consider myself a successful picture taker)


I am going to illustrate the talk with photos from a handball match that has been played in Turku recently. And the background of the story is that my previous experience with handball is a game I saw in TV a decade or so ago, once. I mean, I know the rules (more or less) and I could tell apart handball from volleyball ;) but knowing what the sport is about and knowing the sport are two different things.

So I started preparing.


I began by watching a few videos to get a feeling of the incredible pace of the game and to figure out moments that could be turned into memorable pictures. To be honest, handball is full of those, so during an event at least one is pretty much guaranteed.

A head full of handball

Of course, some luck is required, as in the case of the above picture. I did not aim for that shot, I did not even noticed I took it - my intention was to capture the moment in which the ball leaves the player's hand. Needless to say, I like this shot much better.


Once I knew what to expect from the game I started preparing my gear. That part is crucial, especially for those that are not equipped with ridiculously priced lenses.

Because the game was played inside I decided to take two prime lenses (tele and normal) with wide maximum aperture, to compensate for the lack of light. I was aware of the small depth of field and I thought it would be good. After all, my focus should be on one player - I planned to take nice photos, not document the game.

The reason for two lenses was that I did not know the distance from the crowd stands to the players. Now, being an experienced picture taker in that particular sports hall, I would take only one lens.


Next step was figuring out what would be a good spot in the crowd. Handball is not a popular sport in Finland and I expected there to be a lot of seats to choose from. My first guess was to try near the middle line, to have the entire field availabe. However, that would mean I am equally far away from both goals, where the action is. So I decided to sit near one of the goals and just switch lenses, if needed.


There was one more thing left to do - test shots. I arrived to the place a bit earlier to be able to take a few pictures before the game started. I was able to set the camera to where I thought I would get good results - which meant that when the game started, I was good to go.


Of more than 200 pictures snapped during the game those 8 I am sharing in this article I consider good. I have a strong feeling that without the preparation I would have even less.


This sums up the three-part blog series. As always, I hope you have enjoyed reading it. Thank you for your time and join me soon for another behind the scenes!