So, you've been shooting high school sports for a year or two and want to work your way up to bigger and better things. What is your next step? There are several possibilities. One way worth considering is to photograph JUCO sports. Access is much easier than for D1 and depending on the program, credentialing may involve nothing more than an email request to the AD. In my case, a casual acquaintance with an assistant coach paved the way for me to photograph the top rated JUCO football team and follow them all the way to a national championship. If junior colleges are not present in your area, consider other small college options. There are numerous quality D3 programs that don't have difficult access and if you've established yourself with a small town paper from your high school work, that will likely be sufficient to get credentials.
If you have the chance to shoot JUCO football, make it a point to shoot rising stars. The defensive end pictured below is Tank Carradine as seen in his days playing for the Butler County Grizzlies. Later, he starred for the Florida State Seminoles and is now playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
1/3200 sec. f/2.8, 400mm, ISO 400, Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS
On that same team was quarterback Zach Mettenberger. He left Butler and is now a very high profile player for the LSU Tigers.
1/800 sec, f/3.5, 400mm, ISO 400 Canon 1D Mark IV, f/3.5, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS
The opportunity to photograph rising stars requires no exceptional talent, just some homework. Today's JUCO stars are the D1 and possibly pro players of the future. The feature shots you take today may have value in the future. That may be in cash, creating a portfolio, or in obtaining credentials for higher levels of competition.
1/1250 sec, f/4.0, 560mm, ISO 125, Canon 1D X, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II Plus 1.4x TC III
1/1250 sec, f/4.0, 560mm, ISO 640, Canon 1D X, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II Plus 1.4x TC III
1/1250 sec, f/4.0, 560mm, ISO 320, Canon 1D X, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II Plus 1.4x TC III
One last item. Dont forget to get some shots of the coaches. They are on their way up the ladder just as you are. Do them a favor and they just may return it.
This shot of the head coach is still present on the team website.
1/3200 sec, f/3.5, 400mm, ISO 1600, Canon 1D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS
The assistant head coach.
1/1250 sec, 560mm, f/4.0, ISO 125, Canon 1D X, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II Plus 1.4x TC III
Every coach's wife likes to see her husband depicted in a favorable light. Don't underestimate the power of that!
Philip S. Zivnuska