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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Bringing Your Gear to and Photographing Sporting Events

06 May 2008

If you’re out in the world and have the opportunity and the interest to see a live sporting event, you should do so.  It is a wonderful insight on the culture and can be a lot of fun.

However, some rules must be observed before you try to pack up all your gear and head out to the match.

First, you must consider the following:

Are you going to watch the game or photograph it?

If you’re going to photograph it, be aware that many venues have restrictions on photography equipment, including lens focal length and the use of mono or tripods.

If you want to bring in those things, you may need a media pass or permission from the team or venue.


The venue will tell you what they consider to be professional gear.  Do not argue.  They will win.

Consider the following from the Atlanta Braves MLB baseball team:

Hand-held video cameras and still cameras for personal use may be brought into the ballpark, provided no game action is recorded in accordance with Major League Baseball regulations. Please be courteous to those guests around you when taking pictures, the equipment may not obstruct the view of other guests. Camera cases must fit through the bag template and will be inspected prior to entrance into the ballpark. Tripods and monopods are prohibited.

So you can bring your camera, but no support and your bag must fit in the bag template.  Fair enough.

Here’s something from Philips Arena, home to the Atlanta Thrashers NHL hockey team and the NBA's Atlanta Hawks:|1#8

Can I bring a still or video camera to a Philips Arena event?
• Still cameras are allowed at all sporting events, including Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Georgia Force games.
So here there is no mention of any kind of bag size or tripod restriction.

Now let’s go across the street to the Georgia Dome, home of the NFL Atlanta Falcons:

• Backpacks and large bags over 8.5" wide x 13" long x 5" deep are not permitted
• ALL persons, small bags and purses are subject to inspection
So now you know you are restricted about the size of the camera bag you are allowed to bring to the venue.  But what about cameras?

• Small personal cameras are allowed
• Professional cameras and cameras with interchangeable lenses are prohibited

There you have it.  If you want to record your experience at the Georgia Dome, bring a small camera.

The point is that within the same town (and sometimes the same venue), rules change regarding cameras and what you’re allowed to do.
This is very important because venues may not have a bag check or any place to leave the things you aren’t allowed to bring inside.

It was pretty easy to find this information, because the venues mentioned above are in the United States, they have well-organized Web sites in English and the information is easily obtained.

However, if you’re in another country, coming across this information may be a little more difficult.  If you know you’re going to an event, try to find out ahead of time what the rules are for that venue.  Your best resource would be the concierge at the hotel who could contact the venue on your behalf.

You may also want to check the Web before you leave on your trip, but know that reliable information can be hard to find.  Except for Get Out The, of course.

If you’re going to watch the game, leave your heavy photo gear at the hotel and go to the game with your small point and shoot camera, making sure you have enough space on your memory card.

You’ll find you’ll have more fun at the game if you don’t have to worry about keeping track of expensive and fragile camera gear.

If you bring your point and shoot to any game, here are a few suggestions on what to photograph while you’re at the venue.

First off, unless you’re very close to the field, you can forget close-up shots of the athletes, so mid-range and wide shots are where you’ll get your best results. 

Also, don’t try to capture every play.  Take a few of each team on the field (in baseball, for example, a couple with the home team on the field and a couple with the visiting team on the field).

Instead, focus on what makes that venue special, such as:
What are the identifying features of that stadium? 
Who are the sponsors? 
Do you see familiar brands written in the local language? 
How are the fans dressed? 
What local fare are they selling at the concession stands?
What are they selling at the merchandise stands? 
What do the uniforms look like? 
What are the logos of the teams that are playing? 
Are the spectators involved in any kind of visually impressive ritual (Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel, the Wave…)?
Does that team/country/venue perform any kind of ceremony before the match? (National anthem, prayer, throwing Christians to lions, etc).
Does the team/country/venue perform any kind of ceremony during or after the match? (Seventh inning stretch, half time performances, mascot hockey between periods, etc).

Be aware of people who are at the event taking photographs professionally and try not to get in their way.  They are there to make money and make a living.  Be courteous and let them do so.

Have fun and enjoy the match!

© 2008

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