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Last weekend was a very fun weekend for sports photography. Thanks to Mike Carey of M.R. Paintball, I had the opportunity to photograph the sport of paintball up close and personal at the CPPL Alberta Conference Event #1, which was held at Bragg Creek Paintball in Bragg Creek, Alberta. Joining my girlfriend Kim who was playing for the Hungarian Hitmen, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to document the action from directly on the playing field. If you missed my interview with Kim, you can read it here.
Having never photographed paintball before, my adrenaline was pumping and I was extremely excited. I made sure to do as much research as I possibly could before stepping onto the field, so that I had an idea of what I was getting in to. I already had all of the protective gear I would need, both for myself and for my camera equipment, and after spending a lot of time looking at photos by paintball photographers like Gary Baum and Jimmy Hickey, I was confident that I could produce some solid imagery.
Before the tournament began, i made sure to introduce myself to all of the field officials so that they knew my name and we could coordinate movements along the side of the field. As a photographer, I didn’t want to interfere with them in any way, so I had to make sure that when I moved, I moved quickly. They were all really cool with everything and they were even kind enough to help me out by giving me pointers regarding where key player positions were on the field. The result was that I didn’t stand in one place for very long. The action moves and it moves fast, so I had to move just as fast to keep up. Watching the gameplay, seeing who’s moving and who isn’t, determining which team is winning, moving back and forth along the sideline, and constantly trying to avoid being the target. It was tough, but it was fun.
It only look a few games for me to learn where the best points to stand were, as well as where not to stand. Did I get shot? Yes. A lot. My protective gear saved me 99% of the time, but I did take some shots to the side and front of my lens, one of which was almost a direct hit onto my filter. On a positive note… I did manage to capture some splats, which in the world of paintball photography is considered to be a very special moment in time.
After photographing over 12 hours of paintball over the span of two days, I can tell you that my legs and arms were just as tired as if I had played a full weekend of Rugby. Because you have to wear a mask on the field just like the players and referees, there were a couple of times where a player on the field thought I was an opposing player because all they could see was my head behind a bunker. I learned that I had to constantly watch my position and what player was between me and their opponent, so that I could move out of the line of fire. Just like the player in my photo below, I ended up taking a shot to the face in the second match of the day. Thankfully, it was the first and only, aside from constantly getting sprayed by paintballs exploding against bunkers. Wiping down my lens became a ritual after each match.
Overall, I think my first attempt at photographing paintball was a great success. I’ve had incredibly positive feedback regarding my photographs from the event so far and I am already looking at schedules to see when the next events are. I can’t wait to get back on the field. If you want to see more, here is a much larger collection of my images from the Alberta E1 event.
Here are some photos that Kim took of me after my lens was introduced to some paint.
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