Taking Pictures

Almost everyone in the gunblogging community knows who Oleg Volk is. Almost everyone in the professional shooting community knows who Yamil Sued is. What I find interested is that a lot of people who know who one of these great photographers is often don’t know about the other one; a fact which I can only attribute to Oleg being better known for political photos (and photos of boobies), and Yamil being generally known for his action pistol photos. As an example of what I’m talking about, check out this photo of Jerry Miculek.

The fact that the camera somehow caught the gun right as the round was going off so that you can see light coming out of the barrel and cylinder gap is one of the neatest effects I’ve seen in a gun related photo. Yamil seems to have a knack for capturing the best parts of “action shooting”, whether it’s shooters just as they’re breaking into a run, a reload with the empty magazine in the air, or my favorite type of gun photo – brass in the air.

One of the things that I’ve learned about action pistol photography from my own meager attempts at such is that to get those shots, you have to shoot a lot of pictures. It’s not like being a photography sniper, where you wait for the perfect shot. No, at least for me it’s more the “machine gun” approach. I find an angle to set up at, and then I just hold down the shutter button. I usually get 5-10 usable pictures for every hundred exposures, which makes me thankful for digital cameras, because I could not afford to be a photographer if I had to pay for actual film.

If you’re interested in Yamil’s work, he’s often featured in the Downrange.tv blogs as well, so make sure you watch that space for pictures by him.


  1. As a (former) wedding photographer, I’m going to disagree. You don’t have to take tons of photos, you simply have to cultivate your timing.

    For example, when shooting weddings and dancing, you have to develop a sense of rhythm. Not the music, but the dancers themselves. You wait until they are at the extreme edges of each motion before you depress the shutter button. You don’t want to capture them straight up and down, but rather on the sides.

    At first, you burn a lot of pictures getting your timing right, but eventually, you simply get the feel for it and you end up with 1/4 of the shots, but almost 100% good ones.

    I’m sure shooting people shooting is the same. You develop the rhythm necessary to ‘feel’ exactly when the picture will look the best.

    I’ve wanted to try my hand at that kind of photography, but alas, I would rather shoot the gun than the camera.

  2. As a (former) commercial photog for 15 years, it’s a bit of both. I assisted for Will McDonough and a bunch of other Sports Illustrated shooters when they would came into town, and they’d blast away thousands of frames during a typical NBA game just to get that one shot worthy of the cover. SI’s usual setup for America West Arena was:

    1 35mm Nikon with a 300mm 2.8 pointed straight down over center-court for the jump balls
    2 Hassie ELX’s on MagicArm’s attached to each backboard, one behind the glass, one on the post
    1 35mm Nikon with a 300 2.8 for far court action
    1 ELX with a 100 or 120mm for near court action
    4 Speedotron 4800 w/s packs, one in each corner of the arena with 1 head each, all hard wired to each of those cameras.

    That’s 7 cameras and 12,800 watt seconds, just for one NBA game.

    The Hassies were all running 70mm backs (that’s 70 exposures before swapping them out), and I spent the entire game sitting right behind the shooter, furiously unloading, numbering and reloading the Hassie backs and Nikons. Nowadays it’s all digital, so the days of assistants speed-loading Hassie backs are long gone.

    The next time you watch an NBA game, look for a bunch of wires running from the back of the backboard post up into the rafters: Those are ziplines for the shooter’s strobes.

    Is it luck? Is it equipment? Is practice and experience?

    Yes. 🙂

  3. As everyone has already mentioned above, it’s a bit of both rapid fire and timing. More like burst fire. My last range session, I took along the D90 and ratcheted the shutter speed up to 1/4000 for catching brass. I posted a couple of the results the other day, but there were a whole bunch of them where I got brass in the air. I’d say the incidence was 1 in 4 or 5 out of the shots where I was trying for it. Really, it’s a matter of practice, timing, and having an idea of what you want to do and how to accomplish it in the first place.

  4. Hey,

    Thanks for the kind comments.

    I guess the 24 years of Experience behind the camera count for something 😉

    The fact is that I love what I do and sometimes it shows 😀

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