Note: This is our last lesson of the day for the 2021-22 school year.
Featured article: “Our favorite sports photos of 2021» by the New York Times
Late last year, The New York Times asked photographers to choose their favorite sports images they shot in 2021 and explain why they liked them. They selected photos taken in skate parks and swimming pools, high school football games and Olympic trials, crowded streets and empty stadiums.
In this lesson, you’ll take a close look at these stunning images and discover what makes them important and meaningful to the people behind the lens. Next, we’ll invite you to take on the role of a photojournalist and document sports stories from your community that you think are worth sharing.
What do you think makes a good sports photo? Before looking at photos, make a list of the qualities you think are essential to sports photography.
Then watch the slideshow below of photos from The New York Times and The Associated Press, taken throughout history and today, and consider these questions:
What qualities do you notice in these sports photos that make them compelling? Add them to your list.
Do any of these images challenge your ideas about what constitutes good sports photography? If yes, which ones and why?
Which photos stand out to you the most? What do you admire about them?
Questions for writing and discussion
Read the articlethen answer the following questions:
1. What did you learn from the article about being a sports photographer? Was there anything that surprised you?
2. Which photo of the article struck you the most and why?
3. How was Chang W. Lee able to capture Simone Biles’ spectacular bird’s-eye view photo of the vault? What does this tell you about being a talented sports photographer?
4. “Exciting sports photography captures the competitive spirit, and some of the best moments are found on the outskirts,” wrote Todd Heisler. Do you agree? What do you think he meant by “found on the outskirts”? Which images best illustrate his statement?
5. Some of these photos do not take place at sporting events. Why do you think photographers chose them as their favorites of the year? What do they reveal about sport and the stories that photographs can tell? How do these images expand your understanding of compelling sports photography?
6. Go back to your list of qualities that you think make for strong sports photography. Would you change anything on your list now that you have read the article? What else could you add?
7. Did any of these stories remind you of a sporting moment you experienced in your own life?
Now it’s your turn: take what you’ve learned about sports photography and become a sports photojournalist for a day (or more!).
What sports stories in your community do you think deserve to be told? Here are some ideas:
To learn additional photography skills, check out this video from Mr. Heisler on how to think like a photographer (also embedded above), or This lesson in which he and two high school photography teachers share tips on how to take interesting portraits.
After the assignment, choose your favorite photo and write a paragraph explaining why it stood out to you, using the featured article For example.
Additional teaching and learning opportunities
The profession of photographer: Learn more about the life and preparation of a New York Times sports photographer by reading how Doug Mills photographed the Olympic trials or how Sarah Krulwich became the first woman to shoot on the football field during games at the University of Michigan.
Creative writing: Use your imagination to write the beginning of a short story or poem inspired by one of the photos you saw in this lesson, or tell us about a memory from your own life that the image reminds you of .
Favorite sports photos: Take a closer look at sports photography in the Times and elsewhere and write about the photos you found most effective. You might want to check out “Sports Illustrated”100 Greatest Sports Photos of All Time» from 2015, or the ESPN compilation of “Iconic sports images» from the 2010s. In the New York Times, you can consult the Sports section And “Our best photos from the Olympics.” You can also search online for a memorable photo of one of your favorite athletes and write about what the athlete and the photo mean to you.
Want more lessons of the day? You can find them all here.