Historical Society program on sports photography Feb. 10

Capturing the drama, fun & excitement of sports in photos

~by Chuck Offenburger for the Greene County Historical Society

The Greene County Iowa Historical Society begins its 2019 programming with a special feature program on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 10, on “The Past, Present & Future of Sports Photography.”

Presenting will be two well-known newspaper photographers in west central Iowa – Jeff Storjohann of the Carroll Daily Times Herald and Brandon Hurley of the Jefferson Herald.
They will discuss and share their work at the 2 pm free program at the historical museum at 219 E. Lincoln Way in Jefferson. The museum’s display of cameras used through the decades will be available, too.

Jeff Storjohann

Storjohann, 53, is in his 26th year as a photographer with the Carroll newspaper, and he is generally regarded as one of the best sports, news and feature photographers working in Iowa today.

He is a native of Gladbrook in east central Iowa. He earned a photojournalism degree from Hawkeye Tech in Waterloo, where he was trained in news, sports, commercial, industrial and portrait photography. He served as a photo “stringer” for the Marshalltown Times Republican during his school years, and landed his first newspaper job in Postville in northeast area before moving to Carroll.

“My father Don Storjohann, who was an amateur photographer, is really the person that got me started down this path,” Jeff said. “We used to shoot black & white film, and set up a darkroom in the bathroom, which was the only one in our house. This was sometimes a hardship for a family of five at bedtime, when they had to wait for film to be loaded or prints to be made.”

Of course, there’s little use of black & white film today and even less darkroom work being done now, after all the advances in color technology and digital photography. There’s more emphasis than ever before on the quality of the pictures.

Storjohann said he began his sports photography career using a Pentax K 1000 35-millimeter camera, then shot Canon cameras for 35 years, “until last year when I made the switch to a Fuji mirrorless system.” He said “that’s just a teaser to get people to attend the program to learn why I prefer a mirrorless system and the lens collection that goes with it.”

He said he’s learned a lot over the years by closely observing several photographers for the Des Moines Register, most notably the retired Pulitzer Prize winner David Peterson. “I consider one of the absolute best track & field photographers ever,” Storjohann said. “I think his strength was his knowledge of the sport, since he ran track at Kansas State University. I used to watch him at high school and Drake Relays events, just to see where or what location he would shoot from, and then try and visualize what he’d see in the viewfinder from that spot. That sort of taught me how to ‘see’ the world around me without looking through the lens.”

Brandon Hurley

Hurley, 29, now closely watches the work of Storjohann – and other good shooters around the state – to help him improve his photography.

He is a native of Ames who is a graduate of the University of Iowa Journalism School. He began his newspaper career as a staff writer with the Dickinson County News in Spirit Lake for four years, then worked for a time as sports editor of the Boone News-Republican and for the last 2-1/2 years has been with Herald Publishing. He serves as sports editor of the Jefferson Herald and also contributes regularly to the Daily Times Herald in Carroll.

“When it comes to sports photography, I’m for the most part self-taught,” Hurley said. “It’s always been something that is expected of my job. I have really only been a sports photographer for four years, and it’s been pretty much on-the-job training since then. I pick Jeff’s brain on occasion, while other times it’s a lot of trial and error for me. I’m still learning how to find the best angles and proper lighting. For me, it’s a continual learning process.”

He generally uses a Canon 7D camera with a 70-to-200 millimeter telephoto lens.
Hurley says he enjoys sports photography more than news and feature photography “because there’s always action, always a chance for a new and interesting shot. You will always have something to capture – whether it’s the first tip of a game or a third-down catch midway through the last quarter. The opportunity for images always seems to be there, which is what makes it so fun. Plus, it’s not too bad a gig to be right down on the sidelines of some pretty cool sporting events.”

When Storjohann, the older pro, is asked if he likes sports photography more than news or features, he says “that answer is yes – and no.

“It’s ‘yes’ in the sense that I love the challenge of capturing that single, solitary ‘moment’ that defines most, but not all, sporting events,” he said. “The challenge comes from first determining when that ‘moment’ is happening and then having the skills to capture it. The truth is it takes some luck, too, but you can make your own luck in a game, or at least bring the odds in your favor.

“But it’s ‘no’ in the sense that you can have technically great photos from a game but you completely missed that ‘moment.’ ”

People are invited to bring their own cameras and photos to get tips about them from Storjohann and Hurley.

There will also be free refreshments.

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