Over the last several years, I have photographed hundreds of events across a wide variety of sports. Each time I encounter a new one, I have to try to understand the nuances that make that sport unique in order to photograph it well. Finding the right angles and positions to capture peak action is always the challenge. And so it was when I shot my first Ultimate games the other day.
From a newbie's perspective, I can tell you one thing I noticed very quickly: ultimate players have to be in really good shape. They are constantly running in efforts to find space or to defend an opponent.
Sudden changes in direction are critical, and flying a disc in a way that meshes the wind direction with the pace of the receiver is not an easy skill to master. These games were played on a hot summer evening, too, which made fitness even more of a critical necessity.
As opposed to football, where the passes are direct and seemingly faster, a disc often floats in such a way that capturing an athlete at the height of their jump to catch the pass is relatively easier for a photographer. That's not to say that it's easy because you still have to understand the flow of the game. The movement up and down the field is not as much of a march as it is a transition. Play sometimes goes backward, like soccer, in order to maintain possession.
Defending in Ultimate seems a lot like defending in basketball: you try to prevent the other player from making the pass he wants to make. But it's also like football in that you have to defend a long downfield pass, too.
It's clear that Ultimate players really love their sport, and it's an easy sport to love. It's outside, it's fresh, and it doesn't require much equipment at all. In the games I saw that night, young played with old, men played with women and camaraderie and team spirit were high. Lots of intensity and emotion to capture.
You can see more Ultimate images online.