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Sheridan College athletics Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly, Marketing and Information Coordinator for Sheridan Athletics and a 2005 print journalism grad, has developed both a passion and a knack for telling sports stories through photography. Inspired by his work, I asked him to explain how he manages to capture the emotion that often arises in athletic contests but that can dissipate faster than the speed of the shutter.

“Over time, I’ve just learned to focus on getting the reaction shots instead of the action ones” said Kelly. “When I started out four years ago, my goal was to capture the key play of the game, which you can shoot fairly easily. But I realized that the best way to get people to understand what happened – especially for people who weren’t at the game – is to capture the emotion that results from the play.”

“Over time, I’ve just learned to focus on getting the reaction shots instead of the action ones” – Ryan Kelly

According to Kelly, the type of sporting event he’s covering dictates where he needs to be in order to get the pictures he wants. “For basketball, I try to keep behind the baskets, whichever way our team is moving offensively, so that I can see their faces. For volleyball, I tend to move around quite a bit and the same is true for rugby and soccer. With the outdoor events, good shots also depend on avoiding shadows and glare.”

Director of Athletics Jim Flack. Photo by Ryan Kelly

Director of Athletics Jim Flack at the end of a Sheridan Men’s Bruins basketball game. Photo by Ryan Kelly.

Apart from tricks he’s picked up through a course on photo journalism and years of experimentation, Kelly may be somewhat of a natural.    “I’ve always had an artistic approach to things. I used to draw a lot when I was a kid, so I think that helps me with the framing and the composing of the shots that I take.  Photography also runs in my family.  My dad is an amateur photographer and I found out only recently that my grandfather – who has now passed away – used to really enjoy photography too.”

While Kelly didn’t play varsity sports, he’s a huge sports fan and served as a peer mentor in Sheridan’s athletics department while he was a student.  “There’s so much that you can learn from sports.  For one thing, it teaches you to deal with failure.  Obviously no one likes to fail at anything, but with sports, it is easier to compartmentalize because most people can accept that you’re not going to win every game.  Learning to deal with failure is a critically important life skill because it’s essentially giving you feedback as to what you need to fix and where you need to develop in order to meet your goals. And in competitive sports, you’re receiving that feedback constantly. ”

Sheridan College athletics Ryan Kelly

Members of the Sheridan Women’s Bruins volleyball team celebrate after a point. Photo by Ryan Kelly

Kelly’s all-time favourite photo was taken a few years ago during a soccer match.  “It was overtime during a playoff game that had been scoreless until that point.  There was a penalty kick awarded to Sheridan and we scored. Everyone ran to the corner of the field to the exact spot where I happened to be. It was just the perfect moment.”

True to his easy-going character, Kelly suggests that “ultimately, it’s about finding a good spot, having a good angle, having the right lighting and a lot of trial and error.” Spoken like a true professional.


Pictured at top of page: Sheridan Men’s Soccer players celebrating a goal. Photo by Ryan Kelly

Written by: Christine Szustaczek, Director of Communications and External Relations at Sheridan.

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