Like math, sports is a common language between humans, it can connect and challenge people all at once. This is the very reason Ike Han loves capturing sports games so much, he can feel the player’s spirit unfold as the game does.
It was his grandfather who first influenced Ike, seeing him work as a photo journalist and travel photographer, Ike has always been surrounded by amazing works. However, Ike’s bread and butter was painting, as an avid artist he would cover every surface possible in ink. When studying took priority his hobby was set aside for school, and it wasn’t until entering college that he discovered the joys of taking pictures; he had found a creative connection between painting and photography, whereby both allowed him to share a story.
“As I was becoming more and more addicted to photography, I started to learn and compile relevant knowledge from magazines and the Internet. I borrowed my father's DSLR and started my photography in 2012 when I was a junior in college, it has been a part of my life ever since.”
Being in college he frequented many college games, giving him ample opportunities to capture high adrenaline games. His earlier images have evolved from the ones we see now, his early aesthetics included over sharp imagery and high contrast tones–“as I took more photos I realized giving photos a story is more important than just the aesthetic skills. Stories that the photo encompasses are the soul of the photo, they bring the feelings that you had when you shot the pictures to the readers. Otherwise, it's just a one-dimensional graphic without emotional depth.”
Jasmine Harris of Central Michigan keeps the ball from stealing during the game between Central Michigan University and Indiana State Sycamores on 11-13-2015 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan - Nikon D800, ISO1600, f/2.2, 1/1000 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G at 85mm
Savannah Beetcher of Central Michigan passes the ball during the match between Central Michigan University and Depaul University on 9-14-2015 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan - Nikon D800, ISO320, f/3.2, 1/5000 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8D IF-ED at 300mm
#8 of Central Michigan competes for the ball during the match between Central Michigan University and Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne on 9-19-2014 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan - Nikon D800, ISO400, f/5.6, 1/4000 seconds, AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED at 300mm
Central Michigan guard Chris Fowler passes the ball to DaRohn Scott during the match between Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University on 3-4-2016 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan - Nikon D800, ISO800, f/2.2, 1/300 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G at 50mm
Having passion for photography and the understanding the spirit behind sports are the two most important factors when shooting different sports. Ike’s set up is also crucial, usually there are more than one photographers present at the game, each with their own mission, knowing these things in advance helps him formulate a game plan.
“Based on location I can gather more info, I will know what I am wearing for the game and how to handle my equipment. If it is indoors, I will ask for the lighting situation. Sometimes I will search for photos which were taken at the same place recently, to have a better idea of what the lighting looks like during the game.”
“After that, I will decide which equipment I will be using and have a brief forethought about what kinds of pictures I will get. At least a half hour before the game I will test the exposure and find some ideal shooting spots on the field. There will be tons of photographers during the game, so it is important to find several good spots beforehand.”
When shooting outdoors, Ike will find the path or the sun’s movement so he can have a better idea about where the best lighting will be and where shade may fall. “From the technique aspect I consider the lighting to be the most important factor for me. This is because I can create the photos I am looking for based on the lighting situation. I was bothered by indoor situations for a while, sometimes you cannot do anything to change the lighting, the only thing you can do is use all the skills you have to balance the lighting in your photos.”
If he has a predetermined shot list on the day he tries to keep in mind all the numbers of players that he needs to capture and what they look like. This is very helpful to him during games as he rarely has time to check his list in the middle of games. For many of the sports he shoots, he must make predictions on how the players may move in order to get the winning shot.
#82 of Central Michigan receives the long pass during the game between Central Michigan University and Monmouth University on 9-13-2015 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan - Nikon D750, ISO400, f/4, 1/6400 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR at 120mm
Madison Costner of Central Michigan takes the ball forward quickly during the game between Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University on 10-09-2015 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan - Nikon D800, ISO640, f/2.8, 1/1600 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8D IF-ED at 300mm at 300mm
Robert Greenman of Central Michigan slides into second base during the game between Central Michigan University and Toledo University on 4-22-2016 in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan - Nikon D800, ISO400, f/3.5, 1/1600 seconds, AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8D IF-ED at 300mm
Another challenge he works to overcome is being in a permanent position when shooting, which makes the angles he has limited. In this case he uses his equipment he has on hand to create as much diversity as possible. Ike chooses his equipment game to game but he most often uses either one of his full frame camera bodies – the D800 or the D750. For lenses he brings an AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G, AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G, and the AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8D IF-ED, as these are with wide aperture for him to shoot in low light situations.
“For zoom lenses I bring my AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED with me occasionally when I shoot outdoors. This lens is light enough and very convenient for me when I move quickly. I like to use prime lenses in most games, because they always make me move during the game to get good shots so I can have more angles. Another reason is I can get high shutter speed and clear subjects from prime lenses so I can freeze actions and moments in the games. ”
Photography has influenced Ike in a number of ways, it has become a large part of his life and he is rarely without his camera. “Photography makes me focus on many details in my life so I can find a lot of beautiful things through my lens. I can always feel those positive energies from my photo subjects, and photography can transfer those energies back to me.”
Tianyu Han, aka AKA Ike is a photographer currently based in Michigan, USA. He has worked as a sports photographer at the Central Michigan University whilst working towards his Master’s degree.