Interview with Sport and Commercial Photographer John Cowpland
How did you get into photography?
In high school I broke my leg playing soccer — Dad was the coach, so Iwasn’t allowed to stay home. I borrowed Dad’s old Zenit camera,started shooting, and I’ve been hooked ever since!
What is your Profession (Speciality)
I'm a full time commercial / editorial photographer which means shootpretty much anything! From headshots to products for packaging tomajor news and sports events. Sports has always been where my passion lies and I've been lucky enough to shoot a bunch of big sports events,world cups of various sports through to the Olympics.
Tell us about your typical workday or workweek in your field of work ? ie shooting to post production, if it is an urgent sport job, how does this look for you ?
My week is usually filled with commercial work and the weekends withsports. For the majority of the commercial work there's a fairlyrelaxed turnaround - but news and sports are a totally differentstory. Images need to be filed "live" - that can mean having a laptopon the sideline of a rugby match and sending every few minutes asaction happens. On other occasions I'll file directly from the camera via wifi or my phone to an offsite editor, who can be anywhere in the world, they will edit and caption the photo's and send them to the various clients.
What equipment do you shoot with?
In 2019 I switched to using Sony mirrorless - the new gear is amazing.I love the new lighter, faster lenses - I'm using the latest A1bodies.For sport like rugby I shoot three bodies - one on the 400mm f2.8 -sometimes with a 1.4x teleconverter - one on the 70-200f2.8mmii or the135mmf1.8 and the third on a wide lens like the 12-24mmf2.8. Forfootball the third camera is sometimes behind the goal net with aremote trigger. For indoor sport I love the fast primes - the 24mmf1.4/ 50mmf1.2 and the 135mmf1.8 are amazing.
What Computer hardware do you see as “must have” and required?
A good laptop - I use Macbook's but PC's are great too - is essential,but so is a fast card reader! Nothing worse than waiting for images totransfer. At home I have a 27" screen I plug the laptop into for anyfurther editing - I'm getting old so the big screen is awesome! Haha!
What piece of equipment could you not do without ?
For me the "must have" is actually software, I use a program calledPhotomechanic - it lets me cull images extremely quickly and has someawesome features for adding captions, like code replacement. This letsme preload the teams I'm shooting and assign a shortcut - so insteadof typing out a players name over and over I just type the shortcutand it replaces that with the full name. Not only is this a time saver- but as long as I spelled it right the right time - it helps reduceerrors! eg. from the Ireland / AB's tour I had "i12 Ireland's BundeeAki" - so I type "i12" and that is replaced by "Ireland's Bundee Aki".
Any suggestions or “Pearls of Wisdom” for a Student wanting to get into this field?
If you're looking to get into shooting sports, start small ... goalong to your local clubs - you'll get great access and plenty toshoot. When you're creating your portfolio it doesn't matter where theimages are from - a strong sport photo from a local level event is much better than an average photo from a big game.
Be great if you could share a few of your favourite images and also a brief bio on your background and achievements, to inspire anyone else who may like to become a sport photographer one day !
I got into shooting at highschool then I joined the military as a photographer, that's where I worked out I wanted to shoot news and sports for a living so I left and worked for a couple of newspapers - including the Napier Daily Telegraph and Hawkes Bay Today before going out on my own. I've been a freelance photographer for 20 years - I have a great range of commercial and editorial clients - from local companies to international sports agencies, it never gets boring! I've covered world cups for all sorts of sports and two Olympic Games - Rio and Tokyo. Both very different events!