Mr. May, you are a professional sports photographer. Could you start by telling us what your first camera was, and why you chose Nikon?
As a young child, I was always around my grandfather and father, both Nikon users, so there was that familiarity. They both liked to take landscapes. Even now I’m impressed when I look at my grandfather’s monochrome shot of Upper Provo River Falls in Utah. My father’s first Nikon was the N6006 and he continues to be a steadfast Nikon user. In fact, he went back to capture the same scene at the falls. And by pure coincidence, I did too. Maybe this love of photography is in our genes and it drew us back to that same spot in Utah. With this family background, my choice of Nikon was only natural. Three generations of Nikon fans!
My first Nikon was a DSLR, the D70. Digital was just beginning to take off and I was looking to join the adventure. After trying out several bodies in the store, I found the D70 to be the winner. With rubber surrounding the hand grip and coating the memory card slot cover on the rear of the camera, the D70 was comfortable and steady to hold. The grip was just the right size and the controls well located. I found it fit my hand better, offered a more intuitive interface, and literally just “felt right.” I became a Nikon lover from the moment I held the D70. And that was thirteen years ago.
Once I made the decision, I also decided that I would not compromise on my glass and to this day own only NIKKOR lenses. Nikon’s long history in imaging technology was something I could trust and a key factor behind my choice. With years of innovation behind Nikon, I knew they would continue providing cameras and lenses I could trust.
As a sports photographer, what cameras do you currently use in your work?
Today, my sports gear centers around the D5. It’s the most trustworthy camera in the world. With its incredible high-speed performance and reliability, I think it’s got to be the No.1 choice for a sports photographer.
Now where I work there’s a whole lot of rain. When I can go out, knowing that my gear is water-resistant, secure in the knowledge that it will work in any kind of conditions, I’m free to focus on the job, which is telling the story through visual means. When I’m on assignment, I don’t have time to worry about my camera. I’m constantly looking around to capture as many as possible of those fleeting, special moments. My D5 can do that every time. It fits my hand perfectly – like an extension of my body.
So, it’s the peace of mind for me, knowing that I’m going to pick up one of the world’s best pieces of camera equipment and go out and do my job. With sports assignments, you can’t retake a shot. In bad weather, I see other people out there complaining that their camera froze up or something. But I’m just motoring along with my Nikons. I love them. I believe in the product and it repays my trust. I think that it’s going to continue to do so for years to come.
Why did you become a sports photographer?
I love sports. I love playing them and as a photographer. I’m addicted to the adrenaline rush you get when you get that perfect shot. It could be the ball on the bat, the tag at home plate, the dunk, the goal on the pitch, the outstretched hands just crossing the goal line – take your pick. Those are the images that we all love and talk about. And when you capture it, the essence of the moment – it’s an awesome feeling.
What kind of skill set do you think is important when photographing sports?
There’s a great deal of variety to sports photography. On any given day, the assignment is different. You may come across all sorts of different subjects when you’re out there. You can be asked to capture the stadium, the signing of an autograph for a young fan, hitting the key moment during the game, a stack of equipment ... you have to be versed in all of these genres – architecture, portraits, action and still life.
What makes a good image? It all depends on whether the shot has great marketing potential. If, say, someone finds my stadium photo in a newspaper or magazine, will they want to be at the next game to see it for themselves? If the shot succeeds, then it’s a good day.
The D5 for sports,
the D810 for landscapes
Apart from sports, you take many landscapes. Which camera do you prefer to use for landscapes?
For my landscape work, nothing beats the D810. The details are stunning, and the difference is clear. I’m in awe of the capabilities of the D810, more so when the camera is used pre-dawn and after dusk. Sure, I could get away with the D5. But landscapes require careful consideration and the D810 brings a special satisfaction to that. I’d feel as if I would be leaving something behind by not using it. Also, I’ve just started to get into astro-photography using the D810A and I’m blown away by how it allows me to shoot the moon and stars.
What would you say is the greatest difference between sports and landscape photography? And what do they have in common?
On the surface, they would seem to be very different. Sports is fast action; landscapes are quiet solitude. Sports is reactionary, whereas landscapes are more a product of planning. But when you look closer, they share quite a bit. Both require you to visualize what you want, both require planning. And while landscape is indeed a slower pace, chasing light and being ready for those brief moments brings into play the skills you use as a sports photographer – reading the flow of the game and being ready to capture that particular moment in time. And one skill I think that is common to both is the ability to use the light in a creative way to capture that shot.
Nikon’s long history is behind
the products’ reliability.
Of all the Nikon products that you have used, which model has made the greatest impression on you?
When I finally got my hands on a D4, I was amazed – a whole new world opened to me. I was coming from the D300, so the leap was significant. I was able to work in lower light and for longer on a single charge. Then came the D4S. How could it be faster and even more accurate than the D4? Incredible!
When the new 400mm f/2.8 lens launched, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I was blown away by the lack of weight, not to mention the images. And to think the new 500mm f/4 feels even lighter! My latest acquisition is the 105mm f/1.4. From portrait work, to using it in sports – I am speechless.
What would you say makes Nikon distinctive?
I think it’s the whole attitude to engineering. I can sense the passion that Nikon invests in its cameras, in all its products. It’s the attitude to development – not prioritizing sales or profits but what professionals need and what they need to have working, right? I think Nikon, as a company, has really demonstrated balance in its business, promoting the culture of photography and expanding the market. And, you know, that, to me, is important.
Look at the gear that I have here. It’s the result of investing in what I see as the best camera bodies and the best lenses to match them. As you’ll notice, there is nothing other than Nikon or NIKKOR lens. And I’ve not to this day had an issue with anything that I’ve ever owned or bought. That’s why I am sticking with Nikon.
To everyone at Nikon, and particularly to those in manufacturing, product development, engineering, quality control, accounting and everywhere – THANK YOU. Thank you for your vision, your passion and dedication to creating the best photography products known today. You give me incredible tools and the only thing holding me back is my imagination. You make me a better photographer and motivate me to push myself. Nikon, you truly are my creative energy.
Mr. Rick May
Rick May is a member of:
Nikon Professional Services（NPS）
ASMP – American Society of Media Photographers
RPS – The Royal Photographic Society