Sports Photography: Seeing the Picture Before It's Taken

Rice,

by Jerry Rice and Michael Silver,

St. Martin's Press, 144 pp., $25

Olympic Portraits,

by Annie Leibovitz,

Little, Brown and Co., 186 pp., $29.95

Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait

by Rachel Robinson with Lee Daniels,

Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 240 pp., $29.95

The Best of Sports Illustrated,

Little Brown & Company, 192 pp., $29.95

When it comes to sports, people remember their heroes or the significant event that shaped a team's destiny; but what they really recall are the images which in an instant preserved an all-defining moment. Shooting sports is almost purely about capturing action and emotion on film - even though lighting and composition are still very important as the two elements which can raise a photo to a level above that of other fine sports shots.

Rarely can the photographer control the situation. Events are often held under some of the worst lighting conditions, the weather can be a challenge, and many times photographers are unable to reposition themselves once the action has begun.

Perhaps Annie Leibovitz best sums up what it takes to be a sports photographer when she says, "Rule: You don't see it when you photograph it. If you see it, you've missed it." It's all about being in the right place at the right time, practicing until the unique sense of timing required for sports is second nature.

Occasionally, too, it's about being lucky.

Rice, by Jerry Rice and Michael Silver, St. Martin's Press, 144 pp., $25

This is an in-your-face look at the on-the-field exploits of the NFL's all-time greatest receiver, Jerry Rice, coupled with a peek at the life of the man behind the pigskin. This pictorial biography is filled with dazzling images of Rice at work. But the book offers almost too much of a good thing.

More images of him off the field and before he became a star would have helped to achieve more balance.

Olympic Portraits, by Annie Leibovitz, Little, Brown and Co., 186 pp., $29.95

Invited by the Atlanta Olympic Committee to shoot any aspect of the 26th Olympiad, the famous celebrity photographer stepped away from the world of movie stars and pop icons. From 1993-96 she focused her lens on the US Olympic team, creating a stunning collection of athlete portraits.

Done in crisp black and white, the images have rich tonal values and make excellent use of positive and negative space. While most of the photos are posed portraits, the action shots have a unique artistic quality not generally associated with traditional sports photography.

Also refreshing is the fact that she didn't only focus on the 'superstar' athletes.

Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait by Rachel Robinson with Lee Daniels, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 240 pp., $29.95

Whether you follow baseball or not, Jackie Robinson's foray into the major league marked a milestone not only in baseball but also in the civil rights movement.

This biography gives a well-rounded look at a man who was much more than a ballplayer. Over half the book is dedicated to his life off the field and after his retirement. Most of the 300-plus black-and-white photos are very high quality - a remarkable feature, given the age of some of them.

The Best of Sports Illustrated, Little Brown & Company, 192 pp., $29.95

Recapping the past 42 years of Sports Illustrated's history, the editors have created a must have for any sports fan. The book is a montage of memorable images from each year and athlete profiles excerpted from SI's pages.

Included are some of the most memorable sports moments ever captured on film, but there are several surprises too, calling into the spotlight often overlooked sports. One excellent feature is 'The Winners Circle,' a rundown of the winners of all the major sporting events each year.

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