On Sport Photography and Photographs of the Soul

Posted by Rachael Towne on

Let's take a look into one photographer who specializes in sport photography and documentary photography. Jason K. Powers.

Jason K. Powers Inspires

Freelance photography can be big work that can pay the bills better than a standard office job. If you love photography and continually strive to not only perfect your technique but also continually seek out opportunities, you will make it as a freelance photographer. Of course, if you do not give up, then you have to succeed.

Powers proves the power to this theory, with over 13 years in the freelance photography business. He has kept his work diverse, which can be advantageous when booking more jobs, from sports, photojournalism, weddings, modeling, head shots, documentary, editorial, environmental portraiture and general portraiture.

The other important factor Powers has with his work is the variety of clients from major magazines to families, PR firms, modeling agencies and newspapers.

How Powers Manages His Diverse Work

When running a photography business, some public relations professionals believe that if you have more than one sole focus and sale point, i.e. niche, then you should separate these, as clients can find this confusing. Powers has divided his company with JKP Sports, which is as you might have guessed everything relating to sport photography and events in State Championships, marathons, triathlons, bike races and more. 

The other half of his work is documentary and ethnographic photography overseas, which has formed his company, Powers Global Ventures.

Interests of Sport Photography

Photographing sport isn’t always the safest job in the world or the dullest. When one thinks of sport, the standard football game is what comes to mind. Yet, Jason K. Powers has been capturing a full range of sports from crocodile wresting (what?!) to gymnastics.


Image via: www.jasonkpowers.com

"Never forget there's always an adventure wherever you are." Jason K. Powers

In all different climates, such as photographing in a desert to photographing in a blizzard. If you want work that is diverse, thrill-seeking and gives you the kudos for getting that one perfect shot at the most perfect moment during a sporting event, then sport photography could be what you need to look into.

The adrenaline of taking a sport action shot is high. When a sporting race is on, you can’t simply take one hundred photos and hope that one comes out amazing. You have to look at the track, see where the jumps or amazing moments can occur, through different twists or ramps etc. and then set-up in that spot, hoping that you will not just get any photo but the photo of the day. When it’s a race, you cannot ask the athlete to try again if you don’t get the photo. This is why photographing sport is one of those times when you have to be in the moment and not let fear in. You have to be courageous and confident that the shot you are about to capture is going to be worth it. The focus to catch an athlete that is high speed, also means your timing of when to take the shot to capture the better moment is imperative.

How do you do this? One word = experience.

How do you get experience? Through practice.

  • Go to all your local sporting events.
  • Study the field/track.
  • Study your players. Which athlete is a bit more of a risk taker/dare devil that will take an ordinary photo to extraordinary?

How to Keep Safe When Taking Extreme Sport Photographs

You know those awesome photographs, where you see the person rock climbing and hanging off the edge, or somebody sky diving, or even the motorbike viewed from the bottom, as it flies in the air? Well somebody had to photograph it and to photograph it; they had to put themselves in an element of risk to capture the photograph. Obviously, never put yourself in a situation you cannot get out of. If it’s too risky, don’t do it. However, if you have safe guards to ensure 100% survival then by all means, feel the adrenaline and ensure you have a safety strategy in place.

For example:

  • Make sure somebody knows where you are going and when you will be back if you are going to shoot anything extreme or in a place with very little around.
  • Be sure to pack a charged phone and try to find a place to keep it securely on you, in case you get caught somewhere, you wont be able to go to the car to get it.
  • Use the protective gear required, do any required training before the shoot and find locations that safeguards you from any racing dangers. 

Here are Some Photography Tips for Extreme Sports:

  1. Use shutter speed to freeze the action in your shots or blur the subject to show the speed of the action.
  2. Use continuous mode to capture quick shots so when you go to review your photographs, if a second later the image is just that bit more perfect than you got it. You captured the photo. Sometimes, having a choice of photos to choose from makes your job easier, until you have to pick one.
  3. Get their early to find the best spot to take photographs during the event.
  4. If the extreme sport is going to be dangerous, i.e. you are rock climbing with the model. Then, when taking the photo, find a flat wedge to help you balance and not have to focus on falling (as well as wearing all the safety harnesses) and instead allowing you to focus on the perfect photograph. Location is everything as well as safety.

Documentary / Soulful photography

What I like about Powers work is on one spectrum you have sports, which is confidence driven, competitive, challenging, risk-worthy and then on the other side, Powers photographs and explores how part of the other world lives. The work is heart-felt, inspiring and colorful.

During Power’s journeys through North East India, he has produced a photographic memoir, showcasing his photography and stories of his exploration. The memoir is titled, ‘One Man’s Road: A Journey Into North East India.’

Image via: www.jasonkpowers.com

“I look back over my life and wonder sometimes, how I got here. I look at the chain of events that took place from years before that led to an open door and to another door, and another and another, and then one day I woke up in the jungles of North East India.” ~ Excerpt from One Man’s Road: A Journey Into North East India.

To further look into the depths of Power’s work, his latest long-term project, he partnered with non-profit, Denver’s Road Home to document the lives of the homeless in Denver.

Image via: www.youtube.com

The Objective:

To help debunk stereotype thinking among the general public.

The Goal:

To understand, document, and share the stories of real homeless people hidden within the community.

The background:

Denver’s Road Home is an initiative of the City and County of Denver, started in 2005 by then Mayor Hickenlooper, with the “10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.” Utilizing and bringing together a large network of homeless organizations in the Denver area, Denver’s Road Home works to help the homeless in the areas of employment, mentoring, temporary and permanent housing and more.

How they will achieve this:

The idea is to select various types of people experiencing homelessness and spend a half day, full day or longer, with as many of their homeless neighbors as possible. During the time spent with them, Powers, would live with them on the streets, eat with them as they eat, experience what they experience and even sleep where they slept. All the while, learning their story and photographing their everyday life through the time spent with them. The intent would be to get a full perspective of what the hidden homeless face on a day to day basis.


Image via: www.jasonkpowers.com

It’s been eight years since the 10-year plan to End Homelessness was implemented. To date, 2,795 new housing opportunities have been added for the homeless and 2,275 men, women and youth have been housed through the Denver Street Outreach Collaboration efforts. More than 6,199 families and individuals have been prevented from becoming homeless from eviction due to assistance from Denver’s Road Home. Plus, Denver’s Road Home has mentored 1,208 families and seniors out of homelessness through our partnership with the faith community. Overall, 96% of clients served remained in permanent housing one year later. To not only house but to help provide employment and training opportunities, The Denver’s Road Home Employment Sub Committee has generated 6,702 of these opportunities to the homeless. 

Obviously, a great achievement in the eight years targeting homelessness and providing awareness of the real lives that homelessness effects. It is excellent to see how Powers has contributed his skills and talent to help towards this worthy cause and program.

How to Draw Out Soul in Photography 

Tell a story through your photos

What do you want your audience to think about when they see your photo? What emotions do you want to evoke? What stories can people start to think about when they see your photo? If the photograph gets people talking, it will become a lasting photo in their memories.

What do you want your audience to think about when they see your photo? What emotions do you want to evoke? What stories can people start to think about when they see your photo? If the photograph gets people talking, it will become a lasting photo in their memories.

Use people

It sounds simple, yet using people in your shot will help create the emotions you are seeking. Plus, it provides a center point of where you want the focus to be.

Create the setting

The backdrop, scenery is just as important as the person. For example, if you wanted to capture the heart of a surfer the backdrop that responds to most viewers is the surfer riding a wave or with the surfer holding the surfboard in the sand, with the beach in the background. Do you see in this example, how the person, backdrop and the prop are all thought out to reflect the soul of the surfer. The surfer’s passion is surfing and the beach is his motivation each day to get up and ride the waves. Once you establish what the person’s soul is, you can then easily create the right backdrop and props to help add to the emotion of the picture.


Evoking the soulful feeling, color is very important. Whether black and white, or black and white, with one bold color on one aspect of the photo, like a red rose for example. Or a blue color palette to change the mood. Bright and bold colors should also be used, especially to conjure happy feelings. 

Always seek permission

It goes without saying, yet it is important to ask for permission to use the photograph, if you are taking a photo of somebody else. Permission to use forms are easy to create, even mirroring a template on Google.

Make the model feel comfortable

This is very important, it is really ideal on your part to make the model feel as comfortable with you as possible. The more they feel in align with you, the better the shot. Have you ever had a random person ask if they can take your photograph? Did you find that smiling for them wasn’t as natural? Yet, if a friend asked to take your photograph, you show off your widest smile.

Try multiple photos

Instead of the sport photography, where you need to focus on that one brilliant shot, soulful photos can be captured with multiple shots, creating your own photographic story to tell the tale.

It is important that we use our talent to give back to those in need. Supporting charities by providing your talents is a tremendous way to give back.

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