Orms Maker Series: Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

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If you follow the Orms Instagram account you’ll know that we’ve started a little mission called the Orms Maker Series last year, basically, the idea is to collaborate with local photographers, designers, and creatives to showcase a variety of inspirational projects. In the first feature for 2017 we are kicking the series off with none other than Cape Town-based Action Sports Photographer, Kent Locke. If you are a regular on the blog you’ll know Kent often shares gear reviews with us. Today, however, we thought it’s time we find out a little more about how he started in photography, the gear he loves and what drives his passion. 

HEY KENT!

First things first, tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you love shooting?

I’m currently 26 years old and I’ve been living in Cape Town for seven years. Despite a six-year-long stint at the University of Cape Town, during which I was somehow coerced into doing a Master’s degree in Environmental & Geographical Science, I currently work as a youth pastor – and so now invest my time in mentoring the next generation. I absolutely love my job, and although it keeps me relatively busy, I manage to find a fair bit of time for my other passion, namely photography. I specifically shoot sports, with a keen focus on surfing and field hockey. It’s an odd combination of sports, I know – but I’ll explain how that came to be the case a little later

Oh, I also really love coffee… I think my friends would call me an addict, but I prefer the term connoisseur…

Who or what got you interested in photography, and how did you get into sport and surf photography in particular?

That’s an interesting question. I’ve never considered myself particularly creative, so my entry into the photographic world was somewhat unexpected.

I bought my first DSLR camera in 2011. I would occasionally go down to high school hockey and rugby games to support some of the kids in the church youth group that I was leading and one day I decided to take my camera along to a hockey game. The photographs I took were hopeless – out of focus and poorly composed. Nevertheless, I uploaded them to Facebook and the guys loved them.

My church also runs an annual surf camp, and although I don’t surf, I went along a few years ago to help with the pastoral leadership of the camp. It was there that I had my first taste of surf photography. I clearly remember downloading the images in the evening from the first surf session onto my laptop, and having a bunch excited teenagers scrum around me while we went through the photographs together.

It didn’t take long before I was hooked – the challenge of capturing a moment of dynamic action, and telling the story of that moment in a still image, is thrilling.

It’s been an exciting journey since then. I’ve been privileged enough to work closely with the South African men’s national hockey team, as well as some local and international Adidas-sponsored hockey athletes. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with some of the best young surfers in South Africa and to have published a few photos in the ZigZag surfing magazine. That’s probably the aspect of photography that I love the most – it’s been an incredible platform to meet people that I would never otherwise have met, and it’s been the beginning of some special friendships.

It can’t be easy shooting fast, unpredictable subjects like you do in hockey or surf, please tell us a bit more about that.

As I’ve mentioned, I think that’s part of the excitement of sports photography. I enjoy the challenge. As a sports photographer, you have very little control over your subjects when it comes to shooting live action. It’s fast, dynamic, and often unpredictable. That adds to the sense of accomplishment when you get a great shot.

As a sports photographer, you need to learn to read the game, predict the play, or anticipate what the surfer is going to do on the wave. I’ve discovered that the more you shoot specific sports, certain teams, or a with a particular athlete, the easier it becomes to predict the action and get the shot.

It also helps to have the right gear. Sports photography is particularly demanding when it comes to gear because of the challenge of capturing fast-paced action. However, having said that, not having the ‘latest and greatest’ equipment should never be a barrier to getting into photography. You can still make great images with basic camera gear if you know what you’re doing. Nonetheless, with sports, it certainly helps to have gear that can keep up with the action. I’m very fortunate to have access to some incredible cameras and lenses (some of which I own, and some of which I get from the Orms rental department).

What is your most memorable project or event, and why?

I’ve just finished shooting at the Cape Town Summer Series – two weeks of international hockey hosted annually at Hartleyvale Stadium in Cape Town. It’s a real privilege to have some of top the international teams come down to Cape Town and play here. Having worked with the South African team for a while, I also feel like I get to see old friends when the squad comes together to play here in the series. I’m always so encouraged by the passion and determination of the team.

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

The South African Men’s Hockey Team huddles just before their final game again Belgium. (February 2017)

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

Tyson Dlungwana makes a run down the sideline during the 2017 Cape Town Summer Series. (February 2017)

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

South African goal keeper Gowan Jones was kept busy by the top-form Dutch team. (February 2017)

There have also been a few memorable surf photographic missions that come to mind. It’s always great to score some good waves and to come home knowing you’ve got some great images. But it’s also about the experience of the trip that you get to share in good company – exploring new surf sports, having a laugh, and enjoying the vibe together!

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

Jordy Maree on a near-perfect wave at an undisclosed surf spot in Cape Town during one particularly memorable surf mission. 

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

A candid portrait of Jordy Maree on the same trip. Jordy is someone who I’ve built a particularly special friendship with through photography. I absolutely love his raw passion and unique personality.  

Is there an image you are particularly fond of?  Please share and tell us a bit more about the story behind it.

That’s surely the most unfair question you can ask a photographer? It’s so hard to choose your favorite image. I’m going to cheat and share a few.

There are probably two images that stand out, and that I’m quite fond of.

The first is a photo of South African hockey player Shannon Boucher celebrating a goal a few years ago against Ireland. I probably missed the shot of him scoring, but snapped this photo as he ran past, celebrating and looking at the crowd. I love the lighting and emotion in the photograph. Shannon has also become a friend to me and his own faith has been real encouragement to me. I have this photo framed and hung up in my flat.

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

The second image is of the iconic Slangkop Lighthouse in Kommetjie. I love this photograph because its conception was unplanned. I was shooting a particularly ‘gnarly’ surf spot near the lighthouse. The waves were breaking really far out, the sun was harsh and there was a thick mist rolling in over the ocean. Conditions were challenging, but I was getting a few decent shots. Between a break in the sets, I looked to my right and saw a surfer walking out over the rocks. I had the wrong lens on my camera for a landscape shot, the light was awful, and the fog made it really difficult to focus. Nevertheless, I let off one shot and forgot about it. I submitted a few of the images from that session to the ZigZag surf magazine. None of them were selected for publication, except that lighthouse photograph – and it was my first ever double-page spread.

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

Here are a couple of extra hockey photographs that I’ve personally found quite interesting:

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

Robbert Kemperman (Netherlands) making a diving tackle against Belgium. I’ve always wondered if the other photographer, who you can just make out in the background, also got this shot? (February 2015)

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

Notice something unusual (the floating shoe) in this photo? (NED v BEL, February 2015)

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

Belgium’s captain John-John Dohmen taking a penalty flick. I love the composition and timing of this photograph.

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

South Africa’s Dan Bell drag-flicking during a penalty corner against Canada. This shot was captured as the ball deflected back off the Canadian defender’s chest. (January 2016) 

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

Lloyd Norris-Jones breaking through the German defense. (February 2016)

Who do you count among your biggest influences, photographically or otherwise?

Without a doubt, Alan van Gysen. Alan is a top surf photographer in South Africa, and internationally. Until recently, he was the also photo editor of the ZigZag surfing magazine.

When I first started getting into surf photography, Alan and I had a mutual friend who put me in touch with him. I was doubtful that this big-shot surf photographer would pay me any attention or have any time for me. But Alan was so kind, humble and accommodating – Alan answered question after question, gave me invaluable advice, and just generally encouraged me. Like many of the other people I’ve met through photography, Alan has become a dear friend. Although I don’t see him very often as he travels a lot, when I do get to sit down with him over a cup of coffee it’s always great to catch up!

Any particular piece of equipment you simply can not live without?

Am I allowed to say, “A cup of coffee”? I take better photographs caffeinated…

I’m really privileged to shoot with a Canon EOS-1D X II at the moment. It’s Canon’s flagship sports and action camera, and I find it hard to fault that camera in any way. But of course, the camera is useless without a lens. If I had to pick only one lens to pair it with, it would be the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM. Together, that camera and lens are an amazing combination.

Orms Maker Series Interview with Sports Photographer, Kent Locke

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II – what a privilege to shoot with such an incredible piece of gear!

What’s your favorite website or blog?

I don’t spend much time on any particular website or blogs. I probably visit the Orms website daily to check out what’s new or what second-hand gear is on the shelf. And I’m quite frequently checking the surf forecast online. But I do spend a lot of time on Instagram. It’s a great source of inspiration and a great way to check out what fellow photographers are up to.

Do you have any advice for aspiring sports photographers out there?

Don’t expect to make any money, haha! It’s a small and saturated market. But if you’re doing it because you’re passionate about sports and about photography then you’ll love it.

As with any photographic career, you just have to start somewhere. Get yourself a half-decent camera and telephoto zoom lens and then just start shooting. Initially, you’ll probably have to offer your services for free in exchange for access to events and fixtures. Share your images; learn out what works and doesn’t. Finally, take advantage of the vast resources available for free on the internet and keep learning.

If you are not familiar with the Orms Maker Series, our mission is simple – to spread inspiration. No one knows for sure where inspiration comes from. All we can be sure of is that it exists. Some of us chase it; others have enough of it for all of us combined. It’s just one of those things. You know it when it hits you, and when it does, you have to act. You have to bake, paint, capture – you have to create.

So our big idea with the Orms Maker Series, to inspire creativity through beautiful photos of the creative process. Over the coming months, we will continue to collaborate with local photographers, designers and creatives to showcase a variety of inspirational projects. Stay tuned, we’ve got so much more coming your way!

Author: Michelle Joubert-Martin