by Chris Fisher
For the second time in five years, Kalamazoo's Wings Event Center was home to the prestigious USA Curling National Championships. I had the fantastic opportunity to photograph both the Men's and Women's events this year and got to rub elbows with not only players and event staff, but other well established sports photographers as well.
If you're unfamiliar with Curling as I was before the tournament, it's a simple game that takes an extraordinary amount of strategy, teamwork and precision. A game is made up of 8 or 10 "ends" (think innings in baseball), with each team member delivering two rocks alternately with the opponents player from the same position. For each rock closer to the center of the circles than any of the opponent's rocks 1 point is scored. Sweeping in front of the thrown rock lowers the friction between the ice and the rock allowing for the team to adjust the curve, speed and trajectory of each rock thrown.
Curling has a lot of similarities to Golf in that people of any age can participate and succeed in the sport. To quote the 2015 Curling Nationals Program, "It can be said that the curler who is at the height of his or her game has the same edge as the golfer who is sinking the key putts: great nerves, will to win, and mental toughness."
I found that photographing the Tournament had similarities to Golf on the photographic end as well. There are certain positions to shoot from as to not distract the participants, as well as the need for no sudden movements and quiet until the rock is released. With 4+ photographers down on the ice surface with the players it can be difficult to take advantage of the best shooting locations and get the shot, all while moving as little as possible, being as quiet as possible and not running over each other!