A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 02, 2013
“If you see the play happen, you have missed the picture” (sports photography adage)

"If you see the play happen, you have missed the picture” (or “If you see the action, you missed it") is a sports photography adage. A sports photographer must know the sport and anticipate the action; if the photographer waits for the action (such as a score) to happen, it’s too late to capture that photo.

“If you see the action happening in your viewfinder, then you missed the shot” was cited in print in 2001. “‘If you see the action, you missed it,’ as the old lament goes” was cited in 2004.

Photo Technique
(There is no date for this article—ed.)
How to shoot action and sports photography
Philip Andrews reveals his top sports photography techniques for capturing great sporting moments, regardless of whether it’s an Olympic moment, or an egg and spoon race at a school sports day.

Don’t watch – shoot!
There is an old sports photographer’s adage that says: ‘If you see the action through the viewfinder then you’ve lost it’, and this is largely true.

At the moment of exposure for most digital users, the viewfinder goes blank to allow the mirror to retract and the shutter open. So if you see the action then you have missed the chance to record it.

It takes practice, but anticipating the action point is one of the most important skills needed to take good sports photography images.

Google Groups: rec.photo.equipment.35mm
My favorite piece of advice from a sports photographer was: If you see the action happening in your viewfinder, then you missed the shot. The trick is to anticipate the action.

Google Books
21st Century Sports Photography

Edited by Terry McDonnell and Rob Fleder
New York, NY: Time Inc. Home Entertainment
Pg. 1937:
Auto-focus and motor-drive help, but there is always the split-second delay between the image’s hitting your optical nerve and the shutter’s closing. ("If you see the action, you missed it,” as the old lament goes.)

21 Jun 2005 - 10:36 AM
The point about ‘if you see the action you’ve not captured it’ became strikingly clear at the Nottingham Open tennis last week.

Digital Photo Secrets
October 25, 2007
Tips for Taking Sports Images
Posted by David Peterson
Remember the following – “If you see the action, you missed it.” This basically means you need to anticipate the action. Don’t wait for the batter to hit the ball before pressing the shutter. If you do, the image will likely to be taken once the ball has been hit and has left the frame. Anticipate by holding the shutter release down half way (so the camera can focus and set the exposure level). Just before the ball is hit, press the shutter all the way down. Through experience, you will learn how much time beforehand you need to press the shutter.

New York (NY) Times—Lens blog
October 18, 2010, 5:00 am
Now Batting, for The New York Times
Chang W. Lee, a staff photographer for The New York Times, aspires to a 1.000 average. “In the playoffs, you have to succeed 10 times out of 10,” said Mr. Lee, 42, who has covered all of the New York Yankees’ postseason games since 1996.

If photography statistics were kept, Mr. Lee would have a very high average indeed.

The key, he said, is to anticipate what will happen next and make decisions in a split second. “In sports photography, if you see the play happen, then you’re too late,” he said. “You’ve already missed it.”

Wicked Local: Saugus (Danvers, MA)
Updated Nov 30, 2011 @ 07:17 PM
Photo of the Day: Hit By a Pitch!!
By david.sokol
Photographing these sports requires a great deal of attention and knowledge of the sport. It really helps to know when and where a play might happen and be prepared for it before it actually takes place. When photographing anything, if you see the play happen in the view finder you missed it! Both of these sports require high attention and a lot of the time I will be taking photographs even before the peak action has taken place. You really need to anticipate the action and start creating images before you see the ball enter the frame, or else you will miss the action.

KPEP Photography
Monday, 1 October 2012
Modern sports photography techniques applied to ancient festival
By knowing these moments you can anticipate the action. This helps in two ways, one it helps you with focus, and secondly it helps you snap the shutter at the right time. The saying goes “If you see the action you missed it.” This basically means if you wait for the soccer player to head the ball then press the shutter release, the ball most likely will be sailing out of the frame. You have to push the button before the action so that the mirror has time to flip out of the way and the shutter open and close. There is a delay between the image hitting your optical nerve and the shutter closing. You have to, through experience, learn what that time is and adjust for it.

The Sun Herald (Biloxi-Gulfport, MS)
Gulf Coast WR Williams chooses Auburn
Published: July 21, 2013
(Photo caption follows—ed.)
MGCCC receiver Dhaquille Williams catches a 70-yard touchdown pass over Justin Bell of Hinds. Photographer’s Comments—I saw this play developing early and stayed with the MGCCC receiver. The pass was underthrown but the receiver reached over the defender and made a juggling catch. I pressed the motor drive and had multiple images to choose. There is an old adage in sports photography. If you see the play happen, you have missed the picture. Once I pressed the motor drive, I didn’t see the play as the mirror in the camera blocked my vantage point. It was only after I looked at my images afterwards that I knew I nailed the shot.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • Friday, August 02, 2013 • Permalink