The Ladies Behind the Lens
If you’ve been following high school and youth sports on Facebook, chances are you’ve been looking at photos by Janice Coffelt and Crystal Salomon, two local southern Humboldt women who took up photography to document their children’s sports and who have blossomed into consistent producers of the kind of images that inspire the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Janice has been shooting family gatherings as well as her own children for close to 30 years, starting of course, with film. “I’ve always felt comfortable with a camera,” she says. Janice has two grown daughters, who like her son, South Fork junior Scott Coffelt, played multiple sports, giving her lots of practice. She was delighted when digital photography came along and has been shooting digital for about ten years.
Crystal first picked up a camera about 6 years ago when she realized photography would be a great way to be involved in her children’s and nieces activities. “My daughter Regina is very serious about becoming good at sports. My son and nieces are also very involved, so I started learning the games, doing the books, coaching, and trying to capture as many moments as possible with my camera.”
While Janice’s favorite sport to photograph is “whatever my kids are playing at the time,” Crystal favors softball. “The outdoor lighting is better than the indoor lighting of basketball and it’s not quite as fact-paced.” Crystal also knows the sport of softball well and can easily judge when to be where for the best action captures. Janice, a power-hitting gold-glove level shortstop in her own right on local women’s softball teams, can also predict where the action will be based on her athletic background.
What many fans of their photography may not realize is how difficult it is to be a spectator with a camera in your hands. The person behind the lens sees a distorted version of whatever game is being played, unable to truly follow the flow of the contest as they wait for the action to be captured, preserving the athletes’ moments of glory.
Crystal puts it like this: “You need to walk around a lot. You can’t just sit in one spot and enjoy the game like some parents. One challenge for me is I get caught up watching an exciting moment in a game and I totally forget to take the pic.”
Janice says she gets frustrated sometimes, but knows that not only will her own family benefit from the memories she has preserved, but that other families enjoy the fact that she makes a point of getting good images of every player on the team, not just the stars. “I like taking pictures of my kids, but I really like sharing the photos I get of the other players with all the other parents and kids.”
Crystal has found her photography helpful to coaches as well. “I also like to take lots of shots of the pitchers because it helps them with their form when the players and coaches can look at my picture and see how long the stride is or where the arms are positioned.”
Both photographers have spent a lot of time learning their cameras’ tricky settings in order to capture action on a lighted field at night, in a gymnasium, and in the bright outdoor sunlight. Crystal especially likes to fine tune in post-processing. “I spend a lot of time editing my photos also to crop and get color right. I don’t think some people realize how much time good photographers spend editing,” she says.
While Janice loves catching the exciting action in a game, it is the capture of an emotional moment that she ranks as her top photo ever. “It was at the end of a (baseball) game we won last year, just as Scott came off the mound, he was so pumped up,” she recalls, describing the sense the whole team began to feel when they knew the baseball championship was within their grasp. It was right there on Scott’s face, a picture worth a thousand words.
Crystals’ favorite captures are of her daughter and three-sport athlete Regina sliding into a base or of a basketball player catching some air on a lay-up or a jump shot. She has a business called “Crystal Images” and does personal portraits, prom pics, team pics, etc. She likes to shoot landscapes and loves to catch the kids having fun doing water sports outside of school as well.
To budding photographers, Janice advises, “Just do it. Don’t hesitate. I’m still learning all the time, and I love learning new things.” Crystal adds on by saying, “learn your camera and its settings, know which lenses work for which subjects, and get a good editing program.”
As this school year begins to wind down, and despite the fact that spring sports have taken a hit from the rain gods, when you look back over the past seasons of sport, you will find that a truly comprehensive record exists, thanks to these two dedicated and generous moms, putting in the time, sacrificing their own ability to be just a fan.
Crystal says, “I think that life goes by too fast, and when we get old, our memory is not the best, and having photos around can really help bring back the memories for you, and some photos will be around for a very long time and it’s a great way to share your family’s legacy or show what your life was like.”