September 24, 2023

Creative Process: Striving to Enhance My Skills Photographing Soccer

I infuse teaching the creative process into my Arts, Media, and Design courses at American International College.  

As several of my students play on the men's soccer team, I set out to engage in the creative process myself, aiming to increase my chances of successfully capturing key moments from the game against New Haven. 

Vying for corner kick (or maybe a free kick).

I researched tips and techniques for photographing soccer to build on my expertise of fifty years working as a photographer. (I am only 64, but was first published as a teenager.)

I found 11 Tips for Breathtaking Soccer Photography from Digital Photography School somewhat helpful in guiding my approach to the challenge. However, Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller's video Tips for Shooting Soccer proved to be an invaluable resource.  His advice was clear, precise, encouraging and empowering.  I knew what lens, aperture and shutter speed to use, optimum vantage points and angles, as well as key game moments to anticipate.

Shot List: includes the jersey numbers of my students.

After deepening my knowledge, I generated a shot list of types of images to focus my shooting.  I also emailed Coordinator of Athletic Communications Seth Dussault, inquiring about the logistics of covering the game. He got back to me, "Basically, just don't cross the yellow lines. Other than that you're pretty free to do as you please."

A tackle.

I enjoyed the challenge of working to capture the types of images from my shot list.  

A header.

This is as close as I came with a header.  I wanted the moment of a head making contact with the ball.  In many shots, the ball was 10 or more away from the point of contact.


At one point I noticed a hawk soaring above the field.  I took a short break from the game and photographed in the majestic bird.  I marveled and the apparent confidence and freedom of the bird, took a deep breath, and tried to infuse these qualities to my photographic efforts.

Manuel Schwarz shoots to score his 3rd goal of the day.

Read Miller's suggestions from the video informed my actions as I adjusted my camera settings and shooting locations based on changing light and conditions.  Per Miller's advice, I shot mostly from a corner of the field. 

Often near me was the linesman/assistant referee. I heard her giving advice via a headset to the head referee, who seemed close to losing the respect of the players and thus command over them.

Schwarz's teammates swarm to celebrate with him.

Though I watched Miller's video only once, it was as if he was coaching me via a headset as his voiced explanations lingered in my head.

The Professor at Work - Photo by AIC student Jalen Jordan

In the video, Miller demonstrated photographing from a lower angle to enhance the perceived stature of the players.  I wish that I had the kneepads he was wearing!


I experimented with using a slow shutter to create an impressionistic rendering of the game.


Looking at the images later on my computer, I reveled in reaching the photographic goals outlined on my shot list.  Not all the images are perfect examples, but it was exhilarating capturing what I could. 

Ah... the power of the creative process.

Below is one of my first published images, shot when I was thirteen. 

From The Harvard Bulletin

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Arts, Media, and Design Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at and teaches online Zentangle drawing workshops.