Women in sports photography are truly unstoppable – The Daily Aztec

Sports photography is a difficult but exciting profession.

As a photographer, you usually get the best seats in the house. However, this comes at a price.

Safety is the most important factor when it comes to sports shooting. You should always keep your head on a pivot and be aware of your surroundings when filming a match or event. Specifically women in the profession need to make sure they are doing everything in their power to stay safe as most athletes are generally bigger and stronger so it doesn’t matter how much you think you are safe, accidents always happen.

On February 16, at the Rams’ Super Bowl Parade Celebration in Los Angeles, Kelly Smiley , a former Daily Aztec photo editor in 2018, suffered a brutal fall from a scene. Smiley was twice a photo editor for The Daily Aztec and is now a photo editor for the NFL.

“Unfortunately I fractured my spine,” Smiley tweeted.

The video that has gone viral on social media shows Smiley backing up to take a shot of winning quarterback Matt Stafford and, sadly, falling backwards from the stage. Not only did Smiley fracture his spine, but his cameras were also shattered by the fall.

Both Stafford and his wife Kelly witnessed the accidental fall. The video shows Stafford walking in a different direction from Smiley as his wife tries to check on the photographer. However, after her GoFundMe went viral online, Smiley’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were quickly deleted after many online users began criticizing her for old tweets from 2013 to 2014.

Like me and many others, I was surprised by Stafford’s poor efforts to see if Smiley was okay. Although he is not a trained medical professional, I thought he could have at least looked overboard or flagged someone down to help. The Rams and Staffords released a declaration indicating their intention to pay his medical bills and the replacement of his camera. I don’t know if the Staffords were pressured by the negative reviews of the video to want to cover all of Smiley’s expenses, but I’m glad they are because medical bills and camera gear don’t come cheap .

Today, I’m the current photo editor for The Daily Aztec, as a woman of color and someone who enjoys shooting sports. I joined The Daily Aztec because I always dreamed of photographing college sports. In this diary I had many amazing opportunities to photograph many events and games. However, when I have the chance to shoot in the background or on the sidelines, there is one thing that stands out: me.

At only 4 feet 9 inches tall, I am about a foot and a half shorter than the athletes I photograph. I have known athletes who have caught a touchdown that pushed them out of bounds, the ball being thrown my way and dunks so intense their landing is above base shooters. At that point, the only thing you can do is try to walk away. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you have to bend down and cover your camera.

I know the risks it takes to capture photos that will live for years. The ambience alone is enough to keep me coming back. I grew up very involved in sports: karate for four years, basketball for seven, and track and field for one. I also photographed sports for my high school yearbook. Competitiveness is something I grew up with and always enjoyed being a part of. Now, with The Daily Aztec, I have incredible opportunities while sharing experiences with my staff.

The photo team is a well-mixed group with both men and women. Many women are interested in sports photography with The Daily Aztec and it has provided many of them with their first experiences with photography. I will always encourage and support my team to try new things, aware that my staff and I choose to put ourselves in potentially dangerous situations when covering matches.

While sports photography can get dangerous when a player falls on top of you, bumps into you, or even gets hit with a ball, it’s still something I hope to continue doing in the future while inspiring others to do the same.

From The Daily Aztec we also wish Smiley a speedy and healthy recovery.

Noelani Sapla is a graduate in liberal studies. Follow her on Twitter @lanishootz.

About Julius Southworth

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