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On the last day of the 2015 US Open Qualifying tournament, college student Diana Cannizzaro of Weehawken, New Jersey, stood atop Louis Armstrong Stadium. The setting sun was peaking over the top of the stands and shining down on Roger Federer as he practiced serving, casting his long shadow onto the court beside him.

Cannizzaro aimed a Nikon D7200 camera down at Federer and opened the shutter to make a few photos. Checking the LCD, she decided to make some adjustments, then fired again. This time she nailed it.

“Wow, that’s an amazing feeling!” she said. She was speaking to longtime tennis photographer and writer Chris Nicholson, who was working with Cannizzaro and five other college students for the day, teaching them about tennis and sports-action photography.

The students were from Sacred Heart University’s Sports Communication and Media program based at the school’s main campus in Fairfield, Connecticut. Nicholson, a former editor for Tennis magazine and author of the book Photographing Tennis, is an SHU alum who has been covering the sport for more than 20 years. He worked with the students all day on sports-photography concepts such as timing, backgrounds and composition, and using varying light at different times of day to produce the best photographic results.

“It was a surreal and exciting feeling to be able to move from court to court and be right beside the athletes,” says Cannizzaro, a sports communications and media graduate student who wants to pursue a career in sports sideline reporting. “It really allowed me to have much more of an appreciation for tennis players, and more so the photographers. Photographing tennis at a high level takes a lot of practice.”

The students also learned from Steven Ryan, a Queens-based sports photographer who works with Newsday and USOpen.org, and from Sujata Khanna, a documentary photographer from India. The group photographed live matches on several side courts, including the Court 17 stadium, and shot practice sessions with Federer, Rafael Nadal and Jelena Janković.

To help them gear up for the day, Nikon USA’s Melville, N.Y., office provided Nikon DSLRs and 70-200mm zoom lenses, and NYC-based B&H Photo Video brought a 300mm telelphoto lens so the students could experience what it’s like to work with “big glass.”

“It was a perfect day to shoot,” says Sean Elliott of New Haven, Connecticut, who is pursuing a master’s degree in multimedia digital journalism and aspires to be a photojournalist. “The light was clear, bright and crisp. We were able to take pictures all day and use the light to our advantage for some beautiful photos. One of the things we were exposed to while shooting was developing an idea of the image we wanted to take and using the location, light and camera to capture what we were looking for.”

Another former SHU student also got in on the action: USTA senior director of corporate communications Mark Preston led the students on a tour of the US Open media facility, including the photo pit in Arthur Ashe Stadium and the interview room where post-match press conferences are held. Preston discussed the role of the media at one of the world’s largest sporting events, and described how over 1,000 credentialed writers and reporters from over 50 countries cover such an important tournament.

“My favorite part of the day was having the chance to shoot some of the greatest tennis players to ever play the game and to do it while gaining the experience and skills to produce beautiful images,” Elliott says. “It has always been a dream to shoot tennis because most of the players today are guys who I have looked up to while playing my own matches.”

Chris Nicholson (far right) and his students

Chris Nicholson (far right) and his students

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About Admin
Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the books ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY and THE DAYS OF ROGER FEDERER

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