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Sailing, skiing, rafting, baseball, soccer, golf, rock climbing—no matter where in the world you go, or when you go, sports are a part of daily life. There are two major hurdles involved with photographing sports: getting close to the action and stopping it.

Professional photographers rely on ultralong (and ultraexpensive) telephoto lenses (frequently 600mm or longer) to capture such shots as an outfielder leaping over the center field wall. But often you can do with a little legwork and planning what expensive lenses do for pros. At a soccer match, for example, most of the action happens near the goal; stake your position there and you may even be able to shoot with just a normal or even a wide-angle lens. Some sports, like track and field or ski racing, also have finish lines that offer the combination of a good vantage point and high emotional impact.

While the goal in most sports photography is to isolate a particular player or action, when travel is involved it's just as important to provide the viewer with a sense of place: Where in the world is this sport being played? If you're photographing an informal cricket game among students at Oxford, including a Gothic dormitory in the background immediately helps place the photograph. A tight shot of a skier slicing down a snowy mountain could be taken almost anywhere, but include a chalet in the background and you instantly identify Switzerland.

The second obstacle, stopping action, depends on two things: a fast shutter speed and your directional relationship to the action. You can use a slower shutter speed to stop action that's moving directly toward or away from you than you can to stop action moving across your field of view. For example, you may be able to stop a race horse coming at you around the turn with a shutter speed of 1/125 second, but the same horse moving from left to right in front of you would require a speed of 1/1000 second or faster; use speeds somewhere in between if the horse is moving diagonally across your frame.