Every year the Wyoming Press Association judges hundreds of newspaper photographs to select the best in the state. This year’s winner almost didn’t see print.
When he first worked up his photo “Smackdown” on his computer, Jackson Hole News&Guide photographer Ryan Dorgan didn’t want to turn it in.
“I was thrilled with the moment itself — the overhead flip and takedown to the mat,” he said of the wrestling picture. But the slow shutter speed he had to use in the low light created “a little bit of fuzziness and motion blur.”
He was photographing “a regular old high school wrestling dual,” Dorgan said, when organizers lowered the gym’s main spotlight and turned down the other illumination. “That’s when I started getting excited.”
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“Normally, with all the lights on, you’re looking for unique or strained facial expressions,” he said. “You’re focusing much more on the action and the reaction of wrestlers on the mat. If [all] the lights had been on, the background would have been completely muddled by spectators, flying popcorn, kids throwing things and who-knows-what….”
With the spotlight only, “it becomes much more about highlights and shadows — everything becomes much more about form — rather than which wrestler won, which wrestler lost.”
Sports photography requires attentiveness and familiarity with the contest, he said. Dorgan’s photograph won top spot in its large weekly newspaper division and then beat the winners among small weeklies and daily papers to capture the Photo of the Year award.
Dorgan’s title has been corrected to reflect he is not the chief photographer — Ed.