Reflecting on the Empire State Winter Games Experience  

Most people who know me would not describe me as a person who is fully invested in sports. I wouldn’t even say I enjoy many sports, bar rugby, curling and badminton. Admittedly, it’s a unique mix for a student who goes to a school known for football and basketball. All that being said, it is a concerted effort to not be in proximity to something sports related at Syracuse University, even more so if you are a Newhouse student, and even more so if you are a photography student.

Surya Vaidy headshot
Surya Vaidy

Pop into any photography class and you’ll find at least one person who has photographed a sports event during their time here at the university. I myself have photographed a number of sports, despite my lack of interest.  

Sports photography, in my experience, can be boiled down to two things: getting good coverage of the game and finding those special moments — you know, photographing the game winning shot and the team piling on the player who made it. Sports photography demands that the photographer is always paying attention, or they’ll miss the shot. Doing so in a professional setting, working for a publication or a team, may result in some tough conversations at best. At worst… well, there could be some issues.

Here at the university level, photography students interested in sports are offered a safety net, a space to hone their craft in a way that preps them to work in the industry. To me, the Empire State Winter Games trip (and other experiences, internships, etc.) is a part of that learning space. Made up of a group of photographers, videographers, public relations and broadcast students, alongside Newhouse professors Jon Glass, Seth Gitner, and Jordan Kilgerman, the Newhouse crew drove up to Lake Placid, New York to help cover the sports and social events of the 2024 Games.  

It was an absolute rush. Three days of hustling to the assigned venues, photographing the events and matches, filing images, editing your takes down, presenting for critique, and then submitting your images. We started our days early, ended late and got up again to do it the next day. For those of us on the trip who were interested in getting further into the sports photography field, it was clearly an invaluable experience. The routine and process of working such events opens the eyes to what is expected of professionals. For those of us who were not so inclined to work in sports — and I include myself in this category — it was equally invaluable.

a graphic of two skiers on a mountain
Image created by Surya Vaidy using Adobe Firefly

As photography students, it’s important that we are learning as much about the craft as possible because the industry demands that we be able to fill any niche as visual communicators. Setting aside practicing finding the moment and reportage, the Empire Winter Games trip is something we can cite in the future as evidence of our training and experience as visual communicators. It’s proof that those of us who want to be involved in sports are dedicated to doing the work well, and for those of us who aren’t focused on sports, it’s proof that we are just as capable of shooting a sports event as we are our chosen topics. If in the future you (yes, you the reader) get the opportunity to go out of your comfort zone to learn: take it. Believe me, it’ll be worth it.

Surya Vaidy is a student in the multimedia, photography and design master’s program at the Newhouse School.