I had great hopes for 2020.
I was going to make my first trip to Gulf Shores for the NCAA Beach Championships, because for the first time the event didn’t conflict with the NCAA men’s tournament. Speaking off which, when the action ended on the beach, I would have been off to Virginia to see those men.
And then a busy year of international FIVB beach travel with so much on the line. Trips to Cancun and Rome. And the Olympics. With billions of dollars on the line, they wouldn’t postpone that, would they?
In 2019, I covered 31 college volleyball events, seven pro beach events, two amateur beach events and two junior events.
Three quasi-pro beach events, two amateur beach events, 10 college competitions and one juniors playoff.
2020 was the year that the cameras largely stayed in the closet, tallying about 15,000 exposures this year instead of the old normal of 100,000+.
But it wasn’t all disappointment. I enjoyed my first Christmas at home in over 20 years, I’ve dusted off my tennis racket after 40+ years, and am blessed to be able to enjoy the company of my bride.
Still, you’ll excuse me if my year-end photo gallery lacks the breadth and depth of previous years.
In no particular order, here are my 20 favorite captures of 2020:
I love the increasing athleticism seen in the junior ranks. Here, at a SCVA tournament in Las Vegas in February, Sophia Lambros of A4 Volley, a Boston College commit, seems to float in the air as she sets.
As a photographer we’re always trying to line things up. Here the sun, net and blocker’s hands are all in close proximity in this silhouette of Relyea Speller spiking at the Waupaca Boatride in Wisconsin.
Here University of Hawai’i libero Gage Worsley lays out for a ball at the Waupaca Boatride, where he and brother Joe, along with Dalton Solbrig, demonstrated the value of ball control against more physical teams.
The energy of six-man volleyball is addictive. Here, back in Las Vegas, Forza’s Lauren Grover, Kaitlyn Danskin and Ana Bia Rosa da Silva celebrate a block together.
Triples is a quirky game. It’s more about power than finesse, and it puts a premium on tall-blocking setters. At the Waupaca Boatride, Troy Field runs a fake of questionable efficacy while Brian Bomgren spikes.
I love the energy of NCAA beach volleyball, with five pairs competing for a win. The team aspect multiplies the intensity of the wins and losses. Here Cal’s Iya Lindahl and Mima Mirkovic celebrate clinching an upset over USC at the Pac-12 South invitational.
Twins have obvious chemistry. Freshmen Nicole (shown here) and Audrey have the promise to make significant contributions at USC and beyond.
I had the opportunity to shoot the SCVA Showcase, exhibiting junior talent at the Mandalay Bay convention center. Here Olivia Wright from the 805 Elite club takes flight.
After you’ve taken and culled hundreds of thousands of photos, often it is the unusual photo that catches my eye, like this athletic photo of Tri Bourne leaping backwards for the ball.
Every time I pull my fisheye lens out, I think “time for fun with fisheyes.” They provide an interesting and different view of the world, like this warmup photo from the Boatride. I especially like the sun flare at the top right of the photo.
Earlier in this piece I alluded to lining things up. Here a ray of light between buildings illuminates a Miles Evans celebration as he was kind enough to stand right in the center of the beam.
Katie Spieler, shown here at the Boatride, plays some of the best defense on tour. She’s one of my go-tos when I’m looking for a great defensive photo, and here she does not disappoint.
If you take enough photos you get lucky. At the Boatride I got just the right micro-second where Chris Vaughan takes a spike to his left bicep, deforming the skin momentarily.
Normally in beach volleyball you look for the sand spray. In this unusual photo of Tim Brewster I captured water spray from the Oshkosh rains at the Boatride.
Here Jake Urrutia makes the dig a little too literally, digging into the sand before digging the ball. It did create an interesting photo with an unusually clean backdrop at Hermosa Beach.
If you think NCAA beach volleyball is all glitz and glamour, UCLA’s Lily Justine contradicts that fact in a post-block celebration.
Tal Shavit is one of the most athletic defenders on the tour. I especially liked the granularity of the Kau’ai (Hawai’i) sand in this Dinosaur photo.
The type of photo I typically look for demonstrates the athletic nature of the sport above all else, and I’m not normally a fan of warmup photos. I did like this photo of BYU’s Gabi Garcia Fernandez spinning the ball before a warmup serve at UC Irvine.
Beach volleyball is one of the best sports to photograph because the sand tells the story: where the player has been, and occasionally makes interesting shapes. Here Randy Meador of Texas lunges to the line for a serve at the Dinosaur.
I love celebration photos when they capture a moment and provide a sort of window into what the athlete is feeling. Here UCLA’s Savvy Simo celebrates her partner’s block.
UCLA’s Abby Van Winkle is one of the most athletic blockers in NCAA beach. Here she demonstrates by diving to cover her own touch.