Ed Chan’s top 10 beach photos from 2016

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Co-Publisher Lee Feinswog thought it would be a good idea to choose my 10 best beach photos of the year. For a photographer, that’s a lot like selecting your favorite children.

In the end, I whittled it down to my top 10, but also threw in the five other candidates that I agonized over. Let me know below if you think the bottom five should have been included in the top 10, or if I missed one of your other favorite photos.

These 10 photos are the result of a (very round estimate) of 100,000 photos.

I shoot with the Canon 1DX II (14 frames per second max) and the Canon 1DX (12 frames per second max). At those frame rates, the numbers add up pretty quickly, which explains why I end up backing up 12 terabytes to remote external drives, local external drives, and blu-ray 25GB disks.

My favorite lenses are the Sigma 120-300 f2.8 OS Sport model, the Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS Mark II, Canon 24-70 f2.8L Mark I, Canon 16-35mm f2.8L Mark II, and the Canon 8-15mm f4L circular fisheye.

If you would like to see more of my shots, please visit my website VBshots.com.

10, Taylor Crabb, AVP Chicago, 9/4/2016010

Taylor Crabb has rapidly become one of the best defensive players on the tour. Here he absorbs the full force of a Billy Allen spike.

I probably waste over 10,000 exposures a year trying to capture this sort of image. As soon as the spiker hits the ball, I’m pre-focused on the defender and fire two or three exposures just in case something happens. Over 99 percent of the time, nothing happens, and I end up spending more time deleting images and depreciating the value of my camera. Every once in a while, I’ll get an interesting image like this, where the defender makes an interesting one handed stab, an overhand dig, whatever. It happens often enough that I’m still convinced that it’s a sound practice.

9, USC, USAV Beach Collegiate Challenge, Hermosa Beach, 4/9/2016

Allie Wheeler, Nicolette Martin, Kelly Claes, Sara Hughes, Abril Bustamante, Jenna Belton, Zoe Nightingale, Sophie Bukovec
Allie Wheeler, Nicolette Martin, Kelly Claes, Sara Hughes, Abril Bustamante, Jenna Belton, Zoe Nightingale, Sophie Bukovec

Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler are congratulated by their USC teammates as they clinch the championship match. If you haven’t experienced the drama of women’s college volleyball, you should check it out.

8, Miles Evans, AVP Huntington Beach, 5/7/2016: 8

During most of 2016, the AVP fields were weakened due to the grueling Olympic qualification process. At AVP Huntington Beach, former UCSB Gaucho Miles Evans took full advantage, scoring his first fifth-place finish (previous best of 17th).  If he keeps making digs like this, he will score more fifths and beyond.

7, Maryna Samoday, NVL San Antonio, Sideliners Grill, San Antonio, 6/25/2016:7

Sorry all you blockers out there, but it’s difficult to get a great photo of you. The diggers get great photos of themselves laying out for balls, but all blockers typically get is nice jubilation photos after scoring a block.

This photo is a nice exception. Maryna came down off the block and had to chase down an errant Kim Hildreth dig. This photo is what I call “Jim Wolf style.”  Jim loves the low angle perspective, which gives you a different look than the typical eye level perspective.

For this shot, I set up on an open court to avoid being run over by a player, laid on my belly to get as low as possible, and placed a towel underneath me to separate the sand and my equipment. I was lucky enough to capture the photo with Maryna’s fist inside the ball, my favorite shot of the tournament.

6, Brandon Joyner, NVL Port St. Lucie, Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Florida, 5/21/2016:

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Frustration and disappointment are as much a part of the athletic experience as celebration and joy. As a photographer I have accepted the fact that it is part of the event and should therefore be documented as well, within limits.

We have all experienced a frustrating loss, and to me, this image offers a view into Brandon’s frustration. Fortunately for him, his season went much better after this, so much so that he was named the NVL’s Most Improved Male Player.

5, Taiana Lima/Brazil, World Series of Beach Volleyball, Marina Green park, Long Beach, 8/25/2016:Taiana Lima/Brazil

Every photographer has a small group of players in mind for a specific photo, for defense, for spiking, for jubilation. I’m sure Taiana Lima is at the top of every photographer’s defense lists because she is the most athletic and acrobatic digger on the women’s side, in my opinion. She’s quick and has extraordinary hustle and timing.

On this play, she was caught out of position on the line, when her opponents went jumbo. She recovered to make a spectacular dig and score the point.

4, Sara Hughes, Merle Norman stadium, USC, Pac-12 beach championships, 4/29/2016: Sara Hughes

Sara Hughes is a baller. She and partner Kelly Claes have won a ridiculous number of consecutive college matches going back to their sophomore year. And more than that, they are both sweet, nice, and down to earth. A pleasure to interview.

I was having a pretty average day of shooting (read: I was frustrated and missing a bunch of shots), so I tried to visualize the shot that I wanted. I visualized one of the Witt twins (Hughes/Claes opponents at the time) hitting a high line shot and Sara diving to retrieve it. This shot usually requires you to pre-focus on a spot because the AI servo autofocus usually isn’t fast enough to give you a tack sharp photo like this one.

Anyway, less than five points later, it all came together. One of the Witt twins (don’t ask me which one, the one that plays left) hit high line, Sara made a great save, and I was pre-focused and got the shot. Better than that, the photo renewed my confidence that day and ended up with some pretty nice captures.

5, Dave Counts, Dinosaur tournament, Kalapaki Beach, Kau’ai, Hawai’i, 3/20/2016:Dave Counts

Let’s lead off with the fact that Dave should have gone for this dig with his left hand, but it is a much more interesting photo using his right hand.

For those of you not familiar with the Dinosaur tournament, it’s a reference to age. The total age of the two players must exceed 80 for the men, and 70 for the women. For every four years that you exceed the age of your opponents, you earn one point, to a maximum of four points.

The tournament is played on an old school 30×30 court, has old school side-out scoring, no net serves, all of those pre-2000 rules. The final wasn’t played due to a medical condition, so Dave Counts/Mike Bruning were co-champions with Jim Nichols/Greg Lyle. Tarin Locascio and Laura Ratto won on the women’s side.

Anyway, for those of you in your 40’s and beyond, you need to come out to this tournament. Beach doubles with a bunch of your friends in Hawaii? Yes, please!

2, Priscilla Piantadosi-Lima and Angela Lewis Akers, NVL Hermosa Beach, 8/12/2016: 2

With an unexpected injury to Kristen Batt-Rohr, Priscilla went deep into the Rolodex to recruit Angela Lewis Akers. The pair had not played together since 2008, but managed to eke out a fifth-place finish despite Angela having played sparingly in the last few years.

I’ve known Angela since she was 14-years-old, so I really enjoyed seeing this team together again.  

1, Mark Burik AVP Chicago, 9/2/2016:1

OK, there are two types of photos that are popular. First, a peak action photo that brings the viewer into the action, and second, a photo that shows something that the viewer hasn’t seen. And that’s hard, because we’re all inundated with photos these days.

This photo is an example of the latter. Sure, technically it’s not a great photo, the light isn’t very good, there’s no ball and not much face in the photo, but yes, it’s different and when I took the time to see it after the tournament, I knew it was a winner.

The almost top-10

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Katie Spieler, AVP Chicago, 9/3/2016: Katie, one of the stalwarts of the Hawaii Wahine beach program, gets sandy at AVP Chicago.

Son Sanay

The younger Sanjay, Mexico Classic volleyball tournament, Rosarito, Mexico, 6/26/2016: I so wanted to be able to sneak in a photo from Mexico into the top 10. This year the dates conflicted with an NVL event, so I jumped off my plane when I landed in San Diego and drove down to Papas and Beer in Rosarito in time for the quarterfinals to keep my streak alive, my 25th consecutive year attending this event! By the way, a father-son duo won the tournament and this is of the 16-year-old son. Sadly, I never got their first names.

Paul Araiza

Paul Araiza, Pacific BeachFest, San Diego, 10/1/2016: Love this wide angle of Paul spiking. It’s rare that you can get the sun in the frame perfectly at the net. The lens flare adds to the shot, and I like how the official, John Rodriguez, is leaning to get an angle on the blocker.

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Jennifer Snyder, NVL Port St. Lucie Player’s Championship, 9/10/2016: Love those Florida clouds, because we don’t get anything like that in Southern California.

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