Seattle doesn’t need to apologize for anything. Sure, the city of Los Angeles might tell us we have no business dominating the West Coast pro sports scene like we have for the last decade or so, but that’s just what we do (and yes, we believe the Mariners are going to catch back up with the rest of our clubs, eventually). What makes Seattle such a special sports city? Obviously it’s the fans who are by far the best in the world. After all, our eardrums are permanently damaged from sitting at Century Link with the 12th man, and we aren’t even mad about it. These mega-talented Seattle sports photographers capture the city’s sports just the way we fans see them. They capture all the passion, intensity, and impossible feats that keep on our feet, screaming our faces off in the stands.
Mike Fiechtner is a Seattle Sounders FC team photographer, whose photos are remarkably playful for someone doing double duty as an artist and a marketing photographer. He plays with framing, focus, exposure, and color to capture some of the most dynamic and holistic photos of anyone on this list. You really get more than a sense of what it’s like to be there for the matches he covers — a sense of what the matches mean, what they add up to for the fans and the players. In other words, these photos are not simply capturing the moment but the stories about the life of a player. We love photographers who can surprise us.
2. Rick May
Seattle sports photographer Rick May shoots a variety of local sports — both pro and college. What makes his work unique is his incredible focus on the geometry of bodies in motion. Most photographers snap photos in burst mode, picking the photos that most clearly show the action. And while we’re sure Rick’s process isn’t too different from this, his photos all show a remarkable geometric harmony — the implied curves and zigs-zags of bodies in movement. You see how the circular movement of a torquing body gives the movement its power and removes friction that might mitigate this power. We love sports, but we are by no means experts on the techniques of batters or basketball players. Yet looking at Rick’s photos, we were able to derive actual insight about these sports that had never occurred to us before. It takes a special photographer to pull off such a feat.
3. Michael Stenz Jr. of Life Light Sports
Michael Stenz Jr.’s photographs show a remarkable intensity and focus. It’s a focus that frankly matches the focus of the world-class athletes that he photographs, an almost maniacal attention to detail and desire for perfection. The result is photos that we simply cannot get enough of. In photo after photo, the captured moments are so singular, so magical, that the backgrounds seem to melt away, leaving behind the spectacle and triumph of our best athletes. There’s a lot to learn from these photos. His storytelling ability and skill at evoking primal human emotions is certainly enviable.
4. Doug Manelski of Knuckleball Pictures
We love the stripped-down, natural flavor of Doug Manelski’s sports photography. His photos don’t seek to turn athletes into demi-gods struggling for the throne. He shows the other aspects of sports that have been lost in our hero-obsessed age: the camaraderie and friendship of teammates, as well as the relationship between pitcher and batter — the pitcher trying to lie with their eyes and body, and the batter trying to let their eyes and hands do the work without interference from their mind. We appreciate the human warmth in his photographs and think you will, too.
Jane is a Seattle sports photographer with a style we’d describe as cinematic, as well as full of motion and implied conflict. She pays specific attention to the looks of focus, determination, and shock that cross the faces of athletes in the midst of their play, which makes us feel remarkably close to the athletes she photographs. She really grabs our attention. In fact, we spent plenty of time poring over every little detail of some of our favorite photos. In addition to her work as a sports photographer –– which has her working as a team photographer for the Sounders, Seattle Reign FC, and the Seahawks’ cheerleaders, the Sea Gals –– she’s a beloved local wedding photographer and exquisitely talented portrait photographer who takes evocative, mysterious, soul-filled photographs.
6. Aric Becker
Aric Becker’s portfolio demonstrates a wide range of photographic and interpersonal skills. You’ll see portraits where he’s able to elicit something true and personal from strangers, as well as landscapes where he’s able to capture the scale and hidden life of the landscape, and, of course, sports photos that capture the physicality and impossible balance of sports stars pushing themselves to their breaking point. Like all top sports photographers, he’s after those photos where athletes seem to transcend their limits, where their singular focus on their own goals push them and their bodies to new levels. No matter how often we see photos like this, we cannot help but be in awe of the meditative focus and dedication to excellence of our best athletes.
7. Alejandro E.
Alejandro’s photos, like others on this list, show our athletes as remarkably human. And yet, they also show the rare physicality that goes into turning our athletes’ bodies into unique tools for pulling off almost impossible physical feats, such as the way a pitcher’s arm, shoulder, and body work together in a single motion to launch a pitch with the full power of their body. Or, the way a soccer player pivots on one foot, drawing power from the ground, before launching a laser-beam of a kick. Stylistically, Alejandro’s pictures are naturally composed, with just a touch of post-production editing to bring to the surface some of the visual drama that might otherwise have gotten lost. Each photo demonstrates a remarkable amount of artistic focus.
Cecile Miller is a photographer for the University of Washington spirit team, the ones who cheer on the Huskies every game day. Her photos are natural — not overly edited — lovingly composed and show a keen attention to the human element of the games she covers. She also has a thriving business as a portrait photographer, snapping portraits that capture her subjects in a sincere, relatable manner. Her photos make her subjects seem kind and approachable, the type of people you’d really enjoy rooting for.
9. David McGhee of Daloma Photography
David McGhee of Daloma Photography is an active-duty member of the Coast Guard, who’s currently calling Seattle home. He’s a skilled photographer who takes sports and fitness photos that showcase the prowess of some of Seattle’s best off-the-radar athletes. The guys and gals dominating pickup games in the local gyms. He’s also an amazingly skilled portrait artist whose photos demonstrate a remarkable emotional range. He can capture the chutzpah of world-beaters focused on making their mark, or the sweetness and untapped potential of young people just beginning to find their way in the world. Being that he’s in the Coast Guard, we know we might have to say goodbye to David at some point as he’s called to another port for duty. But, while he’s here with us, he’s certainly one of Seattle’s best sports photographers.
If you’re a publication, sports blogger, or local sports team looking to hire top-notch Seattle sports photographers, they don’t get any better than these creatives on this list. The best sports photographers are students of the human form, and they’re able to use their own skill to show the intensity and power of our best athletes. They’re cinematic thinkers with an unparalleled skill to capture the most pivotal moments, the moments where the game turns on its head, the moments right before chaos reigns. These photographers are skilled with the camera in ways we ourselves wish we were.