As the NPSL North’s qualities continue to develop and grow on the field, clubs and the community around them have grown too. One of the skills showing up more and more is that of the match day photographer. Some of these folks work with a specific club, while others roam from one location to another, but all have raised the bar for professional quality work in the NPSL North. Today we will highlight some of these bright minds who are helping us view the beautiful game in a new and personal way.
Having worked as a writer and photographer in a variety of fields and topics, Louis Livingston-Garcia might be most familiar to the average NPSL North fan for his work covering Med City FC of Rochester, MN for FiftyFive.One, amongst other topics and sites. While Livingston-Garcia’s work in soccer is largely done for fiftyfive.one, he has often allowed Med City and their players access to his photos when needed.
Louis roots in the game, however, go back far before Med City’s founding in 2017. Originally attending Minnesota Stars games, Livingston-Garcia was introduced to the Minnesotan obsession with the beautiful game through the early days of the (new) NASL and the Dark Clouds, going as far as to help the Stars’ social media for a brief period. As United’s journey progressed, Louis found himself without his original lower division soccer club and hungry for a replacement, “I miss the days of Blaine and lower division, non-corporate soccer, so I was waiting for Rochester to get a team”.
Having grown up around the game, Livingston-Garcia has often relied on his understanding of the game as a guide for his photography: “I know soccer as a player and longtime viewer. I know where to shoot and how to photograph it.” Despite this level of comfort, Louis doesn’t want his work to become simple or bland, and makes sure to challenge himself when the chances arise. “Too often people put on a long lens and think they just need to zoom in and wait for the perfect moment. That’s fine, but it’s also what anyone can do. You have to be artistic with lighting, colors, and angles.”
With working ranging from soccer to brews and distilleries, Livingston-Garcia largely uses a Canon EOS 6D, while also occasionally using a Sony Alpha 100. He also makes sure to keep a variety of lenses for both cameras to improve his ability to cover a variety of situations.
While Louis’ connection to the game existed long before Med City, his recent coverage for the NPSL club has helped him grasp the deep passion that runs through many of the north’s local clubs. “I do see just how passionate everyone is, from the player to the fans, to the coaches and the staff. I bear witness to some intimate, frustrating, and rapturous moments that your average fan isn’t privy to.”
Looking across the many photos and albums, one finds that one of Louis’ recent photos is a strangely perfect snapshot of Minnesotan soccer, which at its heart, is always destined to be local soccer. A player under the lights in front of a respectable NPSL crowd on a chilly night, standing under the dark clouds that have become synonymous with the state and its game. For a moment the action is still, but the ball is being passed and there’s a game to be played.
Louis’ work can be found here:
Alex Ganeev, who first came to the zenith city from Moscow, Russia in order to pursue his education at UMD, has made himself a constant presence as Duluth FC’s most consistent content creator. His photos of the beautiful game are at every corner of the club’s social media and PR. Ganeev stumbled into working with the club through the priest at his local church, that priest being Duluth FC founder and owner Tim Sas. He offered to take photos of the then far more amateur adventure and has stuck around for the ride.
Alex feels an understanding of the game and its players is extremely useful for anything looking to photograph it, “You have to be very involved in the game, almost as concentrated on it as the players, while in some other types of photography - such as landscape - you can take your time and split seconds usually won’t make much of a difference for the final result.”
With much of his work focused on landscapes and nature, Ganeev approaches the pace and dynamics of soccer as a unique challenge. A fan of a variety of sports, the unique way soccer flows has proven both a challenge and a point of interest, “what I find unique compared to many other sports is that the game doesn’t stop, which means you often times can’t take breaks or check your phone”.
Alex was not always a fan of the beautiful game, only beginning to see why others were obsessed once he got involved with Duluth FC, “Before I got involved with Duluth FC I always found soccer to be slow and not-as-exciting... However, being with the same team and seeing it progress and improve, working right on the field just like the players in all sorts of weather helped me eventually recognize the beauty of this sport and develop appreciation for the massive amounts of skills you need to play it.”
For his camera Alex sticks with an older but high functioning option, “For 99% of my soccer shots I use a Nikon D300 with a 80-200mm f2.8 lens. It’s a pretty old camera - released back in 2007 - but it does the job. It is capable of shooting 6 frames per second, which is important to catch that split second action and has a decent buffer to handle that frame rate.”
Alex Ganeev’s work can be found here:
Becki Olseen started her hobby of photography as many do, a wedding, a birthday, a family portrait here and there. While Becki, who admits “I was not a soccer fan two years ago”, had no intention of stepping into the world of sports photography, a chance job taking family photos would introduce her to Juan Fiz. Olseen describes Fiz, a founder of VSLT, as the heartbeat of the Saint Paul club. He asked her to help photograph a match for a previous team Fiz was involved in. Olseen hesitantly agreed to the challenge, setting herself up for a call that would come years later regarding VSLT. “I said I would try one game and see if I met their standards. And the rest is history.”
One of Olseen’s first struggles was the change from the portraits she’d spent years learning to do quite well, to the action shots required to photograph any sport. “I shot the game, and took great pre-game pictures, but horrible action shots! The training, experience, and equipment I have is all geared towards portrait, and event style photography.”
With that transition in mind, Olseen quickly acclimated to the pros and cons of soccer photography. “In other sports--specifically the ones I have grown up on, you have a general idea where the action is going. Soccer is changing non-stop. Literally constant motion. Which means... Constant lighting changes... Being in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot... Lots of back shots and just misses.”
Using an EOS 70D, Olseen has adapted her own timing when it comes to game day photos to help blend her portrait equipment and experience with the topic at hand, “I love shooting before the game--because I can shoot more portrait style... And I think capture the personalities a bit more... I think the first time I took pictures of them warming up they all thought I was kind of nuts.”
A life long fan of other sports, the story of Becki Olseen’s is one which shows how different people can fall for the game in different, often unpredictable ways. When speaking on her newfound love for VSLT and the beautiful game, she describes it as finding “the universal connection”, perhaps a testament to the interconnecting nature of community and sport. The live experience has also helped Olseen find what she loves about the sport she had largely strayed from her whole life, “there is something so special about seeing it live and close-up. Like I am literally zoomed in on the action--the passion, the determination, the excitement, the disappointments, the victories, and the defeat.”
Contributing to the competition between the vast landscape and the personal close up, Olseen’s photos of VSLT and their opponents show us a unique stage of the player’s journey. We, most likely, all know what 22 players look like running about from afar, but the face made as the player makes that last minute tackle? That is the detail that alludes us all, whether it be because of speed or distance, only for the camera to find.
Becki Olseen’s work for VSLT can be found on the club’s various social media platforms. Check out their Facebook and Twitter for more.
With work spanning from coverage of Minnesota United to the NPSL North and U.S. Open Cup, Seth Steffenhagen has made himself an essential name when it comes to soccer photography in the north. A major contributor for E Pluribus Loonum, Steffenhagen’s work has often been a key tool for writers as they try to tell the story of the beautiful game. Having started working with EPL on photographing Minnesota United games, branching out to the NPSL, which EPL had announced they wanted to cover, was both an exciting and logical next step for Steffenhagen, “I figured this would be a good opportunity to get out and shoot some more soccer.”
Steffenhagen observes his muse through a unique comparison, “Shooting soccer or sports in general I’ve found to be like wildlife photography... You have no control over your subject’s movement, lots of times just have to hunker down and shoot as the action comes to you... Just like being out in nature, if the main subject is slow on the action there is still plenty of other photography opportunities around such as the fans or coaches”
Steffenhagen’s go-to camera is the Canon 5D Mark IV, with a 7D serving as his backup. Changing from camera to camera has brought pros and cons to Seth’s photography, “While I do miss the frames per second that the 7D offers from time to time which can lead to missing key moments in the action, the 5D is an all around better camera and I have really enjoyed it.”
As for lenses, well we’ll let Seth do the talking here, “I always use a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II. On daytime matches or when the sun is out later in the summer months I’ll put a Sigma 150-600 f6.3 Sports lens on the 5D. If it’s too dark for a f6.3 lens then I’ll slap on the 70-200mm on my 5D and go with a fast and wider 24-70mm f2.8 lens on the 7D.”
Transitioning from being a fan in the stands to working the sidelines was a uncertain move for Seth at first, “here was some concern that I’d have to leave the fan mode behind and not be able to enjoy the excitement as the match unfolds. I also had a concern of having that tunnel vision view for so long and not seeing the bigger picture.” Despite this, Seth has found a new form of joy in the game as he continues his photographic role, “But I’ve really enjoyed this alternate perspective, it’s nice to have a raw, up close and isolated view.”
A presence across the conference, Seth has worked everything from MLS, to NPSL/WPSL, to the U.S. Open Cup, and has provided some of his best work to this very site. A game formed through tactics, recruiting, and skill, it is somehow not so hard to see Steffenhagen’s point in many ways photography allows us to break down all these things we feel make the game what it is and instead view the players, staff, and fans as pieces of a greater wilderness.
Seth Steffenhagen’s work can be found here:
Jeremy Olson is a photographer with almost endless experience in a variety of settings within the game. He’s covered everything from the national team, to the Minnesota Thunder, and his children’s matches. Recently he has covered Minnesotan clubs like Fire 98 SC of the WPSL and Minneapolis City SC of the NPSL. With a strong reseme and and history in the field, Olson helps show the diversity and range of photographers in the NPSL, a group which ranges from hobbyists to long time professionals.
For Olson, the beautiful game is special at any level as the long as there’s a connection between the players and the fans, “I enjoy capturing the unique moments in a game along with the connection between the fans and the game regardless of the level of soccer.”
Jeremy uses a Canon 1DX to provide top quality images across the professional, semi-pro, and amateur levels. “1d - IV 70-200 2.8 and a 300mm 2.8 are my primary camera/lens combo.”
Jeremy’s work can be found here:
Twitter - @digital_gopher