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Capturing Cornell Athletics: Sports Photography on Campus

Photography by Nina Lee

From standing on the sidelines of a field to operating a drone or going on a boat, sports photography can look very different for each photographer depending on the role. Sports photographers engage fans and viewers by taking diverse shots of athletes in action, garnering support for the teams and players they photograph.

Although sports fans generally focus on the players and even the coaches, a variety of people with different jobs are involved in athletics programs. Sports photography is one such role that is commonly overlooked. Because sports photographers are behind the cameras, fans often gloss over their role in producing the media they consume. Additionally, there are many ways in which sports photographers contribute to athletics on Cornell’s campus. 

Photography by Amanda Burkart, BRSN

Nina Lee ‘27 is the Videographer for the Men’s Heavyweight Rowing Team, but she doesn’t just take videos for the rowers. She takes photos and videos on land, on the water, and in the sky using her drone. She also manages the rowing team’s social media content by creating eye-catching graphics and taking photos for the rowers’ individual social media accounts. 

Lee has long been interested in sports and photography. “My dad had his big camera, and he would always take photos when we went on vacation,” she said. “I was always fascinated about what he was doing.” 

Although her interest developed early, Lee really delved into photography when she was in high school: “You learn a lot along the way. You learn a lot more techniques, and just a lot of knowledge. Also, my classes at school helped develop my style, and that’s how I realized what I was passionate about in photography.” 

Photography by Nina Lee

Big Red Sports Network’s very own Amanda Burkart ’25 got involved in sports photography in a similar way. “I started in fifth grade. I was in the school yearbook, and then I continued through high school,” she explained. “Now, I currently do photography for the Big Red Sports Network, but my primary job is with Cornell Football, where I'm a digital marketing student manager.”

Burkart initially joined the Big Red Sports Network (BRSN) as just a member of the digital media department but has quickly broadened her impact. She became the President of the Digital Media department at BRSN and now serves as Executive Vice President, Internal. Her commitment to BRSN mirrors her commitment to Cornell Football in becoming their digital marketing student manager. Through that role, she attends practices and games to create content and even covers the team’s walk from breakfast to Schoellkopf Field. 

Photography by Nina Lee

Lee’s interest in sports also started at a young age as she participated in many sports such as rowing, which her brother and sister also did. She got involved with rowing on campus because her brother had previously been the manager, and she wanted to stay involved in the rowing community while putting her photography skills to use. 

“It’s really intimidating to see because they’re all so good at what they do. It took a couple months to be like ‘oh, I’m a part of this,’” noted Lee.

Although photographing the rowing team is her primary way of practicing photography on campus, Lee also enjoys other types of photography, including minimal and urban photography. A common theme throughout the different styles of photography she enjoys, however, is that she prefers to capture candid moments. Sports therefore became the perfect source for Lee to pursue this passion. 

“It’s not staged: they have to row. Each stroke is different, every day is different. I know it looks similar a lot of the time, but all the lineups are going to change. Every day is going to feel different on the water,” Lee described. 

Photography by Nina Lee

For Burkart, sports photography goes beyond being a hobby in high school and in college. In fact, it has become a major component of what she wants to accomplish in her career. Burkart mentioned that she “came in as a chemical engineer and switched majors to communication,” which was a complete 180 in academic direction. She hopes to use her communications major to pursue a career in the sports industry that involves both aspects of communications and sports photography. 

“My goal is to stay within the sports industry, but I'm hoping to do more marketing and media work,” Burkart wished. “So maybe a broader range beyond just sports photography, but definitely still doing sports. It would be awesome.” 

Photography by Amanda Burkart, BRSN

Becoming involved in sports photography on campus has helped Burkart create a foundation to pursue her passion for sports media and marketing: “I am gaining great experience working with sports programs and also with graphics and video. I think all of those contribute since the sport’s industry is going to a very digital space with marketing and everything. So, I think those skills are definitely helpful” 

Burkart also reflected her desire for a more holistic understanding of the sports media landscape while focusing on the creative aspects in the field. “I also want to learn a broader sense of the business side in sports,” mentioned the Peru, Illinois native. “I think it's really interesting, but I do love the creative side.”

Photography by Amanda Burkart, BRSN

Sports photography provides access to the adrenaline and energy of sports games while also creating a channel for creativity and art. It’s true that athletes receive the majority of our attention in athletics. However, as we watch our favorite teams stride to a championship and our favorite players shatter records, we should take a moment to appreciate the people who took the pictures and videos that we view. Without the creators behind the photos and videos, the graphics and posts, fans couldn’t follow sports as closely and couldn’t enjoy the aspects of the games and matches that the creativity of sports photographers highlight.


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1 Comment

Mei Rao
Mei Rao
May 06

Let's Go NINA! Thank you for your commitment and your talent <3

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