Shooting sports

Ferris alum learned photography on the fly while traveling long distance to see the Dawgs

Ferris alum Kevin McDermott sits courtside with his camera as the Ferris basketball team plays at home.
Ferris alum Kevin McDermott sits courtside with his camera as the Ferris basketball team plays at home. Michael A. Corn, Photographer
Behind every great sports photograph that graces a website, magazine or edition of The Torch, there is a great sports photographer, and Ferris alum Kevin McDermott has etched his name among the elite in the Ferris field.

“I’ve been taking photographs for over thirty years, and I’ve always wanted to get into sports photography. I met (Athletic Director) Perk Weisenburger at a regional hockey game up in Green Bay and built a relationship, then I met (Assistant Athletic Director) Rob Bentley, who was kind enough to give me a sideline pass to Ferris sporting events,” says McDermott. “Then one thing lead to another, and the school started using my work.”

Building relationships within Ferris State’s athletic department proved to play an integral role in bringing McDermott back to his home away from home in Big Rapids. Though both McDermott and his career in photography had advanced, the school had been growing with him while he was away.

“I graduated from Ferris as part of the class of ’79 in the school of business. It never ceases to amaze me how much the school has grown from the time when I was here, especially the athletic department,” McDermott said.

It took McDermott over 30 years to bring his career full circle and back onto the campus of Ferris State, but the family atmosphere acts as a magnet that constantly draws him back.

“One of the things that I really enjoy is just being around the people of Ferris. The thing that really brings me back is just being around what I consider to be the best people in the world,” McDermott said.

Because athletes are constantly on the move and focus more on winning the game than posing for a photo, there is an element of luck to sports photography. However, McDermott has learned how to anticipate the action and knows exactly what he’s looking for in his next featured picture.

“The key is that every photo should tell a story. Whether it’s somebody in the fourth quarter who is sitting on the bench and you can see that they’ve absolutely left it all on the field, or if it’s a really tight photo of eyes or facial expressions, it should evoke some sort of emotion from those who are looking at it,” McDermott said.

Of course, in order to capture and inspire such emotions, the photograph must be focused in on a relatively tight subject rather than taken as a distant landscape photo.

“I prefer nice, tight shots. I think that a big problem with people just starting off is that they have these nice wide shots, but there’s just so much in the photograph that has no bearing on the subject,” says McDermott. “The eye should go directly to that subject and not be distracted by what else is going on in the photo that has no relevance to what you’re trying to show.”

Having been taking pictures for 30 years, McDermott has built an expansive portfolio consisting primarily of sports and travel photos. Still, he’s able to recall acute details of all of his favorite shots.

“A favorite photo of mine that has been used often by the athletic department is a group shot right before a football game two years ago. There were some dark skies in the background and the sun was shining down directly on the team,” says McDermott. “I got a really nice, low shot, so it kind of looks like I arranged everybody, but really that’s just the way it was. I was able to capture some really good expressions of the guys who were getting their game faces on and preparing for the battle ahead.”

McDermott’s work is regularly featured by the university’s athletic department to compliment news or recaps of games, so next time you spot his byline or see him shooting games, know that there is a Bulldog who has found his way back home behind that lens.