The Man Behind the Lens; an interview with Ottawa Redblacks photographer F. Scott Grant

By: Santino Filoso

Today we interview F. Scott Grant, an award-winning photographer with over 40 years experience. Grant has covered the Rough Riders, Renegades, and will be wandering along the sidelines at TD Place once again this June shooting the Redblacks. We wanted to give you a taste of the life of a pro sports photographer and find out a little more about his experiences with Ottawa’s CFL teams.

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RR: How did you get into photography and when did you start covering the Rough Riders/Renegades?

FSG: My dad, Ted Grant, who took a lot of the older photos in my archive, is a professional photographer. In 1969 he took me to an Ottawa-Hamilton game, handed me a camera and a single roll of film and let me shoot the game. I was 13 years old and from that game I had 6 pictures published in a game day programme.

Do you only shoot sports events?

No actually, I have shot a variety of different things. I spent 11 years shooting Federal politics and was Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s personal photographer for a year. I will shoot whatever comes my way, although I don’t like doing weddings.

Why not weddings?

Just aren’t my thing. I’ve shot a few over the years; my son’s wedding last year, and before that was one of the Renegades dance team members, that was a lot of fun. She was getting married to one of the CFL officials on the same day as a ‘Gades game. We did half the wedding pictures before the game, all went to the game, and then went back to do the formal part of the wedding after.

Aside from the Redblacks, who are some of your other clients?

Some of my other clients include Swimming Canada, Canada Games Council, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Jogo Trading Cards.

How is covering a CFL game different from other shooting other sports?

Football first and foremost is my favourite game, I enjoy playing and understand everything about it. This in combination with the amount of years experience I have doing this kind of work makes it simple for me to shoot. I enjoy shooting football more than any other sport, but I approach everything I shoot the same way with one simple motto, try and capture the best images.

What are some of the challenges you face as you try to position yourself for that “perfect shot”?

To be honest a lot of it is luck, but even more is understanding the game, I will watch formations, see where players line up, and I avoid being where other photographers are, I want my images to be different.

Do you do a lot of post image processing?

The only post I do is colour correction, crop and straighten the backgrounds if they are crooked.

When you go to a stadium on game day, what kind of cameras and equipment do take with you?

I shoot football with the same equipment that I shoot everything with, typically a Canon body and a 300mm or 400mm lens.

Which stadium gives you the best sight lines when shooting?

Pretty much all stadiums are the same though some only allow you to shoot from one side. Montreal is like this, so it’s tough to get any good bench stuff.

The CFL is famous for it’s wild weather, how do you deal with the elements as a photographer?

Lots of layers to stay warm in the cold and for rain I use a cheap green garbage bag and duct tape to cover the camera, all fairly simple steps to take. Basically it boils down to three things; Stay dry, stay warm and cover the gear.

It was recently revealed that you’ll be the Redblacks photographer for their inaugural season, how did you get the job?

I guess I got the job as the Redblacks team photographer partly because I was the first guy in the door, I had a lot of experience shooting football and I’m very grateful to Randy Burgess as he gave me the opportunity.

Will you travel with the team when they go on the road or will you be based at Lansdowne and only cover home games?

I would love too, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down with Randy and discuss any of the details yet. When I was the Renegades team photographer I would go to the games in Montreal on my own.

What are some of your favourite images that you’ve captured throughout the years?

Favourite images is a tough one, I’ve shot so many in different areas of photography, but still don’t believe that I have shot my best one yet.

In your mind what makes an iconic picture and what are some images that sum up Ottawa’s football history for you?

Hmm, another difficult one to pick. There is one that my Dad shot of a Russ Jackson bootleg in the late 60s, but I don’t really have a single image in mind. I believe that in some cases it takes a lot of images to sum up the history of a team.

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Have you had the opportunity to meet and interact with some of the players and athletes you cover?

I have met many former players and consider a few of them friends. I was friends with Jim Coode, a tragic loss, from ALS. I went to school with his wife Lisa, who was a former Rough Rider cheerleader. She passed away several years ago as well. During the 60s, my Dad was the Riders team photographer when I was growing up and we have had players over to the house.

It seems like every year we see a player get knocked out of bounds into an unsuspecting and unpadded cameraman or photographer, has this every happened to you?

I’ve seen lots of guys get run over but I’ve never been crashed into despite a few close calls. I try to stay safe by always paying attention to where the ball is and where the players are coming from keep. I also don’t allow anyone to stand behind me, so that I can move if I have to.

What are your favourite CFL and NHL teams?

Every Ottawa team.

Tell me about your best Lansdowne memory

Favourite experience at Lansdowne was from the late 70’s during the late season games, when my Dad was still covering the games, we would sit under the south side stands on the field with a few of the other photographers and drink rum and coffee before the game.

Where can people go to buy some of your prints?

People can order high resolution downloads or prints though my web site of over 11,000 images at http://www.imagecommunications.ca/

Thank you very much for your time, Scott. Best of luck shooting the Redblacks this season, I’m sure you’ll snap some memorable ones.

@RedBlackGade

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