Born in a small town in the heart of Georgia Bonnie Tsang is the oldest of 6 siblings. Her parents, strong believers in education, worked extremely hard to ensure their children received the best education they could afford. It was their greatest wish to see all their children graduate from university and go on to enjoy great careers.
Bonnie and her siblings were all keen sportspeople, each putting as much energy and dedication into their respective sport as they did into their school work. Between school, homework and sports practices Bonnie had very little time for anything else.
As a keen and competent track athlete Bonnie’s out going, friendly manner made her friends easily, several developing into lifelong friendships with other track team members. One friendship in particular was to prove to be instrumental in Bonnie’s eventual career as a sports photographer.
Throughout middle school and high school Bonnie was extremely competitive, often gaining 1st place in her track events. Though she loved the thrill of running on a hard track in front of a crowd of her peers, family and friends it wasn’t until she was introduced to cross country running in her second year of high school that Bonnie truly found the activity that brought her the most pleasure. The challenge of running over rough terrain in all weathers pushed Bonnie’s endurance to the limits, giving her a feeling of power and exhilaration second to none.
It was during a particularly grueling race against another high school that Bonnie’s future as a cross country runner came to an abrupt end. Slipping on a wet slope during the last section of the race, Bonnie’s knee was wrenched. Despite being attended to by one of the best sports medicine specialists in Georgia Bonnie and her parents were advised after two surgeries that her doctors were unable to make her knee strong enough for her to resume cross country running.
Facinated By Photography
While laid up in a hospital bed and later at home recuperating Bonnie began watching television, something she had had very little time for prior to her accident. Having little else to do once her school work had been completed Bonnie watched nature shows and travel shows. Though she enjoyed the shows topics it was the photographic aspect of the programs that fascinated her. She began envisioning herself as a photographer, taking pictures of animals and places far away.
Upon hearing of their daughter’s interest in photography, and hoping to offset some of the disappointment Bonnie felt at not being able to run again, her parents purchased a modest digital camera and surprised her with it. Bonnie, wanting to learn everything she could about how to take great photographs, switched off the television and turned her attention to YouTube and photography blogs and websites.
Once Bonnie was back on her feet and able to return to school she was rarely seen without the camera. During breaks between classes, before and after school Bonnie would be constantly snapping photographs of friends, teachers, school buildings and the like, putting into use the lessons learned from the Internet.
A chance encounter with the teacher in charge of the school paper gave Bonnie a chance to submit some of her photographs for consideration. Bonnie carefully selected a small number that she felt would be good enough to be published and so was disappointed when advised that the paper couldn’t use them. Upon asking the reason Bonnie was advised that her photographs were good but that the subjects were not suitable for the paper.
Not one to be easily deterred from her goal Bonnie turned to spending her free time during school hours with her former track team members. While she knew she couldn’t join them on the track as a runner Bonnie realized that she could put her knowledge of the sport and her photographic lessons to good use by photographing her former team mates in action. After several days of doing this Bonnie decided to approach the head of the school paper again with her photographs, hoping to provide them with some they could use.
As good fortune would have it two of Bonnie’s photographs were accepted for publication in the following week’s school paper, accompanying an article of girl’s sports. Feeling somewhat elated by her success at having her photography skills validated Bonnie decided to try her hand at photographing other sports being played around the school grounds. Again she submitted photographs for consideration and again she had several accepted.
By this time Bonnie was feeling the limitations of her camera were becoming too much of a challenge, and realizing that if she were to continue to improve her photographic skills she would need a better camera she began applying for after-school jobs. It wasn’t long before her quest was successful and although her job cut into the time she would normally spend taking photographs of sports games Bonnie accepted that it was necessary in order to buy the camera she needed.
By the end of the summer Bonnie had earned sufficient money to purchase a good quality camera with a shutter speed that would allow her to take better action shots. Though it wasn’t the best money could buy the camera was one that Bonnie was proud to own, and still owns to this day. As she had been taught by her parents Bonnie passed her old camera down to her younger brother who would sometimes tag along on weekends when Bonnie would take photographs at the local tennis club.
With the beginning of the new school year Bonnie was asked to take the position of sports reporter for her school paper. While Bonnie was now gaining mastery of her new camera and producing even better photographs than before her experience as a sports writer was nil. As she had in the past, and still does, Bonnie tackled the problem head on and learned the writing skills necessary to write copy worthy of publishing. Bonnie had now gone from sports photography enthusiast to serious sports reporter.
It seemed completely natural that when Bonnie began college she applies for the position of sports reporter on that school’s paper. Though she was unsuccessful the first year she applied again the following school year and gained the position. It was a historic moment for the college as Bonnie became the first female sports reporter the paper had ever had. Feeling under extra pressure to not only excel as a sports reporter but to also prove to everyone that a young woman could do the job just as effectively as a young man could Bonnie spent every spare moment working on newspaper articles.
In her final year of college Bonnie, having decided that sports photography and reporting were her future, applied for internships at several prestigious newspapers across the country. While she was reluctant to leave her now aging parents Bonnie knew that in order to ‘make it’ as a sports newspaper reporter and photographer she would likely have to leave her home town and possibly her home state.
Bonnie was unsuccessful in her endeavors to gain an internship at any of the newspapers she had applied to and feeling somewhat deflated she decided to accept an invitation to spend time with one of her best friends from her track team days in high school who was now working and living in Los Angeles, California. With her parents’ blessing Bonnie packed up and moved to Los Angeles to share an apartment with her friend.
While looking for work Bonnie continued her enthusiastic pursuit of sports photography, often attending games as far away as 50 miles from her new home. Hour after hour she would spend on the sidelines, court side and on golf courses photographing players from various angles, perfecting her art. Though she was still unemployed Bonnie had not given up her hope of gaining a position as a sports photographer on a large newspaper, and knew she would have to continue to hone her skills if she were to be competitive.
While attending a L.A. Angels baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California one hot, sunny afternoon Bonnie notices a middle-aged man taking what appeared to be professional photographs of the game. Keeping a close watch on him while taking her own photographs Bonnie observes the man taking various shots of the players, quickly moving from one side of the pitch to the other. Telling herself she has nothing to lose, she waits until the game has ended and seeing the photographer packing up his camera Bonnie approaches him. Introducing herself to the man Bonnie is surprised to discover he is a sports photographer for the Los Angeles Times. Bonnie shows the photographer her portfolio which she carries with her at all times for such an eventuality.
Recognizing young talent the Times photographer advises Bonnie that there is an as yet unadvertised opening for a sports photography intern at his paper. He goes on to tell her that if she chooses to apply he would put in a good word for her but of course cannot promise her the position.
Bonnie applies for the position and is excited to hear that she has been granted the internship and will be working under the supervision of the man she met at the Angels Stadium game just two weeks earlier. Once she had completed her internship with the L.A. Times she was offered a full-time permanent position primarily photographing women’s sports but later covering all sports.
Bonnie Tsang combines her love of sports with her love for photography and shares her expertise, experiences and insight into all that it takes to become a good sports photographer. This blog is her way of being able to share what she has learned over her years of taking photographs of sporting figures. Bonnie hopes that visitors to her blog will be inspired to follow their own dream of becoming a top class photographer so they in turn can share their love of sport.