Nick Wosika: A Take a look at the Work of a High Sports activities Card Photographer


Nick Wosika, a self-described photograph addict with a sports activities downside, resides his dream life: capturing hockey and baseball sports activities playing cards and gathering them too.

Wosika, from Shakopee, Minnesota, a suburb about half-hour southwest of Minneapolis, has been gathering playing cards for the reason that early eighties and doing images since he was 25.

Getting photographs on sports activities playing cards “was one of many most important causes I picked up a digital camera within the first place,” Wosika tells PetaPixel. “I began doing images about 20 years in the past, so it was a no brainer to merge my two nice passions. It was at all times a aim of mine to get my work onto buying and selling playing cards, and as soon as that occurred through working for a wire service, Icon Sportswire, I’ve been full throttle on it ever since.

ANAHEIM, CA – APRIL 13: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Middle discipline Mike Trout (27) takes the sector throughout an MLB recreation between the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers on April 13, 2017, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. The Rangers defeated the Angels 8-3. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

“It was one thing I at all times wished to do, however as I’m positive you recognize, gear is pricey. So, after I used to be achieved with faculty and that first verify from my first “actual job” confirmed up, I purchased a Canon Insurgent package and an entire lot of movie and simply began taking photographs of every little thing.”

What Makes a Nice Sports activities Card Photograph?

Wosika at all times seems by way of his viewfinder for a specific physique place, sort of motion, or expression – a picture that can match neatly right into a sports activities card.

ANAHEIM, CA – APRIL 09: Seattle Mariners Second base Robinson Cano (22) throws to 1st for an out throughout an MLB recreation between the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners on April 9, 2017, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. The Angels defeated the Mariners 10-9. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

“I’ve some pointers I prefer to go by,” says the shooter collector. “For example, I at all times need to see two fingers. There are two causes for this. The primary is that these are athletes I’m photographing, they usually use their fingers sometimes, relying on the game, in fact, and I believe they need to be prominently featured.

“The second motive is once I was a child, I had a teammate on my hockey group named Craig Mooney. Craig was an solely baby, and whenever you walked into his home, you had been instantly met by this big portrait of him in a pair of denims and a blue flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His arms had been crossed, and he was leaning towards a tree. Assume overused senior portrait pose, however it was a superb portrait.

“I bear in mind his mother telling me that the photographer who took the portrait got here in second place in some photograph contest and that he would have taken first prize in the event you may have seen each of Craig’s fingers within the photograph. That at all times form of caught with me.

“Additionally, I need to see the eyes. The story is at all times within the eyes. I prefer to make pictures that convey motion and present texture. I need folks to see my photographs and know instantly that the topic is transferring. I additionally need the viewer to really feel like they might contact one among my photographs and really feel the stitching of the jersey or the droplets of sweat dripping off the top of a hockey participant’s nostril as they prepare for a giant face-off.

Topps [major producer of baseball trading cards] pulls most of their photos from Getty. As soon as I spotted this, I grew to become a pupil once more. In spite of everything, this was the aim from day one. I began finding out what varieties of photographs they had been utilizing. For instance, I observed that when choosing frames for pitchers, they have an inclination to choose photographs that present the ball nonetheless within the pitcher’s hand. Often proper because the throwing hand separates from the glove hand or someplace mid-motion.

“I spotted they used only a few bat-on-ball photographs for hitters. It was primarily initially or finish of a swing. And if you will get the top of the swing and the participant taking a look at the place they hit the ball, even higher.

Higher Deck [major card company] has the unique NHL rights to make hockey playing cards with group logos. They aren’t licensed to supply baseball playing cards with MLB logos, as is similar for Topps. They’ve unique rights to make baseball [MLB] playing cards with group logos and such however can not make bodily hockey playing cards.”

ST. PAUL, MN – JANUARY 31: Minnesota Wild Proper Wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) skates up ice throughout an NHL recreation between the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche on January 31, 2021, at Xcel Vitality Middle, St. Paul, MN. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Taking pictures for Sports activities Playing cards

“I didn’t even know [shooting for sports cards] was an possibility till 2017,” says Wosika. “I began doing freelance work for Icon Sportswire. It was a sluggish go for me at first, however then they [Topps] fashioned a distribution cope with Getty, AP, All Over Press, and a bunch of different wire companies. That was when issues actually took off for me.

“It’s tremendous rewarding for me to land a baseball card as a result of a photograph editor can go to Getty and seek for Mike Trout [MLB center fielder for the Los Angeles Angels] in 2017 and like 3,000 photographs are going to pop up. Meaning out of all these frames of a specific play, they thought my photograph was cool sufficient to be on a card.

“I geek out on this beautiful laborious! Not solely as a result of I’m a collector however due to how I view images as a occupation.”

Wosika was doing effectively with Topps together with his baseball photographs getting used on their playing cards, however his actual ardour was hockey and he needed to discover out a method to break in. With hockey buying and selling playing cards, photographers are assigned to cowl the required video games.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – AUGUST 07: Atlanta Braves Outfield Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) hits a solo dwelling run within the high of the eighth off of Minnesota Twins Pitcher Kohl Stewart (53) throughout a recreation between the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins on August 7, 2019, at Goal Subject in Minneapolis, MN. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 11: Inexperienced Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) makes a go throughout an NFL recreation between the Minnesota Vikings and Inexperienced Bay Packers on September 11, 2022, at U.S. Financial institution Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

“Higher Deck (the hockey card firm) contracts photographers to cowl video games for them,” Wosika says. “As soon as I discovered this out, I had to determine to come up with them. LinkedIn was useful, however then I went to Winnipeg, Canada, to cowl a hockey recreation and met the group photographers for the Winnipeg Jets. That they had achieved work for Higher Deck, and I requested in the event that they felt snug hooking me up with the photograph editor’s contact data.

“They mentioned sure. Gave me the data, and it was similar to my first newspaper job once more.

“I emailed John Ibriks, the photograph supervisor at Higher Deck, and mentioned I do know that due to who you’re and what you do, you most likely get tons of of those emails a day, however I shoot a ton of hockey. I do know your product extraordinarily effectively, and I’d love a possibility to be just right for you.

“Turned out that he wanted a photographer in Minnesota, and I’ve been working video games for him ever since.

“The way in which it really works is that I’m contracted to cowl video games for Higher Deck. They arm me with a listing of crucial gamers to get photographs of for a specific recreation.

“The buying and selling card pastime may be very a lot rookie pushed, so you’re at all times photographing rookies, however you’re additionally capturing photos of latest free agent signees and gamers who could have been not too long ago traded.

“In some situations, a rookie can get referred to as up on a second’s discover, or Higher Deck could not have a photographer in a sure market. In these circumstances, they’ll lean on Getty, AP, and so forth. to get the wanted photos.”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JULY 23: New York Yankees Proper discipline Aaron Decide (99) seems on from the on-deck circle throughout a recreation between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins on July 23, 2019, at Goal Subject in Minneapolis, MN.(Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Photograph on a Buying and selling Card vs. within the Newspaper

LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 07: Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger (35) hits a solo dwelling run throughout the third inning of a recreation between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres on August 7, 2022, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

“Now we have an abundance of hyper-talented photographers on this market, as I’m positive is the case throughout,” explains the sports activities shooter. “I take a look at the Star Tribune, which is just like the cream of the crop. Each one among their photographers has the mettle to be in a corridor of fame for his or her work. After which there’s the disheartening half — what we do is fairly disposable.

“It’d get a like or remark on-line, however folks simply preserve scrolling. To land a canopy, a double truck, or a full web page above the fold is spectacular, however that will get tossed out or recycled the subsequent day by most individuals.

“For those who get the best card of the best participant, it will get put in a protecting case and is cherished or offered on eBay to somebody who will cherish it ceaselessly. To me, it feels extra lasting.”

Kirill Kaprizov
Feb 16, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves middle Karl-Anthony Cities (32) slices by way of Toronto Raptors middle Khem Birch (24) and guard Gary Trent Jr. (33) on his method to the basket throughout the third quarter at Goal Middle. Obligatory Credit score: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports activities
Jan 5, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Patrick Beverley (22) drives to the basket as Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) defends throughout the third quarter at Goal Middle. Obligatory Credit score: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports activities
BLAINE, MN – JULY 24: Tony Finau hits a tee shot on the 18th gap throughout the remaining spherical of the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities on July 24, 2022, in Blaine, Minnesota (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Hockey or Baseball?

Wosika is barely reluctant to call his favourite sport to shoot between hockey and baseball.

“I prefer to joke that I’m too previous to concentrate on one sport and that they’re like my kids,” he says. “I really like them each equally however for various causes. Hockey may be very a lot a read-and-react proposition. I’ve been skating since I used to be two, taking part in since I used to be 4, and training since I used to be 18. My hockey background has helped me a ton, however on the finish of the day, you’re studying and reacting to the quickest, non-motorized group sport on the planet.

“Hockey is such a wonderful recreation to {photograph}. The way in which the gamers transfer actually lends itself to creating strong pictures when achieved proper. I’ve been taking part in baseball for nearly so long as I’ve been taking part in hockey and training baseball for six years.

“Baseball may be very a lot a situational recreation, and masking is basically a collection of if/then statements. If the ball will get hit right here, then the play might be right here. You’re continuously calling on previous experiences to provide you with strong photographs.”

Nathan MacKinnon
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 31: Chicago Bears Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) seems to throw throughout an NFL recreation between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears on December 31, 2017, at U.S. Financial institution Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. The Vikings defeated the Bears 23-10. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Getting Into Digital Pictures

Wosika was educating himself by trial and error the ins and outs of capturing movie however didn’t have a lot luck.

“It was a trial by fireplace, actually,” remembers Wosika. “I went again to high school for images after a handful of unsuccessful journeys to the digital camera retailer to choose up the photographs I had developed. They weren’t terrible, however they weren’t turning out how I noticed them in my head.”

ANAHEIM, CA – APRIL 13: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Middle discipline Mike Trout (27) runs to 1st throughout an MLB recreation between the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers on April 13, 2017, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA.The Rangers defeated the Angels 8-3. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
Moritz Seider
Mar 16, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Los Angeles Lakers ahead LeBron James (6) dunks the ball on an alley-oop go from Los Angeles Lakers guard Malik Monk (11) towards the Minnesota Timberwolves throughout the first quarter at Goal Middle. Obligatory Credit score: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports activities

Wosika enrolled in a 2-year program at a neighborhood junior faculty. There have been a handful of digital courses, however they had been principally nonetheless “rolling and soaking movie” as a result of this was proper earlier than digital grew to become inexpensive to the plenty.

Matty Beniers

There have been two tracks you would take on this program. It was both portraits or business, which he jokingly known as “glamor pictures and luggage of chips” in a studio. He wasn’t fascinated with any of that as he wished to shoot rock stars {and professional} athletes. He requested if they’d provide a category like that, however they weren’t having it.

Touchdown a Newspaper Job in a Bizarre Means

“So, I left campus that day and emailed each newspaper and journal I may discover a contact and an e-mail handle for inside a 50-mile radius of my home,” says Wosika.

“I requested them in the event that they had been hiring. In the event that they wanted an intern. If I may comply with them round and watch them work. Of the almost 4 dozen emails I despatched, I obtained just one reply.

“It was from the Faribault Day by day Information. The photograph editor instructed me to fulfill him for lunch the subsequent day and convey some samples. It was a complete newbie hour on my finish. I didn’t also have a portfolio. I went down there with a manilla envelope and possibly ten photographs I took at Vikings coaching camp and Twins video games that I shot as a fan that I had developed at Ritz [camera store].

“I met him for lunch, and after our introductions, I handed him the manila envelope. He laughed.

“He began to look by way of the photographs, and after every one, he’d make somewhat “hmm” sort noise. After the fourth or fifth body, he stopped and mentioned these are fairly good and requested if I wished to shoot a highschool volleyball recreation that night time.

“I instructed him completely however then defined I didn’t have any of my gear with me. He mentioned to not fear about it and requested me to comply with him again to the newsroom, which I did. After we get there, we sit down at his desk, and he slides over a beige canvas bag and says, ‘Right here, you need to use this.’

“I seemed within the bag, and it was a Nikon D1X which on the time was a $5,000 physique, and a bunch of glass that made that bag price greater than the automobile I drove there to fulfill him!

“I don’t know what I seemed like at that second, however I used to be terrified. I seemed within the bag. I checked out him. I seemed within the bag yet one more time and requested, ‘You bought a guide for that?’ He laughed once more however reached in a desk drawer and handed me the guide to shoot a volleyball recreation in essentially the most poorly lit gymnasium within the historical past of lights and gymnasiums.

“The whole lot went tremendous, and after the match, I returned to the newsroom and was like, I’m achieved; the photographs are within the digital camera. They had been like; you have to edit them in Photoshop and caption them. I used to be like, Photoshop, what’s that? Fortunately one other workers photographer was there, and he or she helped by way of all that enterprise.

“I submitted 5 frames in a folder and drove dwelling. The following day two of my photographs ran within the paper.

John Tavares

“The day after that, I used to be provided a job on the Faribault Day by day Information. The day after that, I give up going to junior faculty to shoot glamor shoots and luggage of chips as a result of my job at that small each day newspaper in southern Minnesota was on-the-job coaching and a free college for what I wished to do for the remainder of my life.”

LAS VEGAS, NV – FEBRUARY 05: Pittsburgh Penguins ahead Jake Guentzel (56) beats Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko (35) for a aim throughout the Honda NHL All-Star recreation on February 5, 2022 at T-Cell Area in Las Vegas, Nevada.(Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Shortly after that, Wosika bought his first digital digital camera, a Nikon D100, and his first private pc (“it was a Dell or one thing”) and has “been hustling” ever since.

The Likelihood Assembly that Led to a Sports activities Playing cards Pictures Profession

Wosika was in southern California for a household wedding ceremony and stayed at his grandfather’s home at age seven.

“There was this older child that lived throughout the road from him [grandfather], and he gave me an previous shoebox of baseball playing cards — principally stuff from the 70s,” explains the sports activities shooter. “After that, I used to be hooked. I’d take a look at them for hours.

“As soon as we received dwelling, I discovered the place the very best locations had been to purchase playing cards — principally drug and comfort shops — and even discovered a card store not removed from the place we lived in St. Paul, Minnesota.”

And similar to that, a lifelong ardour for collectible sports activities playing cards was born.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – AUGUST 04: Toronto Blue Jays infielder Vladimir Guerrero (27) provides the signal to be fairly to his dugout as he rounds the bases after hitting a three-run dwelling run throughout the eighth inning of a recreation between the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays on August 4, 2022, at Goal Subject in Minneapolis, MN. (Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)
MIAMI, FL – JULY 10: New York Yankees Proper discipline Aaron Decide (99) on the plate throughout Main League Baseball’s All-Star Residence Run Derby on July 10, 2017 at Marlins Park in Miami, FL.(Photograph by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

As we speak, in addition to tons of of hockey and baseball playing cards, Wosika’s photographs have additionally graced Sports activities Illustrated, USA As we speak, The New Yorker, Forbes, The New York Occasions, ESPN, CBS, NBC, and plenty of extra publications.

And this opportunity assembly as a child has allowed Wosika “by no means to need to work a day in his life” however simply to have enjoyable and receives a commission for it.

You may see extra of Nick Wosika’s photographs on his web site,  Instagram, and YouTube.

In regards to the creator: Phil Mistry is a photographer and trainer based mostly in Atlanta, GA. He began one of many first digital digital camera courses in New York Metropolis at The Worldwide Middle of Pictures within the 90s. He was the director and trainer for Sony/In style Pictures journal’s Digital Days Workshops. You may attain him right here.

Picture credit: All pictures by Nick Wosika