Feb. 24 (UPI) -- UPI photographer Kevin Dietsch won the first- and second-place prizes in the White House News Photographers Association 2020 Eyes of History contest for Sports Feature/Reaction.
The two winning photos featured Tiger Woods playing in the final round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links and fans cheering as Washington Nationals closer Daniel Hudson celebrated their Wild Card Game against the Milwaukee Brewers last October.
Dietsch has won multiple honors from the White House Press Photographers Association in the past, including the Award of Excellence in the Sports Action category in 2019.
He said it was an honor to claim two prizes in the category of the extremely competitive contest, featuring many talented and competitive photographers from the region.
"This contest has always held a special place in my heart, as a young photographer in college I would attend the open judging to try and learn from the judging process and to get a sense of how journalists in D.C. work," Dietsch said. "So to win not only first but first and second in the same category in a contest that I have followed since a student is truly exciting, especially against such a strong field of exceptional photographers."
Both photos place an emphasis on spectators, blurring the image of the athlete at the front of the frame.
"When shooting sports, I am always attempting to make a unique and different image, and I believe both of these images capture a different way of telling the story," Dietsch said.
Dietsch used a Sony A9 camera and a 200-600 lens designed to silence shutter noise for golf tournaments.
He captured the award-winning shot of Woods on the final day of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in California when he noticed the beach was full of spectators and people enjoying the surf after the beaches were empty due to poor weather for much of the tournament.
"I wanted to try and make an image that highlighted the natural beauty around this unique golf course and highlight the spectators that hike into the public beach in an attempt to see golf action," he said. "I set the camera's aperture to f22 to attempt to achieve maximum depth of field, everything in focus. This allows Tiger Woods to be a little better identified as a golfer rather than just an out-of-focus blob had I used a shallower depth of field."
Dietsch used a Nikon D5 and a 200-400mm lens for the second-place photo, which captured the moment after Hudson threw the final pitch that allowed the Nationals to advance in the playoffs.
He said he sought to capture a different type of photo focusing on the fans' excitement in that moment.
"The Nationals have such a strong fan base, and I wanted to try and capture their energy. As the pitcher threw his last few pitches, I focused on the crowd behind him anticipating their celebration," he said. "I was happy that the fans reacted in unison, all raising the arms as the pitcher celebrated in the foreground. I converted the image to black and white to highlight the crowd behind him."
The team went on to win the World Series.
Dietsch has worked at UPI's Washington, D.C., bureau since 2005. He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in photojournalism from Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., where he lives with his wife and two children.