For photographer John Fisken, a popular figure at local sporting events, it’s more about the athletes themselves than getting the perfect shot.
“I really get great joy from being around the kids and watching them work hard to better themselves and their teams,” he said. “I guess, in a way, it’s keeping me from getting old.”
While covering games, he continually interacts with the fans, officials and players, enjoying the personal connections.
“Beats me,” he said in regard to these engagements. “It’s just the way I am.”
Fisken was born and raised in Seattle, the son of a Boeing worker, and graduated in 1980 from Roosevelt High School, where he was a member of the swim team for four years. He also spent a year rowing for the Green Lake Crew.
Fisken joined the Navy June 15, 10 days after graduating from Roosevelt, and left for bootcamp June 20.
He served for 24 years, retiring in 2005.
A photography class at Roosevelt aroused his interest in the subject, and “since then I have almost always had some sort of SLR camera,” Fisken said. That interest extended to video taping.
In 1990, while Fisken was stationed in Hawaii, a local high school was looking for someone to tape football games.
“Diane (Fisken’s wife) volunteered that I had a video camera — the chunky shoulder-carried kind where you put a full-size VHS tape into it,” he said. “From there I added basketball and volleyball. When we moved to Oak Harbor (in the early 2000s), I started middle school as well, since (daughter) Kathryn was in sixth grade.”
Soon he added high school wrestling and soccer.
His volunteer work reached the classrooms of Oak Harbor and Coupeville high schools as well.
Fisken speaks to the yearbook photographers at the beginning of each school year about “where to be and what settings work best for each sport.”
“I’ve also been known from time to time to let a student use some of my camera gear,” he added. “The schools can’t always afford the kind of gear you need to get good images on those dim fields.”
For several years he presented scholarships to Oak Harbor and Coupeville grads who met certain criteria.
“I was hoping to influence kids to do more than one sport, even if they weren’t good, just for the breadth of their life experience,” he said. “I don’t think (the scholarships) were serving their purpose. In 2019, especially, there was a distinct lack of interest from the students.”
Fisken published the Oak Harbor Sports Report blog from 2008-2016, highlighting local sporting events with recaps and photos.
His work can now be found at www.johnsphotos.net.
Fisken shoots all types of events, but he is most often found around the athletic fields and courts of Whidbey Island.
“I like it when I can capture that peak moment of action by correctly anticipating what’s going to happen as a play develops,” he said.
The down side of shooting sports is wading through 1,000 images after an event, especially when facing a next-day deadline.
The photo Fisken is most proud of is from a Mariners game. He attended the contest to photograph the Oak Harbor High School NJROTC color guard presenting the flag for the national anthem and stuck around for the game.
The shot features a player sliding back into first base trying to avoid being doubled off on a long fly ball. His favorite high school photo is of a football player diving across the goal line.
His work has garnered several Washington Newspaper Publishers Associations awards.