Hometown Hero: Chip Griffin captures the big moments in small town sports

  • Chip Griffin has taken his love of photography for his hobby rather than his profession to shoot Bow sports for residents and offer the photos to parents. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Chip Griffin has taken his love of photography for his hobby rather than his profession to shoot Bow sports for residents and offer the photos to parents. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Chip Griffin has taken his love of photography for his hobby rather than his profession to shoot Bow sports for residents and offer the photos to parents. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/27/2022 8:01:13 PM

Chip Griffin has done a lot of things professionally. He worked on Capitol Hill, founded companies, worked as a COO and a CEO. Despite all that, most know Griffin for his hobby rather than his profession.

To Bow, he’s not a CEO, he’s the friendly photographer at their kids’ sports games. At almost every Bow High School game, Griffin can be seen with his eye to the viewfinder snapping high quality shots of youth sports competition. And all the shots are available for free online.

“As far as photography,” said Griffin. “I have no professional training, but it’s been a hobby for 20-plus years.”

Griffin grew up in Portsmouth. That’s where he was first introduced to photography by his parents.

“My parents had an old Pentax camera,” said Griffin as he glanced around his home office, its shelves filled with cameras and equipment. “They let me use it and obviously this was like a 1960’s era camera so it didn’t have all the bells and whistles that you have today, but I dabbled with it a little bit.”

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight for Griffin and photography. He went off to American University and then found work on Capitol Hill for much of the 1990s. It wasn’t until Griffin got married that a camera found its way back into his hands.

“My wife and I would travel around a bit and so I got my first Canon camera that I used and it was film. We would travel around in different places. I’d take pictures and I said, ‘this is this is kind of fun,’ and I’d frame some of the pictures around the house,” said Griffin.

The simultaneous birth of Griffin’s kids and digital cameras are what brought him to sports photography. In the mid-2000s Griffin would do his best to snap his children in action on the field or court and soon began attending more than just his kids’ games. But despite his interest being piqued, Griffin couldn’t devote too much time to his new hobby. He traveled nearly 200 days out of the year for work so his chances to snap layups and layouts were limited. Additionally, he volunteered as an official for youth sports so a good portion of the games he attended were behind the plate rather than the camera.

But then, as we are all well aware, COVID-19 happened.

“The pandemic hit,” said Griffin. “And so this past year, I was finally able to devote a lot of time to it. In the fall and winter seasons, I was out almost every day shooting somewhere. And so gradually I’ve been able to improve what I’m doing because a lot of anything that you do in life is just repetition. As long as you’re continuing to try to improve, you probably will. And so I’ve been fortunate enough to do that for the last year or so.”

Griffin’s work speaks for itself. His high quality shots can be found on his website, photosbychip.com. But why devote so much time to sports photography? Griffin estimates he spends roughly 20 hours a week on his hobby. That’s a lot of high school sports for someone with a full time job to attend.

Well, unsurprisingly, Griffin likes sports.

“I love sports first of all. I always have. But I’ve been terrible at playing them. My peak sports experience was probably my last year of Little League Baseball where I was an okay pitcher and catcher, that was about it. And then my whole sports career went downhill from there. So that gives you some perspective,” said Griffin with a chuckle.

Along with his enjoyment of sports, Griffin said that other forms of photography can test his patience. He doesn’t have that problem with sports.

“Something’s always happening. So as far as improving your own photography skills, you’re not having to spend a lot of time camping out waiting for the sun to get in the right position,” said Griffin. “When you’re shooting sports photography, you get a combination of the action. Which is fun. But you also get the human element of it. You get the facial expressions, you get the emotion. And so it allows you to experiment with a lot of different kinds of photography. I can shoot the bench and get one kind of look and I can shoot a layup or a touchdown pass and get a different kind of look. And so it gives me a lot of variety in what I’m doing.”

Griffin added that photography at outdoor games is his preferred method of getting fresh air.

“Otherwise I’m out doing what? Yard work. I did some of that yesterday to pull out a stump. Not fun.”

An added bonus for Griffin is the response from parents of athletes. The compliments and thanks give him gratification for the long hours he puts in.

“I was talking with one parent who appreciated it because she was able to focus on watching her kid this year as opposed to taking pictures,” said Griffin. “She didn’t really have do that because she knew that if she saw me there, she was going to have good images and so she could just enjoy watching the game. The parents around here really have just been tremendous.”

And it’s not just the parents. The athletes Griffin photographs love his work just as much, if not more, than their parents. Griffin said his Instagram is filled with comments from excited kids seeing their clutch basket or go-ahead goal captured in perfect focus.

“I started regularly posting there [Instagram] because I knew that’s where the kids would be more likely to see it. And I know they appreciate it,” said Griffin.

With the spring seasons fast approaching Griffin said he will be there. He’s hanging up the umpire’s mask in favor of his camera.

“The last time I shot baseball was over a decade ago, because I was typically umpiring 80 to 100 games a year,” said Griffin. “It’s gonna be great to get out there and do that. And I’m looking forward to shooting lacrosse, which is something that I haven’t even watched since I was in middle school. But you know, if you point me in the right direction, say ‘this is where someone’s going to be doing something’ I’ll do my best to capture it. I love to try new things and see what I can do to test my limits.”

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