Jade Hewitt and Kait Devir photographed 139 games and events combined throughout 2023. Hewitt leads photography as a whole for Athletes Unlimited, while Devir is the lead photographer for AU Pro Lacrosse.
After sifting through hundreds of thousands of images, then handpicking and refining each one, photos are shared across social feeds, but there is often a story behind the photo waiting to be uncovered.
Hewitt and Devir take you through their favorite images of 2023 and share why they stand out amongst the rest.
All photos and captions by Jade Hewitt.
This is my absolute favorite image from 2023. I remember this day so clearly! The athletes had just played a doubleheader of scrimmages, it was scorching hot, and everyone was completely fried. As the game ended and everyone was packing up, the sunset was starting to get nice and golden, and I remember wanting to try to shoot something special before the day was over. I asked Aliyah if she would mind going back out on the field to try and get a specific photo, and to no surprise, she was so sweet and totally game to try out an idea.
A silhouette photo isn’t something I shoot often, but it’s fun to try in a setting that you can control. It requires the photographer to “close down” the F-stop, meaning you are letting less light into the camera. That allows the camera to capture the really cool sunburst, and it makes your subject completely black since you are exposing for the sun, not the subject (usually it’s the other way around).
The final image took some serious editing to achieve, but it’s a really special photo that had me so fired up as we headed into regular season games. Also, props to Haylie Wagner who was receiving the ball on the other end of this!
This one is a two-parter! Megan had two iconic moments from this year and I couldn’t pick just one.
The first image was maybe the luckiest photo I’ve ever taken. Megan’s team was dominating a blowout game, and when she’s in the groove, she usually gets pretty fired up on big plays as her team gets closer and closer to the final out. In the bottom of the 7th inning, I had my camera locked in on Megan, hoping for a big reaction shot from a strikeout. Instead, Andrea Filler hit a laser back at Megan, which she deflected with her glove, then reached out and caught the ball with her bare hand. It was a spectacular play! Everyone thought I was brilliant for capturing the bang-bang play, but in reality, I was just lucky.
The second image is classic Megatron. In Week 2 of Championship Season, Meagan captained Team Purple and drafted a really solid team. On Sunday she was throwing a phenomenal game against Team Zerkle…. One so phenomenal that you don’t talk about it out loud. You just keep watching the innings and outs being recorded, but you don’t dare say what is actually happening. In the bottom of the 7th inning, Megan needed three outs to complete the no-hitter. After a pop-up and ground ball, Megan needed just one more, and with a 1-2 count, she got Caroline Jacobsen swinging to complete the no-hitter.
A No-No is something that you rarely see, and when it happens, it’s so much fun and such an amazing feat to witness. Myself (and probably everyone else in the stadium) had our cameras fixed on Megan, and as she celebrated, she turned ever-so-slightly towards me to give me the perfect shot. I took about 100 photos in this sequence, but this one is my favorite.
This photo would never have happened without Jordan Roberts behind the plate calling a fantastic game, so thank you Jordan!
Player Executive Committee (PEC)
The Softball Player Executive Committee (PEC) radiates so much happiness and confidence that doing this photoshoot literally had my heart racing with so much excitement that I almost passed out in this field (true story). I wait all year for this shoot, and when the day finally came, the athletes showed up in their swaggiest outfits and as the sun got beautifully warm and orange, we started clicking.
While I love shooting individual portraits of each athlete, I think it’s really important to capture the PEC as a whole. As a unit, the work they do is so impactful and critical to the success at Athletes Unlimited. Of course, their talent on the field is what we normally think of, but off the field, they are in so many weekly meetings and planning sessions and answering questions day after day…. it’s a lot of work to be on the PEC. They are so much more than athletes; they are powerful women who have a direct impact on the future of professional softball in this country.
Capturing their joy and camaraderie and sharing the images with the athletes (and the world) brings me such a profound sense of happiness and makes me really proud of my work.
Champions Night is always a mix of excitement and nervousness, with a touch of anxiety and uncertainty. The final night of softball always presents a unique challenge of capturing the famous confetti shot in an outdoor stadium where wind is a very real factor. Everyone on the AU Content Team knows that we might only have two or three seconds to get the iconic shot of the Champion, so when that moment came, we were ready!
Odicci was out in front of everyone with the medal around her neck, and as the confetti cannons went off, I could tell she didn’t quite know what to do, in a good way! I can imagine there are so many emotions in that moment that you aren’t sure if you should cheer or cry or hug your teammates. Luckily, Odicci stretched her arms out to revel in the moment, and as one of the most photogenic athletes at AU, her smile says it all.
All photos and captions by Jade Hewitt.
Out of all the sports at Athletes Unlimited, Volleyball is the highest energy sport — without question! Back in 2021 during Season 1, we started a tradition after player introductions that the players have really made into something hilariously fun.
After player introductions are over, the athletes stand on the end line, while I kneel in front the net. When the whistle blows, they all run towards me, yelling and screaming and making ridiculous hyped-up faces…. It makes me laugh every single game day. I love Kendall White in this photo, but truth be told, Kendall needs no reason to get insanely excited about volleyball.
We’ve got dozens of variations of this photo, but this one is my favorite!
Erin Fairs and Team Blue
This image was captured during Week Four in a dramatic game-ending challenge. I told Team Blue to stand and get ready to celebrate if the challenge went their way, and once the whistle blew, Erin Fairs dropped to the ground in celebration, which I was not expecting! The dogpile ensued around Erin, which naturally framed it perfectly.
I always shoot post-game celebrations on a wide lens to be able to capture as many athletes as possible, and this photo is a textbook example! I’m also quite short compared to volleyball players, so the fact that they all went to the ground really helped me get above the chaos.
Player Executive Committee (PEC)
The Volleyball Player Executive Committee (PEC) photoshoot was absolutely next level. We shot in the desert at a beautiful Arizona State Park in front a stunning mountain, and you could not take a bad photo here. The light and scenery was absolute perfection.
This PEC is such a special group of women, and it shows in the images from this shoot. The energy that day was so positive, focused, unified and free flowing… It’s rare when that all comes together in a creative endeavor. I honestly didn’t want this day to end, but seeing as we were up against the clock with the sunset, we took as many images as we could before darkness fell.
They are truly an outstanding group of women and it was an honor to capture all five athletes in their power.
Confetti. Confetti. Confetti. If there is one thing the Content Team not-so-patiently waits for at the end of every season, it’s the confetti shot! My favorite part about this image is the depth of the confetti itself. We see some really big pieces blurry in the foreground, and then so much of it behind Leah.
Leah had a monster season and I remember going into the last night of matches feeling pretty confident that she was going to be crowned Champion. This shot in particular always happens after she’s been announced, after her speech, and after she’s been mobbed by the players… So it’s the first time she gets to really take the moment! You officially become a Champion once the confetti rains down!
All photos and captions by Jade Hewitt.
In 2023, Basketball was the first season to start the year for Athletes Unlimited, so we were looking to set the tone early. Media Day provides that opportunity to capture images in a controlled environment where you can fine-tune the vision you want to create. Mya came into Media Day really calm and chill, but when we asked her to yell, she absolutely delivered! I think she was the only athlete we did a yell with, and man, she nailed it. The social team put this photo out immediately all across AU channels, and I think it set the standard for the year for all AU sports.
I really wanted to add a mid-season studio photoshoot to the lineup for Basketball, and I wanted it to be simple, yet bold. Since we have four colors as the foundation of Athletes Unlimited, I thought let’s double-down and have the background match the jerseys. Orange was the first color we had scheduled, and to be honest, the orange uniform can be very hard to photograph. I was slightly nervous when it was time for Jessica Kuster to represent the orange jersey, but after the first setup, we were literally freaking out. Jessica has such fierce eyes and an intense gaze that no one could have made that uniform look better.
We ended up replicating this photoshoot for Softball and Volleyball. Overall, it was a huge success.
The confetti image is what I get so excited for at the end of each season, but it is stressful to photograph. There are so many people in a small space all trying to capture NaLyssa Smith in the moment, so it’s all about getting in the right position and taking advantage of the moment when it happens. Luckily, the confetti hung in the air and NaLyssa put her arms out, giving us all the shot we wanted.
NaLyssa had a massive season and won it all in Week Five, so it was so much fun to capture her as she soaked it all in. She’s our Champ!
Odyssey has a huge personality and brings so much energy and intensity to the basketball court! She had an unbelievable season and was at the top of the leaderboard for what felt like all five weeks, so a few days before season ended, I wanted to do a photoshoot of her wearing the gold uniform.
I drove around Fair Park to find a spot that was open and spacious and provided some texture and warmth. The sunlight coming through the trees hit just right, and we had so much fun taking pictures for about 30 minutes. Odyssey is a joy to work with and has an absolutely infectious smile that makes it so easy to feel like you’ve known her for years.
All photos and captions by Kait Devir.
AU Pro Lacrosse Media Day is one of my favorite days of the year. It allows players to capture their personalities and presences. I feel immense gratitude for enhancing the visual narrative surrounding the sport of lacrosse. After graduating from Maryland, players like Abby Bosco were new to AU in 2023. I was thrilled to have a handful of players involved in a weekly uniform photoshoot! Bosco might have been a rookie, but she never played like one. She was quick to climb the leaderboard and make her presence known. My main focus for the shoot was to show a variety of uniforms that the players rotate wearing every week. I also wanted to use this shoot to show off the support from our sponsors: Gait, Nike, and more! Getting creative away from the lacrosse field is always so much fun!
Having the privilege to photograph the incredible athletes of Athletes Unlimited for three seasons has been a true honor. I wanted to capture the talent and passion of these athletes but, more importantly, the inspiration they create for younger lacrosse players, including myself. Week after week, I got to sit feet away and capture the love and passion for the game. Athletes Unlimited allowed me to photograph my first professional sport at 19. Photos like this can motivate the next generation, and I am genuinely grateful. This is only the beginning for professional women’s lacrosse, and I am excited to continue growing the game!
I work to ensure that when the last whistle is blown and all players leave the complex, I get a photo for them to remember their impact on the game. I remember running behind the net moments before Kenzie took this shot. Finding new angles and perspectives to capture the game is always a fun challenge. Each position differs from defense, midfield, attack, goalie, and even draw specialist, which I want to photograph. I believe capturing low attackers is more complicated than other spots because so many subjects are blocking my camera from getting a clear shot. I love photographing behind the net and on the goal lines because it gives my images the perspective of if the viewer is on the field with the players. For Kenzie’s photo, I positioned myself to get a full-body shot of her athleticism and creativity as a player. This photo embodies her dual abilities on the ice as a hockey player and lacrosse player.
I had a full circle moment when choosing Graffiti Alley as the photoshoot location. In high school, I watched Dana Dobbie’s stick trick video for Brine lacrosse and knew I wanted to create content for women’s lacrosse in the future. For this uniform shoot, I got to work with Dempsey Arsenault, Sam Apuuzo, Kayla Wood, Izzy McMahon, Lauren Gilbert, and Kady Glynn. Capturing AU lax in the same alley was my goal for so long! This photo of Dempsey was one of my favorites from the day!
AU Pro Lacrosse hosts packed exhibition at IWLCA Presidents Cup
© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Josie Rohach
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