From the Archives: He Shoots, Comets Score
Doug Fejer is the go-to photographer for UTD athletics. (Photo by Yang Xi MS’13, PhD’15)
Editor’s Note: This story by Bruce Unrue appeared in the spring 2016 issue of UT Dallas Magazine.
When it comes to giving his time, Doug Fejer may be one of UT Dallas’ most prolific benefactors.
By occupation, Fejer is a local forensic accountant who offices just a few blocks from campus. But in terms of avocation, Fejer is known as the Comets’ official sports photographer. When his real job of perusing bank statements and spreadsheets allows, Fejer grabs his bag full of high-end photographic equipment and finds his spot on the sidelines at UT Dallas athletic events.
“I never let work get in the way of having a good time doing what I truly love,” said Fejer, who has been photographing UT Dallas athletic events since 2004.
In the past 12 years, Fejer has invested thousands of hours of his time, and tens of thousands of dollars worth of his own financial resources, in doing the one thing he can’t imagine living without — photographing UT Dallas sports.
Hundreds of his professional-quality action photographs have appeared on UTD websites, in publications and promotional materials, and with news outlets and other universities across the country. Yet he’s never asked for, nor received, a penny of compensation for his efforts.
“In my mind, Doug Fejer is every bit as much of a ‘professional’ photographer as any freelancer that we would have to hire,” explained Athletics Director Bill Petitt. “The quality of Doug’s work — and the effort he puts into it — are first-rate. There’s no way we could replace his contribution to our program.”
Photos by Doug Fejer
By fall 2015, Fejer had taken photographs at more than 500 UT Dallas athletic events. At an average of 350 shots per event, he has taken more than 175,000 photographs for the athletic program. More than 6,000 of his best pictures from the last 12 years are posted on his personal website, dougfejer.com. If using a professional rate of $300 to $500 per event to place a value on his contribution, the estimated total easily surpasses $200,000.
Fejer added UTD cross country to the list of sports he has photographed, following the Comets during the fall to a crosstown meet. Within hours, he had provided the Athletics Department with more than 100 professional-quality photographs of the Comets in action. Interestingly, that meet took place on the campus of the University of Dallas in Irving, which is where Fejer’s relationship with UTD began.
In 2004, Fejer had been asked by a University of Dallas Crusaders soccer coach to attend one of her games and get shots of senior players who were wrapping up their college careers. She knew Fejer from his involvement with local youth club sports, and he was happy to oblige.
The Crusaders’ opponent that day? The University of Texas at Dallas Comets.
Fejer posted photos from that game on his website, then alerted the coaches from both schools. Desperate for action prints of any kind at the time, the UT Dallas athletic staff contacted Fejer, asked for permission to use some of the photos, then mentioned, “If you’re looking for something to take pictures of, you can always come over here any time you want,” he recalled.
The rest, as they say, is history. Fejer admits he is now obsessed with sports photography — a hobby he didn’t pick up until he was 40 years old.
“My father always tried to get me interested in photography, but like most kids, I was resistant,” said Fejer, who grew up the son of European immigrants in Michigan. “He gave me a camera when I went off to college and I think I shot maybe two rolls of film during the entire time I was in school. Then, I worked an entire year for a big firm in New York City and never took a single photograph.”
But that all changed in the early ’90s when Fejer’s two children became involved in sports.
“I had a little auto-focus camera, but I realized it took too long from the time I would press the shutter until the camera actually fired. I was missing a lot of good shots,” he explained. “So I thought maybe I need to go try one of those old cameras my dad had given me.” Sure enough, Fejer started getting much better action shots with an old, manual-focus camera. His obsession was launched.
“I don’t even like to think about all the money. I was probably spending hundreds of dollars each weekend just on film and processing,” admitted Fejer, who was a late convert to digital photography and advanced auto-focus technology. “I never took a course or read an instruction book. It was all just figuring it out as I went along.”
Since he took up the hobby 20 years ago, Fejer has owned almost a dozen different cameras and even more specialty lenses. “Every time that I get something new, I convince myself that this is the last camera or lens I’ll ever need.” He now has three different Nikon D3 cameras for sports photography.
“I like the action of sports, and I like being around the young people and their energy.”
— Doug Fejer
Over time, Fejer has followed his avocation to sports venues throughout the area, where he shoots youth soccer, high school football, and both UTD and Southern Methodist University intercollegiate soccer. He has even talked his way onto the sidelines at several high-profile college football games. Soccer, of all the sports he shoots, is his favorite “because you have a 90-minute game and the ball is in play for all 90 minutes. It’s very simple. Someone always has possession of the ball.”
“I’m not into architectural photography, and certainly not bird photography,” he said with a grin in reference to the elite shooters often highlighted in popular photography magazines. “I like the action of sports, and I like being around the young people and their energy.”
Fejer realizes he is providing a service to both the University and the student-athletes. “I grew up playing sports and have only a couple of photographs from back then. When these kids graduate, they’ll have a war chest of photos from their days of playing at UTD.”
In 2012, Fejer was honored for his service with induction into the University’s Athletic Hall of Honors as a special contributor. “Of all the people inducted, I doubt anyone gets as big a kick out of it as I do,” he said.
“When I tell people about that honor, they will comment that I must be an amazing volunteer,” Fejer explained. “But I don’t see it that way at all. I’ve never come out here when I didn’t want to be here. I look forward to it. In fact, I hate the summer because there are no games. So when I return each fall, I greet everyone with, ‘Happy New Year.’ That’s the way it feels to me.
“I’m sure I’ll be taking photos at UTD until the day I die.”
Doug Fejer takes a break from the action. (Photo by Yang Xi MS’13, PhD’15)