Bushland fourth grader Ryder Grace Liles absolutely loves sports, especially her favorite, softball.
While Ryder Grace is like most 10-year-olds, who loves school and plays with her friends, she’s very unique in what has become her passion. In just one year, Ryder Grace has made a hobby of taking photos at Bushland sporting events and ran with it becoming a go-to asset as a well-known sports photographer in the Amarillo-area.
“I’ve always loved sports,” Ryder Grace said. “I loved watching sports and seeing sports photos. I also play sports. I play softball, volleyball and run track. I watched Bushland sports and I just wanted to try to shoot photos to see how I could do.”
Ryder Grace’s parents, Steven and Jamie, said Ryder Grace first started gaining interest in photography watching her older brother, Parker, a sophomore now at Bushland, and his friends play games, so they bought her a camera for a trial run.
“We saw how expensive cameras were so we bought a decent one to see how she would take care of it,” Steven said. “She took amazing care it. So, Jamie and I talked, and we decided to get her a better camera in February of last year.”
“Her first sports shot was at a freshman basketball game. She’d go watch her older brother Parker play. She’d shoot his games and his friends. She’s nine-years-old at the time so we didn’t know what to expect. We’re at Tascosa and she got some really good shots. She knew what she was doing, and we knew this is something she really loved.”
Ryder Grace took her photography seriously and started training herself by watching YouTube videos that made her better. Once Steven and Jamie noticed Ryder Grace’s true talent, the two got with Press Pass Sports managing partner and extraordinary photographer, Joe Garcia III, about investing in a better camera so Ryder Grace could take her photography a little more seriously.
“I reached out to Joe and asked him what kind of camera we needed to invest in for her,” Steven said. “They aren’t cheap, and we didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on the wrong camera. Joe gave us great advice on what to look for and we were able to get the right fit for her.”
Garcia eventually met Ryder Grace during basketball season last year and the two hit it off. Thanks to Garcia’s training, Ryder Grace was first published by the Amarillo Globe-News last spring and has been in the regular rotation as a football and volleyball photographer for Press Pass Sports all fall.
“Joe has helped me out a lot,” Ryder Grace said. “He’s helped me with framing, lighting, focus and getting the action shots.”
Garcia echoed Ryder Grace’s comment.
“It’s been so cool to mentor Ryder this school year,” Garcia said. “You can tell she loves her Bushland Falcons and has a passion for learning. She soaks up everything like a sponge. I’m super proud of her and I always look forward to seeing her images on Instagram.”
“I think it’s incredible that we call a 10-year-old to help us cover the Bushland Falcons, and we have all the confidence in the world that she’s going to send us top-notch photos. I can’t imagine what her images will look like when she’s 11.”
Ryder Grace has even become very popular on social media thanks to her Instagram platform. She’s not just getting noticed by Bushland students but students from other schools.
“People know who she is now because of social media,” Jamie said. “High school kids from other towns even come up to her and ask her to take pictures of them. Most kids her age are playing out with their friends, and she does too at times, but she also works her tail off on the sidelines or the court to get shots because that’s what she loves to do.”
Ryder Grace plans on continuing to shoot amazing photos and her dream is to play college softball.