Monday, May 14, 2007

Women's LAX: Maryland vs Yale

The Maryland Terrapins opened their 2007 NCAA Tournament run this Saturday with a face-off against the Yall Bulldogs at Ludwig Field in College Park. The weather for the match-up was superb: clear skies, a comfortable 70 degrees, and very low humidity. The Terps played a good match and ended up winning the opening round 13-7.

A friend of mine that works in the Athletic Department at Maryland warned me about increased security at the match today. Since it was an NCAA event and not an ACC or Maryland event there's a different set of rules that are applied. Apparently the CSC (the security folks) respond accordingly, and are more aggressive in enforcing the rules. I observed this several times when the CSC guards warned private photographers (like myself) to move back behind the security barrier.

None-the-less I managed to get a ton of great shots. At yesterday's race at FedEx I made a mistake in my EV correction, and so prior to today's game I made doubly sure to check my settings. On the way over I thought I'd use my 2X TC on my 200mm/2.8 lens and shoot with a 200 or 400 ISO setting in Aperture priority mode. Some metering tests when I arrived confirmed that the settings looked good. The shutter speed was fast (close to 1/8000 sec), and so I could lock the action. I also double checked the white balance to make sure I was shooting on sunlight mode, and I made sure my EV correction was set to 0.

A 200mm/2.8 with a 2X TC on a bright sunny day does really well. The last time I shot during the day at Ludwig I didn't have the 2X TC and a lot of my shots were overexposed. The 2X slows down the glass and it gets me in closure. I typically stand slightly behind the goal on the sideline and shoot the players as they drive to the net, or come back around from behind the goal. During the game I shot over 1200 pictures, but I narrowed them down to 300 "good" shots. My final picking-over resulted in 35 "excellent" shots. Overall it was one of my best shoots from a quality standpoint.

During the match Greg was nice enough to offer his 300mm/2.8 lens. I turned down the offer tho because I wanted to continue using my 2X on my 200mm lens. Cropping is a necessary evil because it's impossible to frame every shot perfectly. And cropping costs you in quality. If you shoot a player at the far end of the field it doesn't matter if you have a 10MP camera you're still going to get an out-of-focus exposure. If you're far away and it's daytime it seems like the most important aspect of your shot is your focal length. I felt like with my gear I was shooting 140mm-400mm and that seemed like a better range than a 300mm fixed lens.

I'm glad I stuck with my rig because I managed to get a lot of close-up shots of the players. The down side was that at f5.6 the composition of the shots suffered. The backgrounds weren't as blurred. I think I managed to get closer-in than I could have with a 300mm, but maybe the quality of the pictures isn't as good because of the sharp background. I'm glad that Greg offered me the lens for the shoot because it got me thinking about what my shots might look like. And since I chose the 2X TC and Greg shot the game with his 400mm/2.8 I can compare our shots.

Greg's shots look WAY better than mine. They're sharper, the composition is better, and he caught many more of the moments than I did. But he has 8 years of experience on me and he has $8k worth of better equipment than me, so it's no surprise. But, I did manage to capture my share of moments, and that's what I'm trying to nail down now. I've been watching Greg and the other photographers and then checking out their shots after the game. They've given me a lot of ideas of what to shoot and when. Unfortunately there's only so much I can do from the sidelines: I can't shoot the coaches talking with their players, I can't shoot the team when they're all lined up, I can't shoot the team in a huddle before the game, and I can't shoot from directly behind the goal. But, despite the limitations on where I can shoot from I managed to still get some great shots.

Looking forward I'm realizing the limitations of my equipment and I'm focusing more on the mechanics of the shoot and trying to capture as many moments as possible. I figure that with this strategy if I do manage to get a 400mm/2.8 lens one day I'll have the technique down and I'll be in good shape. And in the meantime if I shoot for someone as their assistant I'll be able to put together some good shots.

Unfortunately the Maryland games are wrapping up, and there's probably only another 3 shoots I'll have until late summer when Football starts up. I'm still actively looking for work and have volunteered at a few local soccer leagues and for a rugby team. I'm going to contact the Washington Post and ask them if their photographers are ever looking for assistants. Hopefully somebody will respond positively and I'll find some volunteer work this summer that's convenient and exciting to shoot.


Post a Comment