Monday, June 11, 2007

The Bowie Olympics was a fun shoot because it was outdoors and it had a variety of different events that I could cover. Each separate event presented it's own set of unique challenges. For the shot-put the challenge was taking shots with a busy background. For the long jump the challenge was keeping the subject and the sand in focus while throwing the background out of focus. For the track competitors it was shooting the subjects from an angle that framed the subjects well.

In the Olympics I was free to move about the field and shoot the participants from practically any vantage point. In comparison, baseball events are highly restricted. You can pretty much only shoot from the stands, and for the most part the action takes place very far away. To cover first base you have to shoot from behind 3rd base in order to catch the players faces. You can't cover them from behind 1st and get their faces unless you're trying to get a shot of a player sliding back into 1st.

3rd base is slightly different tho. You can get great shots of players stealing third or rounding the base from behind the 3rd baseline. Likewise you can get a lot of good shots of players on 1st base stealing 2nd. However, in covering baseball your lens length is critical. You can cover 3rd and 2nd from behind 3rd using a 70-200 lens, but trying to catch the 1st base action from behind 3rd is out of range. You really need 300mm or 400mm.

Additionally, you have to consider the elevation of your shot. Many of my shots are from right up front because I can only reach 200mm. But I think that I would get some better overall shots if I was further away (with a stronger lens) and higher up. On one hand my focus would be sharper, but on the other hand the overall shot quality would suffer due to the depth of field effect.

When you shoot from down low your backgrounds tend to be far away (trees on the far side of the field or the backdrop somewhere far away), and with fast glass the shallow depth of field produces a beautiful picture (assuming you're in focus). When you shoot from up high there isn't much distance between the subject (the players) and the background (the field). As a result you don't get the nice blurred background. It's a tradeoff: shoot low you get great shots but it can be out of focus (because the subjects are moving towards you) or shoot from up high and be in focus but don't have great backgrounds.

I was able to get onto the field for this game because it was a very informal environment (the American Legions), and they actually wanted me there to cover the game. I started shooting from outside the fence but then was able to find an unlatched gate that I just happened to accidentally knock. Since it opened I walked through and onto the field.

Once on the field I hung out next to the home team dugout (next to 3rd base). From that position I was able to get some great shots. Looking down the dugout to the batter and catcher formed some great opportunities for shots. Unfortunately the focus was off.

I also noticed that the field was extremely dry. This is a big difference from the other baseball games I covered at Maryland where they went the field before the game and during the 5th inning in order to keep the dust down. This field was bone dry and when the batters swung little puffs of dust were thrown up into the air. Overall it made for an interesting effect tho, as some of the pictures I've posted to the blog will show.

Overall I had a very good time shooting this event because I was able to get onto the field. However, I was extremely hot and thirsty. Since I wasn't up in the stands I wasn't sitting down at all. And earlier in the day I was on my feet for about 3 hours covering the Olympics. By the end of the game I was hot, my feet hurt, and I was ready for some sugar!

During the shot I thought about how cold my 70-200/2.8 lens was when covering the men's LAX games at Maryland in March. During this game my lens was red hot from the Sun and it got me thinking about lens assembly. The 70-200/2.8 AFS VR lens is constructed from metal and I like that because it's durable. However, it's really cold in the Spring and really hot in the summer! I'm not saying I'd trade it for a plastic lens (not in a million years), but it's something I hadn't thought about prior to purchasing the lens.

I'm glad that I had the opportunity to shoot the event, and I'm happy that Jake is continuing to offer me assignments. I like working with somebody in the press because event organizers approach the media for coverage of their event. Then the media (in this case Jake) tells me about it and I go cover it. Without Jake I wouldn't find out about a lot of these events. I like this arrangement because through Jake I'm accessing several events I wouldn't have even known about. I'm not sure how well it will play out in the fall because I'm going to try to get back to covering Maryland events, but for the summer I definitely think that I've got a pretty good thing going with the Blade. Go out and buy yourself a paper!


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