Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Friday evening's shoot at Kettler was a lot of fun because it was a completely new environment and there were a lot of other media outlets present to cover the event. But, it was indoors and crowded. During the event I was thinking about how nice it is to cover outdoor field event where there is plenty of space to move around and the backgrounds are often very far away.

I decided to attend the Royals and Majestics game on Saturday night even though they took place south of Manassas and I live way up in College Park MD. It was easily 60 miles from my house to the soccer complex, and it took a long time to get there. But Julie came with me and so I had company during the car ride. It was also a very nice drive through Virginia with lots of backroads. Having satellite radio also helps.

The Royals game and the Majestics game occurred simultaneously on side-by-side fields, and that was really nice from a photography standpoint. In previous matches the Majestics play first and then the Royals play afterwards. Watching 180 minutes of soccer (plus 30 minutes of half time, plus 15-30 minutes of in-between-games time) can be quite grueling, especially when it comes at the end of a day that was filled with covering other events. As a result I was pleased that both games were running concurrently and right next to each other so that I could float between the two games.

I wanted to focus on the Royals because in prior shoots they play after the Majestics in poor lighting conditions. My experience covering men's soccer is less than women's soccer, so I wanted to spend most of my time in front of the Royals for practice and also so that I had a wider variety of photos to post. I've also had a few email conversations with Mo (the general manager of the Royals), and he's expressed a lot of interest in the photos. On the other hand I haven't heard any word from the Majestics GM (not even sure who he/she is). Accordingly I wanted to have a lot of photos to send to the guy who's showing an interest in me covering their games.

Lighting for the event was good, but not great. There were some high cirrus clouds that didn't make it perfectly sunny but also didn't make it perfectly cloudy. I thought about playing around with the white balance but decided not to and to just use the sun preset.

I also shot the game at 100 ISO. I'm going to adjust this at a subsequent game because I received a comment from Al that my photos look "soft". I've noticed this as well. When I adjust the image enhancement in my D200 to "More Vivid" it doesn't seem to make things much better. I wonder if going up to 640 ISO or even 800 would make the pictures sharper.

This is where shooting alongside another photographer would really help me out. Just knowing what settings they used and then being able to compare my shots to theirs afterwards would be immensely valuable. I miss that from covering Maryland events. I used to be alongside a lot of photographers who would share what settings they're using. Hopefully I'll be able to tag along with Al on some events and get some ideas of some new settings to use.

I also made some adjustments to my AF system during the shoot. In previous shoots I've been using either spot or CW with 11 focal points on continuous mode, and I've had mixed results. In spot mode even tho I set the focal point to be highest possible focal point a lot of times it appears as tho the camera locks on the blades of grass on the field. This doesn't make much sense to me why the camera would do that but that seems to be whats happening. Lots of times faces are out of focus while the soccer ball (with all it's highly-contrasting lines) is in focus.

I changed my CW AF options to use 8 focal points rather than 11 and that seemed to help things a bit. I noticed that I had noticeably fewer out of focus shots. It wasn't a dramatic improvement but it was a little better. I'm going to do some reading about "closest subject" and the AF system to see what I can find out about better settings.

I moved around on the field quite a lot during the shoot and got a bunch of shots from various spots on the field. It was difficult to find spots where there wasn't an offensive tent in the background or some other annoyance. There was one spot tho that was pretty decent and most of my best-of shots came from this spot. It was located to the left of the Royals goalie looking up the field (rather than from the side). It's more difficult to focus from this position, but there's also a lot more action (most players kick using their right leg) and there was a better background (just trees).

There are only 2 more Royals that I will be able to attend this summer. It's been fun covering their games and my shots have improved since I started shooting them back in May.


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