Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Women's Socccer: Majestics vs Freedom

Saturday was a great day for shooting. I had a great time covering the DC Soapbox Derby for Al at the DC Sports Box, and I also had a good time with Andrew at the Bowie Baseball games.

Andrew was very helpful in getting the names for various players that I shot. During the event I was very skeptical that he was recording enough information about the games, the players, and the shots I was taking. But afterwards when I had to assemble the names for the photos I sent to Jake at the Blade it was sufficient information. Jake was very happy to have a full list of names for the photos, and to my surprise he said he wanted to use all 10 photos that I sent to him. It would really surprise me if he ran all 10 photos. Maybe he just wanted all the names so that he could decide later this week.

On Sunday I took the day off. On most weekends I'm playing catchup on work for customers that I missed during the week because another customer had a crisis, or I'm working on the books and invoices for my software company, or I'm out in the yard pruning, or I'm at an inlaws house celebrating some momentous event. But this Sunday I had an open day, which was quite nice. In the evening my wife and I headed up the Germantown MD to watch the NOVA Majestics take on the Washington Freedom.

The shoot was a lot of fun because the Freedom is a really good time. Also, their dark blue uniforms expose really nicely under the vibrant colors of an afternoon sun. The Majestics wear a somewhat washed out yellow uniform with green text. It looks decent in the late afternoon sun, but it's definitely not as remarkable as the red uniforms of the Renegades and the blue uniforms of the Freedom.

There were 3 other photographers present at this shoot. Larry was of course there covering the match for his website, and there were 2 other individuals there as well. One of them is the photographer for the Freedom (Shane Canfield), and the other photographer looked to be from a newspaper in Washington DC. It may have been the Post Gazette.

It was helpful having some other photographers present. I'm very much still in the osmosis phase of learning, where most of my behavior is emulation of photographers that are better than me. When other "better" photographers are not around, it makes me think for myself, but I also don't progress and improve as quickly. With other photographers around I was able to observe their shooting positions as well as their shot selection.

A big problem I had during this game was the gnats. They were everywhere. The Freedom have a wonderful field out in the middle of a very large farm, and the bugs are everywhere! I was constantly swatting them away and it was a huge annoyance. I'm adding "bug spray" to my go-bag for the next time that I attend a Freedom event.

I played around with some white balance settings during the game, and overall I like the sunlight WB setting the best. I was flipping between "shade" and "sun", and overall the "sun" photos came out the best. I'm going to keep that in mind for the next game and just go with "sun".

Unfortunately I didn't manage to get as many "great" photos during the game as I would have liked. During the home Majestics games I walk around the sidelines like crazy. I realize that I'm probably breaking a USL rule about where photographers can stand, but my sense from the coaches is that they don't really care. They like the photos I'm sending them so that's what's important to me.

But the Freedom seems to be in a slightly different notch in the competition totum pole. They seem more formal, and with there being more photographers present I thought it best to not follow the play action as closely as I do at the home Majestics games. As a result I didn't get very many inbound passes looking at the players. That's unfortunate because those are some of my favorite shots. And the field in Germantown is great from a background standpoint - no school busses screwing up my shots!

Focus was a real challenge for me during this shoot. The sun was setting behind one set of stands, and as a result the set of stands on the far side of the field were brightly illuminated. Likewise, they had lots of shadows and lots of straight lines. The AF chased down the bleachers like crazy during the shoot. I kept getting back-focus as the AF system locked on the empty bleachers and left the players out of focus. Of all of my throwaways I'd estimate that 75% of them were simply out-of-focus (but properly exposed). That's encouraging, because a lot of my throwaways in the past were due to improper exposure as well as out-of-focus subjects. I played around with the AF settings during the game to see if I could use a better system but didn't have much luck. At one of the next games I'm going to ask another photographer what settings they use, and I'm going to read up on my own AF system in the D200. There's got to be a better way to focus. Maybe the "focus on closest subject" mode is the best?

I took far too many pictures today at this game. Almost 1200. That's ridiculous. The problem I had was that there was so much action from the Freedom that I was constantly trying to capture the moment. I managed to get over 90 "keepers" (a new record), so that's at least good. But I would like to get down around the 200-250 range per game max. It took me a few hours to post-process all that data. Ridiculous!

On another note, Al at the DC Sports Box was happy with my coverage of the DC Soapbox Derby. He posted my writeup and photos here. Go click over there and check them out! I've had a few photos published in the Bowie Blade, but this is my first web publishing and I'm pretty excited about it. I'm going to try to maintain the momentum with Al because I'm hopeful he'll offer me some more assignments.

Lastly, I still haven't made any progress on my Flash gallery software. Hopefully in a week I'll have some more time to work on it. But for now I'm pushing hard for my customers to get their software out the door (to give to THEIR customers), and that doesn't leave much time for my personal ambitions (well, outside of photography at least). I'm working on fixing that tho, and hopefully in the next 2 weeks I'll have SOMETHING I can publish (even if it's crap that will be updated).


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