Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Softball: Alan Inverson Softball Classic

Friday night's shoot of the Bowie Youth Street Hockey event in Bowie was fun, but I was really looking forward to Saturday's event: The Alan Iverson Softball Classic.

The Classic took place out at Bowie Baysox stadium and is a fundraiser. Part of the funds that were raised go to the local community college. Because of this Jake from the Bowie Blade asked me to cover the event. Jake even came out to cover the event from a writing standpoint.

The event was scheduled to start at 7:05pm with the press allowed in at 5pm. I arrived at 6pm and picked up my pass at the media stand. When I mentioned to the Baysox employee that I was with the Blade the person knew right away who I was as well as Jake. Ryan then walked me into the stadium and pointed out where I was supposed to go and shoot from. He also said that Jake was already here and down on the field waiting for me.

I headed down to the field and met up with Jake for the first time. It was kinda weird meeting him for the first time since we've had several dozen emails back and forth and I've been shooting for him all summer but I've never met him in person. On the field Jake and I spoke at length about shooting, media, events, and coverage. He seems pretty hungry for expanding his coverage and asked me if I would be willing to increase my coverage of his events. I said that I didn't know what my time would be like in the Fall in light of my increased involvement with the DC Sports Box.

The event was a lot of waiting for the athletes to arrive. I took a few pictures of the WPGC DJs but I was mostly waiting for Carmelo Anthony and Alan Iverson to arrive. They finally arrived around 7:45pm (just a little bit late!)

When they arrived they walked around the media area and we were able to use flash photography. This was good because my initial shots without flash didn't come out very well. I had to shoot up around 1600 ISO with f2.8 and the white balance and noise made the pictures pretty bad. Going down to ISO 300 with a flash and white balance on flash really made a large difference!

There were quite a lot of media outlets covering the event. The local Fox News, CBS News, and ABC News outlets were there, as were Comcast Sports Net and a few smaller channels (most likely Bowie Statue University or something like that). Fortunately there was enough room that photographers could easily move around the TV cameras, and they weren't using their lights. I was able to move about easily and take lots of good photographs of the athletes when they were doing sound bites and answering questions for the reporters.

I also ran into a photographer I've seen at Maryland events. I didn't catch her name, but she said she works for the PG Gazette. I believe we receive that newspaper at our house, but I usually just throw it away. I'll have to take a look at it next time to see if her shots of the Iverson Classic are in there.

There was also a photographer in attendance who was a pain in the ass. She was pushing all the other photographers around and pushing people out of the way. On a couple of occasions she'd get really close to an athlete and then miss the shot somehow. I'm not sure what her problem was, but she seemed really irritable and bossy. She was working the media relations girl for better shots and to get some of the VIP invitees out of the way of her shots.

She also kept asking other photographers "who's that?" I don't know who many of the athletes are because I don't follow professional sports very closely, but Jake does. And Jake was there to cover the story (I was just there for the eye candy). He knew a lot about the different athletes, most notably their names (which she didn't know)!

Later on I found out that she was a paparazzi photographer and wasn't there for a media outlet. I kept thinking during the event: you're going about this the wrong way! Every person that I talk to in this business has said: be nice to the media relations people. If you're mean or unpleasant to them, or you complain unnecessarily you won't be invited back. And if you aren't invited back you can't take photos! So be nice and you'll get invited back. She definitely wasn't being nice, and I doubt she'll be at another ESPN event!

Shooting opportunities during the game itself were pretty limited due to the poor light and my position on the field. I really need that 300/2.8 or a 400/2.8 to cover baseball. But, on the other hand, I really don't enjoy baseball too much so it might not be a bad thing that I don't have a long lens. But I got a few action shots of Iverson running between 2nd and 3rd base.

The real action occurred after the game when the athletes stood around on the field and signed authographs for the DJs and the fans. There were a ton of shooting opportunities (with flash!) on the field, and by far those turned out to be my best shots. Interestingly enough, the paparazzi photographer left during the middle of the game and completely missed out on the on-field shots after the game.

Overall I fired about 400 actuations and ended up with around 20 photos I sent to the Blade. I actually have a ton other "keepers" that I'll probably post back up on my server tho. It was a very good shoot, and really showed me what a difference flash makes.

I really would like an SB-800. They allow you to just shoot and shoot and shoot and not even think about the flash recharging. If I had one of these I'd really do well in situations like this. It's definitely going on my list of gear I'd like to acquire. Fortunately they're not too expensive ($350?).

I also learned a lot about my minimum focal length on my 70-200 lens. It's 2.5 meters, and I've never had a problem with it before because I've always shot players on the field. In this event I was covering people close up and on several occasions I was too close (less than 2.5 meters) and I couldn't focus. I had to back up, focus, and then zoom in.

Although this sounds like a problem it really isn't too bad. With the 70-200 lens I can be pretty far away from my subject and still get a great shot. With a lens with a shorter focal length (e.g. a 17-55mm lens) I would have to be directly in front of the subject when shooting. It would certainly help to have a 17-55mm but in this situation it didn't seem crucial.


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