Sunday, July 1, 2007

Women's Basketball: Mystics vs Fever

This afternoon was my first professional shoot, and it was a lot of fun!

I spent last week in NC working on some customer projects, and as a result I've been out of town and haven't been shooting in over a week. My last event was a soccer game from a week ago. I had scrubbed my shooting plans for the weekend in anticipation of not returning to Maryland until late Sunday night.

However, when Al emailed on Thursday and asked if I would be willing to cover the Mystics game on Sunday I decided to come home early. I was very excited to shoot in Verizon Center because I had never covered a professional game before, and I was interested in experiencing the lighting situation.

Al put in the request for me late on Friday for a credential, so he couldn't guarantee that my name would be on the official list. However, the DC Sports Box has a season long credential with Al's name on it. As a result, he didn't anticipate a problem. He sent me an email with pretty detailed instructions on where to go, what entrance to use, and then where to go afterwards. They were good, but things still managed to fall apart.

One thing about being a sports shooter that I didn't anticipate was how important it would become to be comfortable saying the phrase: "Can you help me find the Media Entrance?" I was also unprepared for how comfortable you have to be walking up to complete strangers and asking for directions to locations or where certain facilities are located. It also pays to do you homework and use Google Maps as much as possible.

When I covered the Capitals Uniform Unveiling I was told "Just get off at the Ballston metro stop" and go from there. I didn't really think twice about it, and I was pretty accustomed to the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro where the Verizon Center is literally just outside the stop. When I walked out of the Ballston Metro I expected the same but things were quite quite difference!

Fortunately there were a lot of people walking to the event wearing Caps jerseys so I could just follow them. But even after following them to the venue I still had a very difficult time locating the media entrance. I think I asked 4 different people for help before I finally found the correct place.

This afternoon was very similar. I walked around the Verizon Center to what I believed was the M Street Entrance and then someone redirected me around the building (next to a construction yard). I found the Press Entrance and went inside and had to ask the guy where the media room was located. Then I walked down the hall and it wasn't where the guy had said it would be so I had to ask another guy. Once I arrived the guard gave me a little ticket (which I had no idea what it was used for), so I took it and went inside. I saw some people with food, so I asked them how they where they got it. They pointed to the serving table and said I used the ticket to get free food.

The point of all of this is to just document how many people you have to talk to when you're getting started. This was all new to me, and fortunately I'm not afraid to walk up to strangers and ask for help. But if you're shy, introverted, and uncomfortable asking people for help you should probably either get over those personality challenges or find another hobby or occupation. If you can't even get to the event how can you be successful?

After getting all settled in (and asking another photographer what the SSID was for the wireless network), I walked out to the arena floor to take a few test shots. I wanted to try my 50/1.8 lens to see how much light it let in. The 1.8 vs the 2.8 really makes a big difference. When I purchase my 50AF I'm definitely going to step up to f1.4 in order to get a lot of light.

It will be interesting to see how the wider aperture and shallower DOF effects my ability to shoot a good shot. Overall tho I think I'll have better shots because I'll be able to reduce the ISO down to a lower level (maybe 600 if I'm lucky?) and still properly expose the image. As it stands now when I'm on f2.8/1/500th I have to juice the ISO up to 1000, 1250, or 1600. And that makes noise. I envy the shooters with the flash remotes so much... But that's so far out of what I can achieve that it's not even worth feeling bad about...

I noticed that a lot of the shooters were using 18-55/f2.8 DX lenses on one body and then 70-200/2.8 or 300/2.8 on another body. I'm interested in how the 300mm lens looks at the far end of the court, but I'm really really happy at 200mm from a distance. I almost feel like 300mm would be too much for a basketball court. If Al and I cover an event together I'm going to ask him to bring his 300 - I'd love to take a gander through the lens to see how large the players are in the frame.

I shot the entire game with the 70-200/2.8 because I just can't keep up with the players in my MF 50/1.8 lens. I really wanted that extra f-stop but the manual focus was just too much for me. I couldn't keep people in focus and it just didn't work well at all. As a result I went back to the 70-200 for the game and I felt way too close for the shots under the basket.

I noticed another photographer using an 85/1.4 lens, and that caught my eye. I thought it was a strange lens selection because 70mm is too much for action on the near side of the court, and 70 is too little for action on the far side of the court. I asked him how it was working for him and he said it was good. I wish I knew where his photos were published so that I could take a look for myself.

I played around with my focus settings a lot this evening. When I used spot focus or even CW I took a lot of OOF shots. I switched the focus system to 11 points and put it on the aggregate function (the top one on the back of the D200) and a lot of my focus problems went away. I had a few OOF shots, but for the most part this setting worked very well. I also used Continuous autofocus and the AF system was on FPS mode. I'm not sure what the difference is between FPS and Focus+FPS mode... That'll be a Google search later on I suppose...

I noticed that my position on the baseline made a huge difference in my shots. During the first half I was positioned very close to the line that the players have to set up on during a free throw. I was very close to being under the basket, and this made it VERY difficult for me on a 70mm lens. If I was on a 18-55 it would've been great. In the second half I sat outside near the 3 point line and it was remarkably better. At 70mm I could still get a good amount of the player's body when they were under the basket. When I was down low I was just too close.

It was good being back on the basketball court again. Maryland Women's Basketball is where this whole sports shooting adventure started for me, with the help of my high school friend Reza. When I received a D40 in early December 2006 as a gift I asked Reza for help in getting me into a few games so that I could learn more about exposure settings, autofocus, and how to use a DSLR. That sparked my interest in sports shooting and has resulted in me shooting dozens of softball, baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse, and soccer games over the past 6 months. Despite all of the venues, all of the teams, all of the lighting conditions, and the varying levels of play of the teams there's a special place for women's basketball, and being on the floor of the Verizon Center brought that back to me. Can't wait til the fall!


Post a Comment