Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thursday night's game between the Nats and the Phillies was pretty empty from a photographer standpoint. 2 of the regular photographers attended the Mystics game and that freed up a lot of space!

At RFK there are 4 on-field positions from which you can shoot. 2 of the on-field positions are beyond the dugouts. That's where the TV camera crew camps and shoots. It starts at roughly the 1st and 3rd bases and goes out maybe 100 feet or so.

The other 2 on-field positions are between home plate and the dugouts. Those spots are "prime" locations - you can good looks at the pitcher and you also get great looks at the batter. When somebody scores you also get great looks of the player returning to his dugout and high fiving his teammates.

The 2 prime spots have size limitations. One allows for 3 photographers and the other only has space for 1 photographer. During the 2 games I've shot so far those spots were hard to come by. But tonight they opened up after the 3rd inning because 2 photographers were at a different sporting event. I jumped on them as soon as I saw one open up and I didn't see anyone else go after it!

I shot the game tonight using ISO400, 640, and 800 and manual mode. I still find myself making adjustments to my shutter speed based on which subject I'm shooting and it was very perplexing. I'd have to make adjustments after all the sunlight was gone and the only lighting was the stadium lights. I noticed that that pitcher is ridiculously bright while home plate is a lot darker.

This sucks because you have to use around 1/1250th shutter speed to freeze the ball when it's being hit by the batter. There's barely enough light out at the pitcher's mound for that speed but there really is insufficient light at home plate for that speed shutter. I thought this was kind of strange and thought I might be imagining things so I asked Greg about it.

Greg confirmed what I had suspected and commented "there's a good 3/4's stop more light on the mound than at home plate". So it turns out I wasn't imagining things after all!

I've been trying my best to shoot everything in Manual mode so that I can learn to better judge the light. I've noticed that my camera's meter doesn't seem to react very quickly to changes in lighting, and when I use Aperture priority mode I tend to under or overexpose. Using manual mode I've had a lot of success and one area in particular has recently opened up...

When I shoot a batter swinging I need 1/500th or faster. But when I'm covering a player stealing a base I can go down to 1/320th and sometimes even slower. This significantly lightens my pictures. If it's too much light I can step down my aperture a quarter or a half stop and get a slightly sharper image on my D200. Alternatively, I can reduce my ISO to 400 in order to create a better picture.

Tonight I experimented with this technique a lot and it was pretty successful. My shots of the infield are brighter than before and I consider that a good success. It's more work to keep an eye on the camera's "suggested" meter and then make my own adjustments to speeds, but it seems well worth it.

One problem I've noticed is that I'll use my 70-200 to cover the batter and I'll have the shutter up around 1/500th. My ISO will be 800 or 1000, and my f-stop is 2.8. I take a few shots. I put the camera down and switch to the other body with the 400mm lens and take a few shots as the player goes to 2nd. Then I pick up my first body again and prepare for the batter to steal 3rd. My settings are still ISO 1000, f2.8, 1/500th of a second. Since I don't need that kind of sensitivity for a runner I drop the ISO to 400 and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. This takes time.

My D200 and the D2H have a presets capability, and this may help me with these transitions. I may look into setting up a preset for batters, pitchers, and infield and store those in the camera. That might make it easier to go back and forth between configurations quickly.

I also took some time tonight to try to shoot from different locations. Al sent out an email today to all photographers specifying guidelines for covering events in the Fall. One recommendation he made in the guidelines is to be creative and to look for unique vantage points that are not commonly used but could offer compelling photographs. He's trying to separate us from the rest of the crowd and I agree with this approach.

I've always thought that the candid photos of the players offer a view of the game that is seldom seen. Lots of organizations look for the slam dunk photo, but equally compelling can be the corresponding reactions on the player's and coaches faces after the slam dunk. The picture of Brandi Chastine removing her jersey is an example of such a reaction.

I looked for some interesting spots and I found a couple tonight. In the upper deck to the right of the foul ball poll in right field is a fun position if you have a 400mm lens. You can frame all of home plate (including the circle of grass around home plate), and you have unobstructed views of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base.

When you shoot from the on-field positions you're constantly blocked by other people on the field. If you're in the prime locations you're blocked by batters that are on-deck warming up. If you're in the outside spots you're blocked by the 1st base or 3rd base coaches. Or you're blocked by the 1st base and 3rd base umpires as they run into the infield to call a player safe or out. Or the shortstop blocks your view of the play at 2nd.

Shooting from the outfield you're looking from above and beyond the action and you can see everything. I only spent 1 inning up there but I got several decent shots. It really surprised me how well some of the photos came out. When I looked at them on my D2H I thought they were going to look crappy.

It was also a good spot to shoot batters because you actually are in front of them. When you're on the field the batter is standing perpendicular to you if you're in the prime spots, and maybe at a 45 degree angle if you're shooting from outside. But when you're in the outfield he's at a 15 degree angle from you and you can get some great shots.

Al complimented my outfield photos but suggested I try it during day games. He said that you can get really beautiful shots from out there at f4. The next time I cover a game I'm definitely going to head up there.

I also shot from the handicapped sections behind 3rd base. During last night's game I shot from the 1st base handicapped section and those shots came out pretty well. Shooting from behind 3rd offered shots of players coming off the field. The drawback is that you lose the in-line shot from 3rd base to home, so you miss the players high fiving on their way to home plate. But you get them coming back to the dugout from home plate so I guess it's ok.

During the game there were times where I spent a lot of time using one particular lens. When I was in the outfield I stayed on the 400 the entire time. When I was on-field I used the 400 for some close ups of the pitcher and batters but I used the 70-200 for a lot of in-field coverage of steals. I decided to swap bodies several times so that I could use the D2H's 8fps mode to shoot as much as possible.

The D200 works great but it's pretty slow when you're shooting baseball and you want to get a picture of a player hitting the ball. The D2H does a great job of that. I'm still a little sloppy on swapping bodies because I'm fearful of breaking something. But I see a lot of other photographers doing it while on the field so I figure it's a safe thing to do.

So as the week winds down I was able to cover 2 games and that was pretty good. Next week looks to be a fun week: the Baysox are in town, and I've gotten permission to shoot some Maryland Football practices for the MGN. Unfortunately I can't post the pictures from the football practice, but I do get to get out there and shoot on the field.

This week was looking pretty busy when I checked my sports calendars in iCal on Sunday evening. The Baysox were in town, the Nats were at home for 2 series, and the Mystics played on Tuesday and Thursday evening. It appeared as though there were going to be lots of chances for me to use my 400mm lens this week!

Over the weekend Al offered me the choice of the Phillies series or the Mets series. I chose the Phillies since it was during the week and I didn't know how my weekend was going to shape up. Julie's close friend's husband turned 30 this week and was having a large celebration at a pub downtown on Friday night. And on Saturday I didn't know if I was going to be working at the Farm or not.. So I chose the Phillies.

I let Al know that I couldn't shoot the first game of the series due to another birthday commitment and Al responded that he would prefer to put a single photographer on an individual series. He also said he would prefer to assign a photographer to a series that can make the first game. Anything can happen and lead to you not attending the subsequent games, and in that case the DC Sports Box wouldn't have any photos of the series. It makes sense but it was very disappointing: my 2 commitments were on the opening nights of the series. And, one of the commitments was on a night the Mystics played!

So it looked like my week of ridiculousness was going to fizzle. Fortunately for me things turned around an Al managed to get a credential for Anthony (a DC Sports Box photographer and writer) for the first game and he put me on the second and third game of the series. I was very excited when I heard the news!

I was also looking forward to seeing Greg Fiume again. Greg and I are close in age (I believe he's 5 years older than me), but Greg's been shooting since 1992. I like going to events where Greg shoots because I watch what he's shooting and his technique.

The more I shoot the more I appreciate the value of experience. My first shots of Maryland outdoor sports (baseball and softball) were soft and primarily focused on the pitcher. They were soft because I didn't realize the problems at 200mm/f2.8 on my D200. But they focused on the pitcher because that's the only action I saw. Watching other more experienced photographers and doing more and more shoots I've realized that there's lots of action going on during games thats difficult to notice.

In baseball it's a pitcher making a fist and screaming in victory after striking out the last batter on the opposing team. Or it's a batter knuckle-bumping the first base coach after a great hit. Or it's the batter's response to a questionable call by the umpire. These are things I never noticed before. Now that I've been shooting baseball all spring and summer I've started to pick up on them and have tried to capture them. Greg does a great job of this in his photos - whenever I look at them I see parts of the game I totally missed.

I was a bit nervous about this shoot because it was my first MLB game at night and I didn't want to disappoint Al. I've covered the Mystics for the Sports Box and a daytime Nationals game, but never a night time outdoor game. I was nervous about this because the lighting at Maryland's baseball stadium is pretty awful and as a result my photos were pretty dark (or noisy but bright).

To my surprise the lighting at RFK was exceptionally good. I started off on ISO 400 and f2.8 and 1/500th of a second shutter speed and the exposure looked good. I decided to give Auto white balance a shot to see how well it worked. Auto white balance worked surprisingly well. That was a nice thing to learn: I've fought with white balance so much during the summer because most of my games are in the early evening when the sun sets and the lighting transitions from the sun to the stadium lights. I think I'll be using Auto white balance anytime there is changing light conditions.

I was also surprised that ISO 400 was sensitive enough for the stadium lights. Several of my shots were dark and I ended up increasing my ISO to 640, 800, and even 1000 at different points in the game.

I also decided to carry around both bodies at the same time. I did this at the Baysox game and managed the complexity pretty well. It was awkward at first but I managed to get used to it. I was pretty nervous about carrying both bodies around at the Nationals game given the tight areas in which we work. Getting in and out of the photo booths is very narrow and walking around with 200mm lens and a 400mm lens requires some balance and a lot of carefulness!

Using both bodies raised the question of: which lens do I use on which body. I decided to go with the 400mm on the D2H and the 70-200mm lens on the D200. Since I was using the 70-200 on the D200 I stepped down to f4 when possible to improve sharpness, or I tried to limit myself to 135mm at f2.8. I thought about switching my bodies and taking some test shots on the D2H on the 70-200mm lens at f2.8 and 200mm but decided against it. I wasn't there to experiment with lens and body combinations - I was there to cover a game for Al.

The game was pretty uneventful for the most part. Greg wasn't there unfortunately, but some other photographers I've met before were present. It's nice to start to recognize some of the photographers and to interact with them. They're a pretty tight group of people that seem to all work together to cover the games in the DC area (albeit for different organizations). It'd be nice if I got to know them better...

I was also able to get a spot at the "grown ups" table in the media room. This is basically one of those plastic tables you get from Costco. During the games 6 photographers crowd around this table with their laptops, card readers, power transformers, and wifi cards. In my last Nationals game I sat in the "kids" area (where the TV and radio reporters sit and interview the managers and players after the game), and it was not a very good place to work.

Since I've started to recognize some of the photographers I decided to ask them if there was a free spot at the table. They said that the KPT Photo guy wasn't coming tonight so I could take his spot. It makes a world of difference putting your laptop on a table and working vs on your lap in a crowded environment.

The shoot went pretty well given that it was my first MLB night time game and I was working with 2 bodies in the stadium for the first time. The pictures aren't great, but they're not too bad either. I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's game and improving my shots.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Here's my advice on getting started in the photography business: get out and shoot!

I'm far from being in the photography business, but I'm experiencing first hand how one can start a career in photography if that happens to be one's goal. It's remarkable how pervasive photography is these days as a result of the digital revolution. In the film days you had to have some level of seriousness in order to shoot. But in the post-film era you can pick up a digital camera at Best Buy for $100 and start to become knowledgeable.

At Maryland games this past Spring I talked to a few spectators in the stands who inquired about my equipment. Some photographers may consider this a distraction but I actually find it quite enjoyable. It's a lot of fun to listen to people talk about their equipment, hear what they enjoy shooting, and learn from their experience. You have to take everything with a grain of salt, but several times I've had someone make a comment that got me thinking about some of my own techniques.

And there's something about carrying around a 400mm f/2.8 lens that starts up conversation. It's usually "that's a big lens!" and that leads to further discussions. Tonight I was shooting the third game of the Baysox series against Binghamton and I spent a lot of time shooting from the stands. I made my way all the way down the 3rd base line hoping to catch some good foul ball shots of the batter and I ended up sitting next to a gentleman named Rusty from St Mary's. Rusty told me all kinds of facts about minor leaque baseball that were really quite interesting. He also told me about some new teams that are starting up next season.

Although I'm not a reporter I do consider myself something of a photojournalist, and a huge part of reporting is listening to people talk. Listening to Rusty describe the minor league and some of the history of the pitching coach of the Mets taught me a lot about the teams.

Game #2 of the series, and early in the game tonight the pitching coach was ejected from the game. The person I was sitting next to (I didn't catch his name) told me that in Game #2 the pitching coach and the umpire got into an argument and the coach kept pestering theI also sat next to an older gentleman who sits slightly down the 3rd baseline but next to 3rd base. I missed umpire throughout the game. The guy speculated that the pitching coach was ejected prematurely to send a message to the Mets: Don't mess with the umpires.

Another gentleman passed me while I was on my way between two spots and asked me what kind of lens I was using. When I described it he asked the cost and mentioned he was thinking about going into the photography business and wanted to know if I had any advice. I laughed at the thought of me giving someone else photography advice because I'm usually the one soliciting advice! He's retiring and is thinking about doing some work on the side as a photographer. I didn't catch his name but I gave him my business card and told him to email me if he had any questions.

Lastly I spoke for awhile with a gentleman named David Hartcorn. It turns out that David and I have a lot in common both professionally and photographically. We both work in the same domain space, we both occupy office space in Annapolis MD that's close to each other, and we both shoot Nikons.

David told me that he his car was recently burglarized and all of this equipment was stolen. This really reinforces my desire to obtain insurance and to do it soon. He said that he had a dashboard navigation system as well as a satellite receiver on his dash and the thieves used a slim jim in broad daylight at Hunt Valley golf club in Columbia MD to break into his car. Once inside they lifted his satellite and navigation system and made off with his suitcase of equipment.

He lost two D2XS bodies, a 70-200mm/f2.8, 50mm/f1.4, 85mm/f2.8, 105mm/f2.8, 17-55mm/f2.8 and I believe a 400mm/f2.8. He also lost a few teleconverters, spare batteries, media, and all the other assorted accessories we all carry in our bags. I'm not too worried about theft of my gear from my car because I take my bag into my office with me during the day, and when it's in my car it's always in my trunk. But still... hearing about someone losing ALL of their gear sounds like a devastating thing to have happen. Fortunately David has commercial photography insurance and was able to replace all of his equipment. I'm sure he missed a few assignments tho while he filled out police reports and waited for an insurance claim to be processed.

We had a pretty lengthy discussion of lenses and when I started describing my 70-200 and D200 combination and it's performance at 200mm he completed my sentence by saying: "It's soft isn't it..." His statement is consistent with my personal observations and what I've read on's forums: the D200 and the 70-200mm lens is soft at 200mm and f2.8. Stepping down to f4 or f5.6 helps though.

He also told me that the D2XS body and sensor are so sharp and perfect that they really expose "bad" lenses. I'm not too sure what he means by "bad" lenses since I'm not a physicist and I don't know about the laws of light and how chemicals impact it's progression through the lens elements. I only know about AF-D and AF-S style lenses and the differences in the focusing mechanics. For me it's not a problem since I'm on a D2H and a D200, but I thought it was an interesting comment.

Tonight's shoot was a great experience from a lighting perspective. The Baysox tend to start the Sunday games at 6pm rather than 7pm, giving photographers and extra hour of sunlight. This makes a huge difference, and I wish that they started every game at 6pm. I realize this would probably reduce their crowd size (because people may still be at work at 6pm) so it will probably never change. But when they play at 6pm I like to get to those games because the lighting is perfect! You can get a solid 5 innings in before you have to go to ISO800 or ISO1000.

I decided to give a shot at using both my 400mm lens and my 70-200mm lens at the same time. During Friday night's game I just carried around the 400mm lens because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle 2 bodies, one of which was attached to a monster lens. I like to play it safe, so I decided to shoot Friday night's game using just my 400mm lens on my D2H body. But when I shot that game I felt too close for a lot of shots.

It was nearly impossible to catch any steals using the 400mm lens from the lower level because I was in too close. I had to go up to the upper level to shoot, and I wanted to stay down low so that I could get excellent profiles of the players while they bat. I kept thinking on Friday night that my 70-200 would really work well for catching some of the steals where you need to be wider, and the 400mm lens would be great for the up-close profile shots as well as the candids that I love shooting.

It was a bit awkward at first negotiating between the 70-200mm and the 400mm lenses, so I decided to shoot from down on the field to get started. I figured that by shooting on the field I'd be all alone and wouldn't have to deal with the complexity of the crowd moving around and possibly stepping on my equipment. Down on the field I have my own little chair I sit in, and I can safely place one camera on the ground while I use the other camera.

It was surprising to me how well it worked. The only awkwardness I encountered related to the extension on my monopod. I use a monopod on my 400mm lens, and to put the 400mm lens down I place it hood down on the ground (not on it's side). When the monopod is extended it's too much weight on one side and the camera wants to tip over. But if you reduce the monopod to it's storage size the camera and body stand upright just fine.

Observing this made me think about the AF-S II lens and how it's slightly lighter than the AF-S I lens. My 400mm with a D2H and monopod hanging off of it is somewhat unstable. I imagine that if my 400mm had it's weight reduced by 1lb or slightly more that it would not longer be able to support the D2H body and the monopod, even when it's fully reduced. I'll have to ask some other photographers with 400mm lenses how well their rigs hold up. Maybe that's why some people by those carbon monopods (because they are light).

After 2 innings on the field I was extremely comfortable going from the 400mm to 70-200mm lens and I decided to journey up into the crowd to get some shots from above. This worked out pretty well except the children posed a challenge in some cases. Children tend to be attracted to cameras (probably because they like getting their picture taken!) and that can be risky when you're talking about $6k worth of equipment sitting on the ground next to you while you're looking through the eyepiece of another $2k of equipment.

I found a bunch of spots tonight to shoot from and my pictures are coming out better than ever. These days I'm shooting 75% of my shots using group weighted continuous autofocus and it's working remarkably well. The other 25% of the time I use single spot continuous autofocus. The single spot autofocus mode works very well when you have 2 players talking to each other, one shallow and one deeper in your field of view and you want to blur one to bring him out of focus. In those cases the group autofocus locks on both players as one unit, or you go back and forth between the two players. But using spot you're able to point to the player you want to focus on and take your shot.

I'm very pleased with how the quality of my work is progressing. I've been going back over a bunch of old Maryland related photos I shot during the Spring and moving them over to BlunckSports and many of them are really low quality. I'm not ashamed of them at all, but it is remarkable how much of a difference just a few months makes in shooting.

That brings me to the advice I offered in the opening paragraph of this lengthy post: Just get out and shoot! If you're considering going into photography get out there and start shooting whatever you think is interesting. Maybe it's critter-shots or maybe it's nature. Maybe it's sports. Or maybe it's architecture and business. But get out and figure out if you enjoy shooting, and if so what you enjoy shooting. The worst thing you can do is not try.

And with that I'm off to eat some chicken ramen surprise. In my house that's just chicken ramen with some curry seasoning and cayenne pepper. It's the cayenne pepper that's the surprise.

Friday, August 10, 2007

All week I've been looking for a game to use my 400mm, and tonight I got that game.

Earlier in the week I shot the Maryland Terrapins during Media Day, and that was a lot of fun. I covered it using my 70-200mm and my D2H. The shots came out very well. I've really sped up my post-processing speed by using Aperture and adding a second screen to my laptop.

I hate the Windows so I use the Linux and the Mac OSX for work and pleasure. I encourage everyone to take a look at Linux and OSX for their development, professional, and personal workflows. Recently I added a 22" Acer LCD that I purchased from NewEgg for a cool $220. Going up to a 24" more than doubles the cost, so a 22" is a nice sweet little price point.

The screen has a DVI interface and a 400:1 contrast ratio. The brightness is like 3000:1 and it looks great. It's brighter than the glossy LCD on my MacBook Pro, and I do most of my photo editing (post processing) on the LCD and use my MacBook's display for shells, emacs, and other non-graphical applications. I highly encourage anyone doing photo editing to add a second screen because it greatly increases your productivity in post processing.

When posting images up to this blog I used to have go go back and forth between Preview (the picture viewer in OSX) and Firefox using Expose's "All Windows" magic. It was better than Window's solution, but it was still slow. Adding the second LCD I can land my browser on my MacBook Pro's screen and my photos on my LCD. It's then extremely easy to go back and forth between the two. I personally can't think of any photographic equipment these days that costs less than $220, so this LCD is a great deal in my opinion.

The only problem I've had with the LCD is the white balance. I've noticed that the whites on the LCD are definitely more neon-like brighter. That's made me think about the accuracy of displays, and I intend to look into calibration software that I can use to get my MacBook Pro and Acer LCD in sync with respect to white balance. My photos on the MacBook Pro look dark but they look great on my LCD. Likewise, if I adjust brightness when I'm viewing my photos on my LCD they look really bright (kind of washed out) when I look at them on the LCD (and on other LCDs).

I've also been spending a lot of time going back through old photo albums and pruning the "bad" photos. One of the nice things about being technically savy is that it allows me to feed my in born pack-rat tendencies. I hate physical clutter, and digital clutter gets to me too. But organized digital content is the sweet spot. In the past I've dumped ALL of my photos into a directory, even tho most of them are not properly framed, are kind of off with respect to lighting, or maybe a tad out of focus.

I've been shooting a lot of events, and with DSLRs you can create a lot of content pretty quickly. So I've learned about the whole post-processing aspect of digital photography and I now apply post processing to each event I cover. But my post processing in the past simply consisted of me rotating images by hand and deleting the completely out-of-focus. I've quickly chewed up disk space on my fileserver with this strategy and I'm now working on correcting that.

Over on I'm posting my albums for all my games. As I cover a new event I post it over on the gallery. During off days I'm going back through my photos I shot this spring of Maryland events and posting them. That's occupying a lot of time!

Moving 1.5GB of photos from my fileserver to my laptop takes a bit, and then the disk IO to pull those images into memory takes awhile as well. Sifting through them, cropping, and resaving them takes time too. Fortunately I've gotten through all of the basketball and I'm almost through lacrosse. Then I'll have baseball and softball and I'll hopefully be finished.

A few weeks ago I ordered a ThinkTank Airport International from my local Penn Camera office. I debated the International vs Security but in the end I went with the International. I gave up a little space, but I saved about 10% on the bag because I didn't feel like I needed the extra "security" that the security model provided.

I bought the bag because my current bag was just a small over-the-shoulder style Nikon bag that barely fit my 70-200mm lens. I bought a 400mm/f2.8 lens as well as a D2H body and there's no way I could fit 2 bodies in the original bag. Additionally, the 400mm/f2.8 lens costs several thousands of dollars and I don't want to break it because I'm carrying it around unprotected. I was happy that my bag arrived this week from overseas and I moved all of my gear into the bag.

I still have a little room to grow, but not a whole lot. I'm not very concerned though because I feel like I have 90% of all the gear I'll need for a long time. I currently own a D200, D2H, 70-200mm/f2.8, 400mm/f2.8, 50mm/f1.8, and 2X TC. The only lens I plan on purchasing in the near future is an 18-55mm/f2.8 DX and there's room in the bag for that lens. I also am considering selling my 2X TC now that I own the 400mm/f2.8 and that will free up some space.

With my new bag, new lens, and new D2H body in hand I was looking forward to my shoot tonight. I had my season credential in hand and with the photo bag I walked right past security without any problem at all. It was so nice having that bag. When I wore the bag over my shoulder I was always afraid I'd bend over to the side and the strap would slide off my shoulder. Or I was afraid that when I walked past a door frame I would catch the bag on the frame somehow and screw up a lens inside. With the bag rolling behind me and my lenses between 1" of solid insulation I felt so safe and protected. That bag was so worth the purchase!

I headed to the media room and pulled out the D2H and the 400mm lens and assembled it onto my monopod. I debated pairing my D200 with the 70-200mm lens and carrying that on a strap on my shoulder but decided against it. The 400mm lens is remarkably heavy and large even though it is AF-S. Since it was my first time out with it I decided not to press my luck. I left the D200 and 70-200mm lens up in the media room and headed down to the seats to take some pictures.

The first thing that struck me was how powerful 400mm is on a DX sensor. DX sensors have a built in 1.5X crop, and that turns my 400mm lens into a 600mm lens (albeit through cropping). Standing up in the stands my subjects at home plate completely filled my frame. It was really odd not being able to zoom out.

It was also the first time I felt "too close" to the action. Most of the time that I'm feeling too-something it's "too-far". But tonight I was "too close" for a few shots. My shots from 3rd base of the batter didn't allow me to see the catcher at all. That's ok but it took a little bit of adjustment.

One comment Al made earlier this week really resonated with me tonight: shoot from far up. He showed me a few photos he took of the Nationals earlier last week from in the 400 sections using his 400mm and they look really good. At that range he's far enough way that he gets the batter in the frame as well as some space around the batter. It's truly remarkable how powerful a 400mm lens is.

I shot the entire game using the D2H and 400mm lens. I started out at ISO 200 and aperture priority mode with group weighted continuous autofocus. The shots looked decent on the LCD, but since it's an old camera it's a little difficult to tell sometimes. I trust my equipment and myself so I'm sure the photos will come out alright.

I also saw Bob again at the game. Bob sits down in the front row and takes notes during the game. He's a true baseball fan and attends almost every game. During the last game he and I chatted while I shot next to his position. He owns an 18-200mm/f4-f5.6 VR lens and a D70 and we compared a lot of notes and techniques. It was good to see him again.

I also met another gentleman named Mark. Mark's a Canon shooter but he's considering switching to Nikon. He rented a D200 and a 70-200mm lens from and was giving it a shot tonight. I told him about my experience on that body and lens and he was excited about it. If he switches he'll be the first person I know to go from Canon to Nikon. He currently has an EOS-1D and an 80-200mm/f2.8 IS lens.

Towards the end of the game I was up at 1600 ISO and my meter was telling me that 1/250th of a second was needed to properly expose the image. Since the D2H taps out at 1600 I decided to pack it in and head home. It was a great day, and I wanted to go home to catch up with my wife (she got some good medical news today!)