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.

1 Comment:

  1. Will said...
    Do you know how to get in touch with any members of a camera crew that shoot the games? I'm interested in proposing to my girlfriend and want to see if its possible to get it on camera?

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