Monday, September 24, 2007

On Saturday I had my first opportunity to shoot a Field Hockey game... And holy smokes was it a lot of fun!

The Maryland Terrapins are ranked #2 in the country for field hockey, and Wake Forest is ranked #5. This game was going to be exciting from a competition standpoint, but I was excited about it because I had never covered a Field Hockey game before. I don't even know the rules!

When I left my house the weather was high overcast, but you could tell that it was trying to give way to sunshine. The wind had shifted the day before and was now flowing from the south, and that was drawing in a lot of humidity. I knew that once the sun was high enough the clouds would burn off.

I arrived at Maryland's Lacrosse and Field Hockey complex with a few minutes to spare before the game began. I wasn't quite sure of what to expect in so far as an entrance fee and CSC staff. Women's soccer costs $6 and men's soccer costs $8. There are CSC event staff there to make sure only spectators with tickets get in. I wasn't sure what the cost of a ticket would be for field hockey.

To my surprise there was no entrance fee! I could hardly believe it: the #2 and #5 teams in the country were competing (and they're both in the same conference), and there wasn't an entrance fee! No CSC yellow jackets or anything - it was just open doors with a Maryland guy there counting the attendance.

Inside of the complex there is bleacher style seating, but there is also room in front of the bleachers for fans who wish to stand and watch the game from the front row. They are held back by a fence that's about chest high.

I made my way into the crowd and picked out a spot to take a few test shots. I was nervous because I was in a high-volume area where there were a lot of excited children. That's not the best place to be with 2 cameras. It was also on the Maryland defensive side of the field, and I wanted to capture offense in the first half. I decided to move down to the far end of the field to take some more shots.

To my surprise there weren't any retaining walls, barricades, or other obstacles that prevented me from making my way around to the back side of the field. It was the perfect spot to shoot because it was unobstructed, quiet, and facing the offense as it charged down the field. The lighting was adequate. It was literally the best possible spot I could have been in and it was wide open.

I shot the first half on the attackers left side of the field (in the end zone). I thought about choosing the attacker's right side of the field because most players are stronger with their right hand. But that side of the field was darker due to the shade of the trees, so I stayed on the left hand side.

I used f2.8 on the 400mm lens and f5.6 or higher on the 70-200mm lens. I attached my D200 body to the 400mm lens so that I could use the fast continuous shooting mode of the D2H on the 70-200mm lens. Whenever I go to an event I have to think about which body to use with which lens, and it usually comes down to: what lens will I see the most action with?

In field hockey I expected I'd see a lot of good shots through the 400mm lens, but I wanted the quickness and the zoom of the 70-200mm for shots on goal, and for checks and what-not. As a result I decided that the D2H would be best for my close shots and the D200 would be better on the long shots. This strategy worked out really well.

The field in Field Hockey is great: with a 400mm and a 70-200 lens you can cover 80% of the action at any given moment. The field at Maryland is also made out of astroturf and is 100% flat. In soccer and other field sports the field is typically beveled, and that can pose challenges when players are on the far side of the field. When you're shooting from your knees the hump of the field can preclude your vision of the ball on the far side.

During the game the sun came out and it made for some good shots. They also spray a bunch of water on the field during half time, and that causes lots of interesting splashes in the background of a lot of the shots. It helps add motion to the picture (even tho the motion is stopped at the shutter speeds I'm using!)

I shot the entire game in manual mode and at ISO 400. I probably could've gone lower on the ISO, but I figured it didn't much matter. At 400 the quality is good, and it allowed me to be up around 1/2000 of a second or faster on my shutter speed. I used sunlight as my white balance.

I'm looking forward to shooting more field hockey events. This wednesday there's a game, but there's also a DC United game I told Al I would shoot. The United game starts at 8:30 and the field hockey game starts at 7pm. Hopefully I can catch a bit of the field hockey and then race downtown to the DC United game in time!


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