Thursday, September 27, 2007

It's been a busy week of programming, editing, writing, and shooting.

Late Monday night I put the final touches on Shock v1.0. Shock is supposed to save me time in posting my photo galleries, and it's also supposed to help the people I'm working with over at DC Sports Box to post their galleries up to the server. I've been sprinting to build it, meaning I've been thinking about it constantly and working on it whenever I have a free moment. Monday night (or more accurately Tuesday morning) at 1:30AM I managed to file uploading working. That was the last feature I needed to build in order for Shock to be usable.

The Terrapins played on Wednesday night at the Field Hockey complex and I was looking forward to it all week. With all my emphasis on Shock these past 2 weeks I've been looking forward to an opportunity to use the application and speed up my post-processing workflow. I was also looking forward to the shoot itself because it was so much fun on Saturday.

The lighting on the field at the Lacrosse complex is pretty decent. It's almost a day and night difference from the soccer field tho. I was able to shoot ISO 1250, 1/320th of a second at f2.8 and the pictures came out pretty good. They're a bit noisy from the high ISO, but they are way better than my pictures on the soccer field. When I cover Maryland Soccer I have to use ISO 1250 at a minimum, and even then I'm lucky if I can get to 1/320th of a second. More realistically I'm down around 1/200th of a second or slower.

During post-processing I noticed that a lot of my pictures are over-saturated. In the D200 and the D2H there is an image enhancement option for increasing color saturation, and I've set that to +2 in the past. During day games the enhanced image saturation results in vibrant photos. But during the night it appears to just make everyone look red. Skin tones are especially bad. In almost every picture I post-processed I drastically reduced the color saturation.

I enjoyed this shoot because it was my second field hockey game. When I attend an event for the first time I play things pretty cautiously. I try to observe where other photographers are located so that I know where I can and can't go, I observe the players to see how dirty or clean the play, I watch the coaching staff to see how animated they are, and I look at where the lights are located with respect to possible backgrounds.

During the post-processing of the first event I get to evaluate how things went. For example, was most of the game played at mid-field, or was the game played in either the offensive or defensive side of the field? Do the players celebrate a LOT after a goal, or are they pretty subdued? How bright are the backgrounds (bleachers, fences, etc) and are they distracting? I also pay attention to how the venue is laid out: how do I access the field? Where do the players go during half time and after the game? Do the coaches move around on the sidelines?

By the time I get to the second game I've thought through a lot of those questions above and I start trying to vary my shots. During tonight's game I moved around to 3 different shooting positions. I shot in the offensive zone during the first half as well as near mid field, and then in the 2nd half I flipped to the other side and moved onto the field to cover the offensive zone. I definitely got some different shots from last time and I think they look pretty good.

Whenever people ask me about sports photography I tell them that the biggest thing I've learned is that the biggest skill you can develop is observation. Knowing the rules of the game, watching the team you're covering and learning how they interact on the field, knowing where you can and can't go, knowing how involved the fans get, and looking for the celebration shots put you into an anticipatory position to release the shutter and expose the perfect shot.

Setting the proper ISO, f-stop, and shutter speed are the mechanics any photographer uses for creating their art, but positioning yourself to capture a moment is what sports photography is about. You can't ask the pitcher who just pitched a no-hitter to go back to the mound and celebrate AGAIN after he's just won the game. So you have to make sure your settings are good and appropriate for what you're shooting. But if you're not aware that in baseball the pitchers tend to pump their fist, scream, or make some other celebratory gesture after their final pitch of the game then you'll miss the moment.

These are the things that I'm learning as I'm pursuing sports photography. I'm becoming more confident at the mechanics of shooting, and I'm now looking at the artistic aspect of capturing the moment. I'm working on learning about things like the pitcher celebrating, or the DC United players running up to the fans in the audience after a goal. As I learn these things it's exciting to see them captured in pictures and to think that I was there at that one moment in time when everyone was excited.


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