Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Maryland Women's Soccer team shot into the sun for the first half of their game. During the second half they shot with their backs to the sun.

Backlit subjects are not particularly pleasing from a photographic perspective. During the 2nd half Greg decided to cover the defense and he moved to center field in a restricted area. I may have been able to follow him since we were both carrying big lenses and the CSC staff seems to respect that kind of thing, but I didn't want to push any boundaries...

During the 2nd half of the game I decided to position myself on the sideline (rather than in the endzone). I thought I'd get at least some lighting on the players. To my surprise the shots were not as bad as I thought they would be!

I was actually amazed at how well my D2H performed. The D200 worked well, but the D2H on the 70-200 worked extremely well. This made me feel good because lately I've been a little disappointed with my D2H. It doesn't seem to perform as well in low-light situations as my D200. But when there is a lot of light available the D2H works extremely well.

Since I was alone and in poor lighting conditions I decided to bail on the soccer game and head down to field hockey. I love shooting field hockey. The field is pretty small, and the action is more controlled. In soccer you get goalies that can boot a ball 50 yards and it's difficult to autofocus on the players trying to head that ball.

In field hockey the action takes place on the ground, and the players have a tool (a stick) to use against the ball. This makes for some interesting shots. The only downside to field hockey as I see it is that the players tend to look downwards toward the ball. The trick is to get the shots where they're looking up towards other teammates to determine who has an open shot.

When I arrived at the field hockey game I glanced up at the scoreboard and noticed Maryland was outshooting Temple 19 shots to like 3 and there was 10 minutes left in the 1st half. I was shocked by that. Usually Maryland musters 20 shots per game, and here they were with 10 mins left in the first half with 19 shots. This was going to be a fun shoot.

To my surprise the Terps were shooting into the close end of the complex. In the 3 other games I covered the Terps shot into the far end of the field during the 1st half and I just assumed that was always how it worked. I guess not!

One of the photographers from a few days ago was present. He was sitting on the field and he didn't have a Terps tag. He was on a D2XS with a 300mm f2.8 lens.

I considered moving onto the field. There's very little difference in the physical location (it's like 3 feet away from where I shot from), but the perspective changes. Being on the field you can sit on your knees or sit indian style and that gives you better perspective. It puts more of the players body above the field, and when that happens the background is far away and out of focus. It makes for some beautiful shots!

I decided not to push my luck. At the DC Sports Box we're trying our best to get the privilege of covering Maryland events "officially." The last thing I want to do is jeopardize that for a few shots in the meantime. I realize that the coach wouldn't mind, the AD wouldn't mind, and probably every parent of every player on the team would ask for me to be down there taking better shots. But I don't want our problem-person at Maryland to use that against us when we re-apply for credentials. I don't want to give them any reason to decline our request.

So I stayed behind the "public" fence and shot while standing upright.

During the soccer game Greg asked what I was shooting at and I said I was using f3.5 with 1/8000th of a second on ISO200. I said I had been experimenting with the higher f-stops and shutter speeds around 1/500. He asked why, and I replied that the shots are sharper.

It's true that on the 70-200mm lens f2.8 is soft compared to f9. I'm not sure if that's the case on my 400mm prime lens. I suspect it's slightly soft at f2.8 but that may be because I tend to shoot f2.8 only at night. I've done a few f2.8 400mm shoots during the day, but for the most part I slow it down to f5.6 or f7.1.

Greg made this comment during the soccer game: "If you pay $8k for a 400mm/f2.8 lens you should just put some tape over the aperture adjustment switch, because you should always be shooting at f2.8." I asked him to elaborate on it and he replied by talking about the depth of field and out of focus backgrounds.

I completely agree with him about the significance of depth of field when shooting sports. He remarked: "if you're going down to f7.1 or f8 you might as well buy a variable aperture lens." He's right: if you're ok with f8 why not just get a f2.8 70-200mm and slap a 2X TC on it.

I decided to shoot the field hockey game at f2.8 to see how the shots compare to Saturday's game. I'm interested in seeing if the sharpness varies much. To my surprise the shots don't seem too soft at f2.8. They actually seem just as sharp as the shots at f5.6 and higher.

I took Greg's advice during the 2nd half and made my way to the side of the field where the sun was completely at my back. Normally I like to stand in the endzone somewhere because you catch a lot of action coming directly at you. But standing on the sidelines allows you to get really great light on your subjects.

When I shot from the sideline I had my subject's faces fully illuminated for most of my shots. this made me pretty happy. If you can see the whites of their eyes it's going to be a good shot.

I also applied Al's camera swapping technique a lot. While on the sideline I swapped with the 70-200 lens and D2H body pretty frequently and it worked pretty well. If it weren't for the really tall oak trees that were behind me and blocking out the sunlight some of those photos would've been keepers.

There were a few shots I captured of one of the players that came out remarkably well. Our oak trees were hit with gypsy moths this summer and that caused a lot of leaf damage. As a result the shade isn't solid - it's variable. The trees are "thinner" this year. This lets some sunrays through, and if you're lucky you can capture some of those rays as they land on the player's faces.

I caught a couple instances of this phenomenon this afternoon and the shots came out really well.

This upcoming week should be pretty quiet. The Nationals are finished at home and DC United is on a road trip. The DC Sports Box didn't get photographic credentials for the Capitals this season, so hockey is off the plate for the time being. But there is a Maryland men's soccer game on Tuesday night. It's a night game, but any game is better than no game...


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