Sunday, September 30, 2007

On Saturday at 1pm the Terrapins faced the Virginia Cavaliers, and I was really looking forward to covering this game! My DC Sports Box article can be read here.

I was looking forward to the game because of the weather. A cold front moved through the region on Thursday night and left dry air and cool temperatures in it's wake. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was perfect for shooting outdoors. It's a hint that Fall is coming!

When there's a ton of light you have a lot of options when you shoot. You can open up the aperture to f2.8 and crank the shutter speed up to 1/8000th of a second and completely stop the action. Or, you can lower the f-stop to f7.1 or f8 and shoot with a more reasonable 1/500th of a second of shutter speed.

Lowering the f-stop makes sharper images. In some lenses that comes as a result of the optics, but in other cases it's simply because the depth of field is wider. Let's say you have a player that's running down the field chasing a call and they're at a 45 degree angle to you. When their arms are fully extended they create a 6 foot difference in field position. People tend to run and bend their arms at their elbows, so let's cut that number in half and call it 3 feet between their left elbow and their right elbow.

Depth of field varies as a result of your distance to the subject, f-stop, the focal length, and your camera body. This great online source is extremely useful in calculating depth of field.

If you take my settings above and assume the subject is roughly 45 feet away from you, an f2.8 with a 170mm focal length on a Nikon D2H has a total depth of field of 2.5 feet, which is less than the 3 feet between their two elbows.

If you cut the distance to the subject roughly in half, and say that they are 20 feet from you the depth of field drops to approximately 0.5 feet. That's pretty darn shallow!

If you reduce the aperture to f8 but keep the subject at a distance of 20 feet the depth of field increases to approximately 1.3 feet. So, by reduce the aperture you can increase sharpness, as well as increase the amount of your subject that can possibly be "in focus". Of course you still have to worry about proper focusing techniques, but knowing the approximate DoF calculations gets you passed the physical impossibilities of certain shots.

I again decided to shoot from the endzone areas of the field, and I again decided to go with the D200 on the 400mm lens. I'm really warming up to the pictures it produces and I like them a lot better than the D2H. Maybe I just need to adjust the saturation on the D2H.

There was one other credentialed photographer present. His name was James Lang and I didn't get too much of a chance to speak with him. I noticed he was wearing a Terps wristband and I suspect that's what they give out for individual games. It'd be nice if we had those because it would allow us to get onto the field.

However, for field hockey it's not critically important. My shots from the "public" sections of the stadium are pretty decent. If I were on the field it would allow me to sit down and shoot, and that would make for better shots because there would be less field in my shots and more of the distant background.

The other advantage of being credentialed is that you can shoot from near the Maryland bench during the games. This only matters during the day really. The sun sets from behind the player benches, and during the first half you can walk all the way around the field and shoot the players as they look into the sun. It lights up their faces and makes for good shots.

However, when you're shooting from the opposite side of the field the fence is higher and you're unable to shoot from the players bench side. You have to shoot from the stadium stands side, and when the Terps are shooting you're looking into the sun. The overall photo quality suffers as a result. You can still get some decent shots of the players rushing down the field, but you're contending with a lot of shadows.

Shadows are definitely difficult to work with during day games. I'm going to ask some other photographers for some techniques they use when shooting during the day. It's great that there is a tremendous amount of light to work with, but it's also difficult because the areas of the player that are not lit can be very dark. I worry about overexposure of the players, especially when they wear white uniforms.

Their faces always present challenges with respect to shadows. Much of the game is looking down at the ball and it's usually looking away from the sunlight. As a result their uniforms are well lit as is the ball and the stick, but half of their face is dark and the other half is lit. I'm not sure how to handle those situations, or if there's much you can do about them in post-processing.

The game was a lot of fun to shoot, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's game as well. The Terps play at 2pm and the weather forecast looks great. Should be a lot of fun!


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