Monday, September 24, 2007

Al offered me the final home game at RFK stadium for the Washington Nationals this Sunday. I welcomed the opportunity to shoot a day game.

Any game is fun, but day games are especially exciting because of the amount of light you have to work with. Today I did a lot of experimenting and I think my shots are getting better. In previous games I stayed at f2.8 and let the shutter speed ride all the way up to 1/8000 of a second. Unfortunately that resulted in soft images and a lot of out of focus shots as well.

With all the light that was around for today's noon game I decided to close down the aperture to f5.6 or above for as much as possible. I wanted to see how much of a difference it made in my shots. The results were pretty good: I had very few out-of-focus shots. With the smaller aperture I had a wider depth of field, and that allowed me to cover a lot more interactions between players.

There were a ton of photographers present for today's game, and I was pretty impressed that Al was able to get the DC Sports Box credentials. Maybe it's because we've covered the Nats a lot this year. Maybe it's because they're a relatively new team. I dunno... I was just happy that we were offered the opportunity to shoot and write up the game.

Getting to the game was a bit of a surprise. According to iCal the game was supposed to start at 1:30pm. This morning I post-processed a bunch of wedding photos from yesterday and when I wrapped that up around 11:15 I decided to confirm the game's start time. To my surprise the time was now set for 12:05pm. That wasn't nearly enough time to get out to the New Carrollton metro stop and into DC!

I thought about hopping on the metro at the Cheverly stop. As I was debating the merit of that approach I thought: why not just drive there? RFK is right along 295, and that's just a little bit beyond Cheverly. And with parking at Metro stations being $3.50, and a ride being $2 I was looking at around $8 for the inconvenience and slowness of riding the metro.

Parking at the stadium was only $15, and $7 is definitely worth it to me. I didn't have to wait for the stupid train, get bumped around while on the train, worm my way through the carousels with my camera equipment. I simply parked and walked to the media office. If we cover additional events at RFK I'm going to request a parking spot since driving to the stadium is just so easy.

I recognized a few photographers from a Wizards event and from other baseball events. I also saw Greg Fiume up on the roof of RFK shooting with his 400mm lens and his wide angle lens. I didn't see Greg down on the field at all tho, and that was pretty surprising. I hope he got some good shots from up there - it's pretty high up!

I got a lot of great shots from different locations in the stadium. I went back up to the 500 level in the outfield and took some shots of the batters as they ran to first and slid into second. With the 400mm and the 1.5x crop factor you can get in really close.

I also got some great shots from the stands behind 1st base. That position is nice because you're at a slight elevation and that gives you a much better view of slides than when you're on the field. When you're down in the well on the field you're below ground about 3 - 5 feet and your camera is literally about a foot off the ground. It's pretty hard to focus and your shots at 2nd don't look very good. Shooting from the stands offers some great angles you can play.

The only downside to shooting in the stands is dealing with the fans. In some cases they want to talk with you, or they want to look through your lens. In other cases they're just rude and get in the way. Ironically I've noticed that children tend to be the most considerate. This is in stark comparison to what it's like when you walk around the aisles at the stadium.

When you walk around in the aisles kids are always trying to get in front of you. But when you're sitting down in the stands with a lens they'll stop dead in the tracks on the steps and ask you if it's ok to go in front of the lens. On the other hand, the parents don't really give a crap. They'll just walk in front of you, take a few minutes to talk with someone, and then move along on their way.

I was surprised to see a lot of photographers covering the game from the 3rd base dugout position. They were shooting pretty heavily into the sunlight. I shot 75% of the game from the 1st base line and the sun was coming from behind me. It offered great colors on the players. Towards the end of the game I went to the 3rd base well just to get some different shots and the colors were way way off.

This week I don't have too many events to cover, so hopefully I'll wrap things up on Shock. I've already started using shock to generate my gallery XML and it's working pretty well. I've identified 2 or 3 different areas I can improve and I'll be making those changes tomorrow.


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