Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On Monday we submitted a credential request to Maryland that would allow us to cover the women's basketball game against Team USA. We didn't hear anything until Wednesday at 4:30pm, and the responsive had a negative tone to it.

Al and I are very disappointed by Maryland's response and are really left speechless about what we can do at this point. Maryland doesn't perceive the DC Sports Box to be a legitimate media outlet and I'm not sure what we can do to convince them otherwise.

We have 8 people that are writing or shooting for us, and we report on the Wizards, Nationals, Mystics, Redskins, Hoyas, Colonials, and Midshipmen. All our photographers own 400mm/2.8 lenses (which cost over $5k each), and almost every person carries personal liability insurance. The number of readers we have is growing every month. We're working on our incorporation, and once that is wrapped up we're going to be looking at ways we can earn some money.

I wish they'd see our commitment and capabilities and realize that we're legitimate. In the mean time we'll have to keep shooting and hoping they come around.

I was really torn about attending the game tonight. We weren't credentialed, and if we couldn't get a credential for a pre-season exhibition game against a non-conference challenger it doesn't bode well for our hopes later on in the season. Al's thought is that we have to focus on the teams that want us to be courtside to report on them. I would still like to report on Maryland, but I agree with his viewpoint.

As a result I didn't know if I wanted to attend the game tonight. Maryland has left such a bad taste in our mouth and as a result I wasn't very motivated to attend on my own dime and cover the game. But at the same time I thought that it's times like these that you have to have a steady hand and stay consistent. I headed over to the game to cover it with my 70-200mm/2.8 and D200.

As I walked up the steps I thought about how last year I picked up a credential from Will Call with some help from a friend of mine. And here I am about a year later having shot 90+ games and having been paid for my work and I'm purchasing a ticket to an exhibition game against a non-conference team. I paid my $4 at the door to a person selling tickets and headed inside.

There were very few people in attendance and I could pretty much anywhere I wanted except for the floor. I probably could have gotten down there if I really wanted to because 2 of the CSC staff recognized me and waved to me. I stayed up in the stands though and had to move around on several occasions because I was blocked by people on the floor.

I was absolutely miserable during the event and that was the first time I had shot an event and not enjoyed myself. I couldn't stop thinking about how we were being treated by Maryland and it really irritated me. I thought about walking out half way through the game but I kept going back to what originally brought me there: even though Maryland was being cold to us I want to show them nothing but professional coverage.

You can read my writeup over here.

I wish I had some more to say about the event, but my enthusiasm for covering Maryland athletics has waned given their response.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

On Sunday afternoon the Terrapin volleyball team played the Duke Blue Devils.

This promised to be an exciting game because the Terps were unbeaten at home and Duke was ranked #2 in the ACC conference. The game was televised on CSTV and there were a ton of fans in attendance. The weekend day games always gather the largest crowds, but this one was especially large due to the opponent.

Unfortunately the Terps fell in 4 games. They put forth an excellent effort but the Blue Devils were just too much for the Terps. I managed to get several good shots, and Greg was there too.

I took up my normal position for volleyball and sat in the front row as close to the net as possible. I noticed that Greg was standing right next to the net on the other side of the court. I wanted to do the same but I didn't think that anyone could go over there unless they had a credential or worked for the athletic department.

Eventually Greg came over to the crowded side and sat down on the floor. He was back behind the white line, and he was back behind the dashed white line as well. None the less, a referee from the ACC came over and asked him to move during a timeout. The same referee asked me to move earlier in the season. I noticed that Greg chatted with him but eventually moved.

When Greg came over to talk with me I asked him about it and he said that the referee was wrong about where he could sit but he wasn't going to argue with him. I was happy to see that it's not just me that manages to be told what to do from time to time.

I offered him my spot so that he could get some good shots for the team while I moved to another place. He said he would find a different place to shoot but I said it was ok and moved on.

As the bleachers filled up the staff started letting the fans start sitting on the other side of the gym (behind the teams). With that side open I decided to move over and take some shots. There were fewer people in the stands on the other side and I thought that would give me more room to move around.

The other side also allowed me to take photos of the coaches during timeouts. It was dark but I managed to get some decent shots.

I pushed the ISO up to 3200 and used 1/500th of a second exposure at f2.8. As usual I only brought my 70-200/2.8 VR lens. I considered bringing my 17-55/2.8 with the SB-800 speedlight to take some pictures after the game but decided against it. I didn't want to get in the way of the athletes and I wouldn't use any of the photos anyway for my story on the DC Sports Box. You can read my article here.

The shots at high ISO in Comcast Pavilion came out pretty well. When I shoot at high ISO on field sports the background is all black and the noise is very apparent. But when you're in a gym inside and the background walls and ceiling are gray the noise is less noticeable.

I tried to convince Greg to attend the women's soccer game this evening but he declined the offer. He likes to shoot day games so he can get a lot of good shots. But I like the early evening games because the light is so soft and colorful.

Still no news on the credential front. We'll be submitting some requests this week that will hopefully allow us to coverage some women's basketball games.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

On Sunday the Maryland women's soccer team played Virginia Tech. This was an important game for the Terps because their in-conference record up to this point has been 0-5. If the Terps can't get on the winning ways they'll be denied entrance to the ACC Tournament.

Unfortunately the ladies fell to 0-6 tonight. As usual there was only 1 other photographer present and that was Yuchen. It's frustrating to be denied credentialed entrance to these events and see that nobody else is covering them. I understand the need to keep the official credentials limited to legitimate media outlets, but at the same time it's difficult to see the wisdom in denying a credential request to an organization that has attended and reported on every single home game when the Terps are 0-6 in the ACC.

The game was another 6pm game and I managed to get some good shots before it got too dark. I took all of my good shots on the 400mm lens before switching over to the 70-200mm lens when night fell. I've found that I'm not struggling with focus or the mechanics of shooting very much anymore. I'm now looking at framing my shots, reducing the number of exposures, and trying to get quality shots.

I spoke with the father of one of the players for awhile this evening during half time. He told me that he purchased a Canon Rebel XTI with a 70-300mm variable aperture lens so that he could take pictures of his daughter playing. He said that he doesn't make it to very many games since he's from out of town, but that when he is there he wanted to take pictures because "there aren't many other ones out there". I gave him my card and said I attend as many game as possible and would be happy to send him any photo he is interested in.

As usual the CSC staff were present and the kind lady that works one of the media areas motioned me past the gate. I took her up on the offer and placed my laptop and Think Tank bag in the restricted space. But I then went back outside the gate to shoot during the game. Hopefully one day I can shoot from inside that gate...

The guys that guard the entrance to the stadium are aware of my plight and every time I show up with a ticket they say: "still not credentialed yet?" I nod my head and they say: "well stick with it. They'll come around..."

Once night fell it was difficult to shoot and I decided to try to take some shots from different locations. I went up into the bleachers behind the goal and took some shots. They were crappy because the lights on the sidelines created sharp shadows.

I tried shooting from the stands but people kept getting in the way. I went back up on the hill near the lights but the Terps didn't have very much offense...

I managed to get enough shots for my DC Sports Box article though, and I focused more on capturing the motion of the game. I thought that if my shots weren't that great (because there were not very many offensive opportunities) I could at least write in my article about the performance of the midfielders. I wish I had a MP3 recorder I could use to help me in that regard.

A lot of time there will be some kind of scoring opportunity that occurs and I'll take note of it and want to record some information. Most of the time the box score doesn't show this kind of opportunity, and the Maryland write-up doesn't have it either. It would be nice to have a little recorder I could speak into and say "#5 broke away at midfield and passed to #7 who shot from inside the box on the right hand side. Shot went wide left."

I could also use it after games when I try to get quotes from the players or coaches.

We had an MP3 recorder for awhile and I think we gave it to a family member as a gift. I think I'm going to ask for one for Christmas. The basketball players all do interviews after games and if I'm lucky enough to attend any of the games it will be cool to record them.

When I went to the Georgetown media day everyone used MP3 recorders. It seems like they are cheap and easy to use so that should work well.

Still no news on Maryland and credentials. We're going to try to re-submit a request this week and see how it goes. Given our experience I don't have high hopes. But you never know...

The Maryland men's soccer team was supposed to face the NC State Wolfpack on Friday evening but the rain over the past few days caused poor field conditions and the game was postponed until Saturday evening. This worked out perfectly for me because it meant I didn't have to choose between Volleyball and Men's Soccer.

On the other hand, the Maryland Terrapins volleyball team cleaned out Wake Forest in straight sets and by the time I made it in out of the rain after the field hockey game the lady Terps volleyball team was headed for the locker room with a win on their shoulders.

The football team played on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 and that game went horribly. Of course I didn't have a credential, so I set my eyes on the men's soccer game at 6pm that evening. When halftime came around and the Terps were down 20-3 I punted and headed home to get my photo gear. It was 5:15pm.

I returned to Ludwig field in plenty of time to catch the entire soccer game. I was very happy to attend the game because it started at 6pm and there was still some good light around for a bit to take some decent shots at low ISOs.

I used the 400mm for most of my shots before the night fell, and then I switched over to the 70-200mm lens. The lighting right before and after sunset is ideal. There aren't any sharp shadows and the light has a lot of color to it. You have a lot of flexibility in your settings and you can get some wonderfully in-focus shots.

The autofocus system on DSLRs is passive, meaning that it will only work if there is light bouncing off your subjects. In point and shoot cameras the AF system is active and an LED sends out an infrared beam that bounces back to the camera. The camera can detect the time delta between when the light was sent and when it returned to the camera and it uses that figured to determine the distance to subject and what the focal length should be.

Thus if you have very low lighting conditions a P+S with active AF can still focus properly, but a DSLR will struggle. Anecdotally I've noticed a huge difference in AF performance between day games and night games: during the day my AF is fast and almost always accurate. At night sometimes my AF goes all the way to one side and then back to the proper setting.

My shots for tonight were pretty good, and I opted to just publish the ones before night fell. I thought it would look crappy to lead with some good well lit natural light shots and then follow up with some high ISO noisy dark shots. You can read my article over here.

I also made a point of approaching Matt Lynch at half time and giving him my business card. We've been blocked from credentialed shoots of Maryland Athletics and his advice was to attend as paying fans to cover the games. I wanted to let him know that we had done that and I wanted to give him a card with a link to our site that showed all of our writeups and photos. Even though the Maryland gave us the cold shoulder I wanted to give Maryland a thank you and a link to our content.

Matt seemed somewhat sympathetic to our situation and thanked me for the card. I'm not sure if he'll actually look at the site. But I can rest easy knowing that I gave him the opportunity to review my work and comment on it in the future.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It rained non-stop for about 2 days in College Park leading up to Friday night's game. As I watched the radar loop during the day I had little hopes for a dry game this evening. Sure enough it was a downpour...

With about an hour and a half to game time I decided to start working on my rain gear. Earlier in the day I stopped off at Penn Camera and looked at some Aqua Tech gear. It cost about $300 to purchase something that would cover my 400mm/2.8 lens. Although I spent $4500 on the lens I didn't know if I wanted to drop $300 on a rain proof bag.

In the 90 or so games I've covered since I started doing sports photography I've only had 2 occasions where there was precipitation. That means that I would use the bag roughly 2% of the time. If I had endless resources I would definitely purchase the Aqua Tech wrapper - it's a fine piece of equipment. But I have a hard time justifying the cost for something I'll use less than 2% of the time.

I've also spent a lot of money on my gear, and Julie has been extremely supportive of my venture. I keep thinking in the back of my mind that this could turn out to be revenue generating at some point, but for now I've only earned $280 for shooting for the Bowie Blade. It makes it all that much more difficult when purchasing things... I have to be very thorough in thinking about: will I actually use this piece of equipment.

Fortunately I use everything I've purchased on a weekly basis. My D200 and 400mm/2.8 is my workhorse, backed up by my 70-200/2.8 VR lens. If I'm attending an outdoor game there's a 100% chance I'm going to use those lenses and body. I use my D2H less, but I find that the second body is an absolute must in certain situations.

In field sports you'll go long with one body for 75% of your shots because most of the field is outside the range of a 200mm lens. But, you'll need to get those close-up shots of the goalie, the corner kicker, the inbounder, and for those you'll need something short. As a result you want that second body. Although most of the shots I publish during the game come off my 400mm lens, a high ratio of my "best" shots come off the 70-200 while a player is on the near side of the field.

So with the rain beating down all day I thought about how I would protect my equipment. I decided to go with garbage bags and some rubber bands. As I worked with the lens on the floor of my office at Ft Meade I thought about how I would handle the rotational aspects of shooting. I couldn't simply put 1 garbage bag around the lens and the monopod support. That would prevent me from rotating and going vertical or horizontal.

I decided to cut a thin ring of plastic from a garbage bag and rubber band it to the front area of the lens. I then cut a wider ring of plastic from the bag and placed it behind the monopod mount. I again used rubber bands to secure it.

It worked pretty well but that left a large area of the lens exposed. The area where the monopod support rotated around the lens was left open. To fix that I used one large garbage bag with a hole cut in the front. I attached it to the front of the lens and I left it pretty saggy as it went over the monopod ring. I then attached it to the back of the lens near the body.

That allowed me to keep a seal around the entire lens but still have some rotational freedom. I was also secure thinking that I had a second layer of protection under the outer bag. Lastly I brought a bathroom towel with me to place over the entire assembly. It took about 45 minutes to assemble from start to finish, but I think I could do it again in 20 minutes now that I have come up with a design that works reasonably well.

I arrived at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park with about a minute to spare before faceoff. It was pouring when I arrived and the air had a sharp chill. It was clear that the warm summer days were long past, and cooler November weekends were ahead.

With my D200 wrapped in trash bags, my bathroom towel, and a hooded sweatshirt I emerged from my car and approached the arena. There were some faithful fans present with raincoats and umbrellas. Many people had on hats and gloves to keep the chill away from them.

I walked in, and as usual nobody gave me any trouble. I took note of which side the Terps were shooting against and made my way to the far side of the field. As I walked through the stands I noticed Yuchen was present. He was sitting on the field with his 400mm Canon lens. Like me he had selected garbage bags to use, but he went for the duct tape as a sealer rather than rubber bands.

I moved over towards my regular position (near the visitng team bench) and set up shop. On my walk I was very careful to keep the front element of my lens facing downwards. Normally when you carry a 400mm the front element faces up just a little bit but with the rain coming down so hard I wanted to make sure I didn't get any splotches.

No CSC people were out tonight to keep the fans in-check. There were barely any fans there at all. The few that id brave the elements for tonights game were cuddled along the sidelines with their umbrellas to protect them.

It was a shame because tonight was senior night and this is an incredible hockey team. The Terps managed to put together back to back national championships and only lost 1 game this season (to #1 ranked UNC). It's a shame that they didn't have better weather to celebrate their remarkable achievement.

I started shooting and about 15 minutes into the first half I ran out of space on my 4GB card. I thought that was strange because I had only shot a few hundred images. I then recalled that earlier in the day I was experimenting with "raw" mode and I had neglected to adjust my image quality setting.

Normally when I go to a shoot there are 2 high-level settings I check: white balance and ISO. I never check the image quality because I never adjust it. So I burned up my 4GB card shooting just a few hundred shots in the first 15 minutes of the game.

Fortunately Yuchen was there and Canons use CF cards as well. Rather than walking back out to the car to get more media I was able to borrow a 1GB card from Yuchen. Normally I carry my media with me in a Think Tank media wallet, but I didn't do that tonight because of the foul weather. I didn't want to get soaked and have that soak get into the cards in my wallet.

I made my adjustment and kept on shooting.

I had a blast shooting in the rain and it was a lot of fun chatting with Yuchen on the sidelines while dripping wet. He's a college student that shoots for the DiamondBack but you can tell that he has a lot of passion for shooting sports. Overall I've seen him more than any other photographer, even for "no-name" games. I respect that tremendously.

During the second half we both shot from on the field and I got some great shots. I tried to focus on Janneke van Leeuwen because it's her senior night and she's the team captain. I managed to get a few of her, and on my DC Sports Box article I featured her for my photo even thought it wasn't the best of the evening.

I got some great photos of Coach Missy Meharg. She was dressed in her black Under Armour jacket that featured a bold red Terps logo followed by "HOCKEY" in white. She was also wearing a grey Under Armour hat and she was completely drenched. The rain on her jacket, as well as the soaked hat, really made for a great shot.

This is the final home game I'll be covering for the Field Hockey team during the regular season. The NCAA semifinal and final game will be held at College Park and with any luck I'll be covering that for the DC Sports Box. Hopefully I'll be focusing my lens on the Terrapins and I'll be reporting on a 3rd national championship for them!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's another Tuesday evening and the Terrapins Mens Soccer team played another night game at Ludwig Field.

So far I've covered 8 or 9 soccer games, all of which were at night except for an exhibition game and the game last Sunday. The night games at Ludwig are pretty difficult to shoot. The lighting is horrible!

My writeup about the game can be read over on the DC Sports Box.

This past weekend I traveled to NC and took pictures of the field hockey players. I shot "into the sun" for part of the game and I did some experimentation with the EV correction. I thought that my setting the EV to a negative value it would make my foreground images brighter while making the backgrounds darker. It didn't work well at all. If you check out my images from that shoot you'll find the last few that I posted are extremely dark.

Playing around with EV got me thinking about light at Ludwig. Yuchen only brings his 70-200mm lens while covering soccer games, and I've been primarily using my 400mm lens. I've used the 70-200 on the D2H a little bit, but for the most part I've relied on the 400mm lens with the D200.

I think I might be going about covering night games at Ludwig the wrong way. With the 400mm my subjects have to be VERY far away in order to get a shot that is properly focused. If they're too close I don't get them and the ball in the frame. They have to be around midfield for me to get a good shot. Any closer and it's getting tight.

The trouble with that is that if they're at midfield I'm shooting them with shadows on their faces because they're at a 90 degree angle to the light. Or, if they're in the offensive zone in the box I'm way too close to them. If they back up to the far side they are illuminated by the lights on the other side of the field and their faces are in shadow.

So basically if they're in the offensive zone at night my 400mm is too much zoom for the lighting conditions. With 400mm they have to be on the far side of the field, and if they're over there the lights behind me aren't lighting up their faces. I think that's why Yuchen only brings his 70-200mm lens.

If the player is at midfield they're equally lit by the stadium lights but even this is inadequate for proper exposure. It's good for your magnification factor, but it's bad from a lighting standpoint.

Even if the player is along the sidelines but at midfield you have a bad lighting situation. If the player is at midfield and looking up the field towards you one half of their face will be well lit (the side facing the lights near you) and the other side of their face will be in the shadows because the lights on the far end of the field don't reach them.

I think that a 70-200mm lens on a dark soccer field might perform better than a 400mm or 300mm prime. There's another soccer game on Friday evening and if I attend I'm going to try to use the 70-200mm on my D200.

It was great weather for the shoot... It's still unseasonably warm and it was around 72 degrees with pretty strong southwesterly winds. Since the winds came from the SW they brought warm air and it felt really nice. I wore my knee pads and they were extremely comfortable. The knee pads have been difficult during hot games because I sweat in them. But last night they were great.

The stands were pretty empty. Only about 1000 people attended. A few Georgetown people were present, and one of the sports information directors approached me during half time. He asked if I was covering the entire game. I nodded and he asked if he could use some of my photos for the Georgetown website. I said "Sure!" and we exchanged business cards.

I think that's the 2nd time that someone from the opponent's team has approached me and asked for photos. That reinforces my belief that a way for us to market the DC Sports Box is to talk with the opponents of teams that play local teams and offer our photos to them. If they're from really out of town they might enjoy the photos since it might be prohibitively expensive for them to send a photographer.

Still no news to report on our credential request to Maryland. Our requests have now been ignored 3 times. I think we're going to make the request to someone else to see if they actually respond to us.

The field hockey and soccer teams are wrapping up their seasons. This Friday's field hockey game is the last home game of the season. Hopefully the Terps will make it to the NCAA championships. If so we'll try and cover them. You have to make the credential request to the NCAA, but Al says that the NCAA has been friendly towards us in the past. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

The men's soccer team is also wrapping things up over the next few weeks. The women have 3 more home games, but I'll be out of town for the last one. Volleyball still has 6 games left and I'm happy to hear that. Next to Field Hockey I'm really enjoying Volleyball. Maybe it's because the games are short.. Or maybe it's because the court is small relative to soccer and that makes it a little easier to cover!

On Friday night there are 3 Maryland games. Field Hockey starts at 7pm. I'll be there for the entire game, and then I have to decide about whether I should go to the men's soccer game or to Volleyball. I've been looking at our server logfiles on DC Sports Box and Volleyball gets a lot of interest from people. And I enjoy covering Volleyball more than I enjoy covering Soccer.

But, there are only 2 more home games for men's soccer and I'll be away for one of them. If I bail on soccer on Friday night that's it for our coverage of men's soccer this season. I'm proud of my coverage of men's soccer so far... But I think that when I get into just covering Volleyball in a few weeks I'll be wishing there was some men's soccer to report on. Tough call to make...

Sorry about the quality of the photos. They were mostly taken with the 400mm on the D200 and they are way dark. I shot them at 1/500th to stop the motion but that was a bit too little light to properly expose...

Monday, October 22, 2007

I worked pretty hard on Saturday night to go through all of my field hockey photos and write my article for the DC Sports Box. I didn't go to bed until around 1am but I was happy I finished all my work on Saturday evening.

On Sunday there was a day home game between the men's soccer team from Maryland and the far-far out of town Cal State Northridge Matadors. This was the only men's soccer game this season that took place during the day, except for an exhibition game against Montreal. I was looking forward to shooting it!

It was another gorgeous day to get out and shoot. It's been unusually warm lately, and today it was around 80 degrees with decent humidity and a bright sun. Plenty of light to work with... My article is here.

I saw Yuchen and Greg at the game, as well as another photograph that Greg works with. I seem to recall Greg mentioning that he is the Capitals photographer. I've seen him at some Verizon Center events, as well as at Nationals games. I've only spoken about 5 words to him though so I don't even know his name.

Greg and Yuchen were on the far end of the field so I didn't speak with them during the first half. I know that Greg and his partner were there to shoot as much material as possible for the soccer book, and I understand Greg's presence at the far end of the field. I'm not sure I understand why Yuchen selected that position though.

I suppose he's following the "shoot where your team is shooting". I'm not sure how I feel about that approach. So far that's what I've done: I always follow my team and positioned myself to capture them scoring, shooting, or attacking. But lately I've been rethinking that approach especially when you're faced with difficult or poor lighting conditions.

The field hockey game is really what did it for me. The Terps weren't in the offensive zone at all, and the lighting shooting them in the offensive zone was really bad. If I had stayed in that position I had a low probability of getting my celebration shot after a goal, and even if I got my shot it probably wouldn't have come out very well because of the light.

When I changed my position it meant I was shooting more defensive players. But I shot a ton of them, and the lighting was great. So do you give up on field position in order to get better light? Or does field position always trump light? I don't know...

During the soccer game I decided to let the sunlight win and I stayed in my position the entire game. That meant that I shot the Terrapin defense during the first half and the offense during the second half. Not too bad of a tradeoff. The only downside is that if the Terps score in the first half and are scoreless in the second you lose your celebration shot (or you have to crop it pretty badly).

It's definitely something I'm going to think about and ask a few other photographers. I really don't know what they'll say...

I still have a difficult time seeing the LCD in broad daylight when the sun is over my shoulders. I think everyone has this problem though and it's not equipment or vision related. Maybe I'll look for one of those old photo viewers they used to sell us back in elementary school that allowed you to put a positive in it and hold it up to the sunlight to see the photo. Maybe I could get a big one and put it on some kind of necklace. Then I can cut off the end of it and have a protected little peeping tube I can use to look at my LCD.

My meter told me to shoot at 1/8000 on ISO200 with f2.8. I didn't believe it though and I decided to go with 1/6400th. After some review during a penalty kick I realized that even 1/6400th was too fast and I slowed down to 1/5000th. I didn't blow any highlights and the lighting looked good.

There was a lot of action on the field this afternoon, including a fight towards the end of the game. The police ended up arriving and walking onto the field. It made for a memorable shot (not a good memory, but a memory none the less).

I didn't get a chance to talk with Greg at all. That's unfortunate because I always enjoy hearing what events he's attended recently.

The game went into double overtime and Yuchen was really aching and tired from being in NC yesterday. I'm conditioned to a 6 hour driving because my wife and I own property in NC and frequently travel 6 hours to stay in our summer house over long weekends. But Yuchen said he doesn't like to drive and was very tired. He was really hoping for the Terps to pull away so that the game didn't go into overtime.

I was glad the game went into overtime because it meant more shooting opportunities for us!

This week we're going to approach Maryland again and request media credentials. I've covered 25 games so far this Fall, and that's way more than any other media outlet has achieved. I realize that one Terrapin Times or article reaches far more than our humble website, but there's something to be said for commitment and effort. I'm hoping Maryland sees it that way as well, but given what has happened to us so far I'm not holding my breath.

The next soccer men's game is Tuesday night and on Monday we'll put in our credential request. The last time we submitted our request we weren't denied or accepted: we were just ignored. I'm actually expecting the same thing to happen this time: we'll hear nothing. But one can hope!

Yuchen put the idea in my head to cover the #1 UNC Tar Heels vs the #2 Maryland Terrapins in Field Hockey down in Chapel Hill NC. After Julie gave the nod I made preparations to attend.

I contacted a coworker I'm friends with at Zenoss who lives in the Raleigh-Durham area and he offered me a place to stay for the evening on Friday night. I also had Al contact the associate athletic director for communication at UNC and request the credential. Dana responded very promptly and positively: Come on down!

I pulled up Google maps and plotted my way from College Park to Chapel Hill NC. Google said it was about 300 miles and would take me 6 hours. I checked in with Mark in Durham and he confirmed the route. I decided to leave early on Friday afternoon to avoid traffic.

The drive down to Chapel Hill was great: mixed clouds and sun and the terperature was in the middle to upper 70s. The leaves were turning orange and red for the Fall season, and there was very little traffic. I drove through Port Royal and through Bowling Green and there were very few cars on the road.

With satellite radio the drive goes quickly. And I was very excited to cover the field hockey game on the road.

When I arrived in Durham I went to dinner with Mark. We split some chicken wings and burgers at a local watering hole. Since Wake Forest, Duke, UNC, and NC State are all without about 20 miles of each other most restaurants and bars down there are mixed-use: there is memorabilia from all 4 schools up all over the place. There were also jerseys and photos of the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers. My skin was crawlin being in a place like that!

Fortunately I didn't wear my Maryland colors on the way down. I think I would've been run out of the restaurant if I had worn them!

I headed over to Chapel Hill in the morning and drove around campus looking for the field hockey arena. Fortunately the people in North Carolina are very nice and very helpful. I located the facility without any problem and was about 90 minutes early. The water was running, and I was surprised by that given the drought conditions.

After parking I pulled out my bag, knee pads, and hat and headed over to Francis E Henry arena. I met up with Dana in the media office on the 3rd floor of the stadium and introduced myself. I asked her what kinds of rules they have for where photographers can and can't go.

She told me to basically stay behind the nets and to stay out of the way from the team benches. It was pretty laid back. I asked if I could go out onto the field during introduction and she said I could not. That was ok though because of the way that the sun was positioned in the sky.

The flag was on one side of the field and the sun was on the other. That meant that the teams would be backlit while looking at the flag. That would blow out the shot so it didn't bother me that I couldn't get it.

Dana left to go attend to other duties and I was left to get my gear set up. I was happy to find the "Tar Heels" network was wide open and got me out to the Internet. At Maryland the WiFi is protected and a pain.

I chatted with some of the video people and found out from them where the visiting team bus typically arrives. I then put my 17-55/2.8 DX lens on my D200 and attached my SB-800. I headed downstairs to take some test shots of a fence.

I don't know very much at all about flash photography, but I have a great appreciation for it's complexity and for it's power. I purchased Nikon's "Introduction to Creative Lighting" and have read it over 3 times. I still only understand about 25% of the material, but I'm learning...

I read about guide numbers, and the general rule of thumb regarding dividing by 10. It says that if the guide number is 110 you should use f11 at 10 feet away. Adjusting the guide number increases (or decreases) the flash output.

I wanted to take some test shots with different GN settings. When I shot my nephew and niece I didn't make any adjustments and some of the shots were way too bright. With the team coming off the bus I wanted to make sure I got the settings right so I decided to test.

When the team stepped off the bus I was ready. I got some great shots of a few players. Unfortunately most of the players were looking down at the ground as they stepped out so I didn't take very many shots. But, for the players and coaching staff that looked upwards I grabbed a shot.

When Coach Meharg stepped off she came up and shook my hand and thanked me for traveling to cover the game. I was excited and happy to do it. I hope that Maryland reconsiders giving us a media credential.

As the players headed for the locker room to prepare I returned to the media room to switch lenses. I met up with Yuchen and we exchanged some travel stories while we set up our gear. With 60 minutes to go before face-off there was a lot of time to kill. It was a nice day though, and so I made the best of it by enjoying some cheese nachos and some bottled water. There wasn't much food selection at the stadium!

I regretted not taking the time to meet up with Al to pick up his belt. I wanted to carry my 17-55/2.8 DX lens with me while I had my 70-200/2.8 and 400mm on my 2 bodies. But since I didn't have a belt I had to put the 17-55/2.8 DX lens in my pocket. I had cargo shorts on, but it's still a big lens. And from time to time you have to move quickly along the sidelines to get a particular shot. I didn't look forward to carrying this expensive lens in my pocket during the match.

But I was glad I took it with me because I was in a great position when the team moved out onto the field. Fortunately they stayed close to the bench and that meant I could stay behind the net and still get my shots of them in a huddle. The lighting was off, and if I could move onto the field I would've gotten a great shot. But I didn't want to push my luck so I stayed off the field as I was instructed.

When the game began the Terps were shooting with the sun on their back as they came up the field. That's a really difficult lighting situation because even under open sun you still have to open the aperture up to f2.8 and slow the shutter down to 1/800th in order to expose the players faces. And when you do that you often overexpose other areas of the image.

You also tend to get halos that form around the players. This is especially prevalent in female athletes or men that have long hair. The backlight gets into their hair and bounces all around in it. You end up with these photos where there's a ton of light in their hair and their faces are rather dark. Unfortunately I don't know what you can do about it...

The Terps didn't take any shots during the game and so they spent very little time on the offensive side of the field. With about 20 minutes left in the half I moved down to cover the Terps defense.

This was a good move because the Terps ended up playing 90% of the entire game on the defensive side of the field. I ended up in the corner and got some well lit shots while covering the Terps defending against Carolina. I didn't get any celebration photos (because there were no points to be had by Maryland), but I did get my share of action shots.

At half time the Terps hadn't managed to take a single shot or receive a penalty corner. Carolina had something like 11 shots at that point and 3 or 4 corners. I was hoping that the Terps would come out from halftime regrouped and ready to play. And I was looking forward to it because they'd be shooting into the sun.

Unfortunately they were pretty flat coming into the 2nd half and spent most of their time on the defensive side of the field. I readjusted my position and moved from the endzone corner that Maryland shot against to about 1/3 of the way into the offensive zone on the sideline.

The 400mm is plenty powerful for field hockey and I didn't want to get too close to the action. If Maryland did manage to score I wanted a chance at some decent light, but at the same time I realized their hopes were fading fast. When Carolina scored their first goal with about 11 minutes to play I realized the game was pretty much in the bag. The Terps still hadn't managed to take a shot or force a corner. It didn't look likely that they would rally from a deficit...

Carolina then scored 2 additional goals to make it 3-0 with 2 minutes to play and the game was finished. I geared up in anticipation of the players coming off the field. I hoped to get some good shots of them with the 17-55/2.8 lens but they looked pretty sad after the game. I understand it though - they faced off against the #1 team in the country and they didn't play particularly well. As a result I threw away most of those shots.

You can read my full writeup of the game here.

I packed up my gear and headed north to College Park. I wish I was racing home to photograph the football game between the Terps and the Cavaliers. But I think we're a ways off from being able to cover a game like that.

I made it home in time for the game and watched it from the comfort of my living room on HD while enjoying some beer and reviewing my field hockey photographs. I would have preferred to have been there in person, on the field, capturing the moment. But being at home with my wife, some beer, and my photographs is equally enjoyable.