Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's Tuesday night and the Terps are in town. Life is good...

Lots of times the Terrapin teams play on the weekends (or Friday night). That's a blessing and a curse because it's really difficult to keep up with all the games that Maryland plays! This past weekend I covered Volleyball on Friday night, Field Hockey at 1pm on Saturday, Volleyball at 5pm on Saturday, Women's Soccer at 1pm on Sunday, and Field Hockey again at 2pm on Sunday. 5 games in essentially 2 1/2 days is a lot of shooting, post-processing, and writing!

It's nice when the Terps play during the week because there's usually just one game on any given night. Sometimes you get the a double header situation, but for the most part is "Sport X playing at 7pm". You get to look forward all day during your dull job to going out and shooting, and then you get to sit back and comfortably post process and write your article when you get home.

So the Maryland Men's Soccer team played tonight at Ludwig field. I've covered 5 or 6 games at Ludwig so far this season, and I've really been disappointed by the lighting situation at night. The lights are horrible, and I've detailed their problems in previous posts. Tonight I varied my position to see if there was anything I could to work around the deficiencies in the light.

To my surprise there was. When I shot from down on the field I noticed that I got a lot of shadows on the players. When I'm on the field I'm typically along the endzone line, so many of my shots are facing up the field (rather than into the field). That creates a lot of shadows because there aren't any lights in the endzones.

I shot from up in the stands tonight and it was remarkably better. The 400mm on a 1.5X crop is simply too much reach to shoot people in the close end of the field. And 200mm at night on my D2H doesn't work well at all. So I decided to back up and go into the stands to give my 400mm a chance to shoot in the attack zone. It worked!

I also decided to really turn up the ISO sensitivity. This weekend Greg Fiume revealed to me that he frequently shoots at ISO2000 and 1/400th of a second while in Byrd. I figured: if Greg does it I'm going to give it a shot. So tonight I cranked the ISO up to 2000 and I turned my shutter speed to 1/400th of a second.

While I was shooting I looked at the previews and I could see the noise on my LCD. I thought: oh boy this is bad... The LCD is so small (2 inches) and it pretty much wipes out any noise pixels exist. You can look at a picture on your LCD and say: "this is going to be a great shot" and it turns out crappy when you look at it in post processing because there are so many bad details on it.

I reduced the shutter speed to 1/320th of a second to see if I got any motion blur and to my surprise I did pretty well. There are a few shots where I get some motion blur, but for the most part 1/320th was fast enough to stop the action.

When I got home I was ready to be disappointed by the ISO2000 shots, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. The shots I took at ISO2000 looks far better than the ones I took at ISO1250 that I lightened in Aperture. The ISO1250 shots that are lightened reveal all kinds of noise and ugliness in the background. In comparision, the ISO2000 shots from the camera didn't need much lightening at all. And I didn't need to apply a sharpen either!

I think I may have turned a corner here with shooting in Ludwig. If I shoot from the bleachers (not the seats - they are too close), and use ISO2000 with 1/320th of a second on f2.8 lenses I think I'll actually do ok.

I've also been thinking about how I can improve shock. At the DC Sports Box we've been officially turned down for Capitals photographic credentials and that sucks big time. Photos really bring a story to life, and we don't even have a file photo archive for the current roster. Hopefully we can attend a media day and get photos of the team.

Anyhow, I was thinking about adding some kind of roster and tagging capability to shock. It would be helpful to be able to tag photos with player numbers and years. It's insufficient to just tag a photo as "#12" because "#12" in 2007 may not be the same guy as "#12" in 2008. So if you can tag photos with a team, player number, and year it would make it easier to be able to go back and locate file photos. If we can put together enough file photos for a sport we can at least make our stories look somewhat decent.

I've also been thinking about adding an RSS feed to There's got to be a way to make SlideShowPro automatically load alumb #N in a gallery when you load it. If I can figure out the semantics of their interface I can put together a dynamic page that will do it for me upon inspecting the gallery.xml. I can then update shock to post an updated atom.xml file that references the dynamic loader with the arguments I need to make it display the latest album.

The problem is that all of these things take time. Shock's been a big time saver for me in posting albums, and I think it would help generate more traffic on my site if I could provide an RSS feed. I need to learn the SlideShowPro API anyhow so that I can make the album viewing more inviting on the DC Sports Box, so maybe it's not too far fetched to think this will be a somewhat easy task. Who knows...

For the time being I'm just happy that I'm attending Maryland events and shooting them and nobody is giving me a hard time. I really thought at the beginning of the season that the CSC staff would prevent me from entering the arena with my photographic equipment, or the marketing or staff people would say I could not be there. But so far nobody has hassled me at all.

I'm wondering what the advantage is to being credentialed at Maryland. The down side that I see is that you have to pay your own entrance to women's and men's soccer, as well as baseball (all the other events are free admission), and you can't cover women's and men's basketball or football. I think that football and men's basketball are out of the question even if you're credentialed for all other sports, so that basically leaves women's basketball.

It's a lot of fun to cover Maryland women's basketball. Hopefully we'll be able to make a case to Maryland to let us in and cover it. If not then there are plenty of other games to cover.


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