Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm a software engineering consultant during the day and that brings with it a bunch of responsibilities. As a consultant you're often paid much more than a salaried employee of a company, but you're expected to perform above and beyond the employees. You're supposed to be everyone's hero and have the answer to questions that come up.

One of my customers is an open source company named Zenoss. We made a release on Tuesday afternoon and I had a substantial amount of code that went into the release. As a result I was involved in a lot of the testing we were doing at the last minute of our "official" RPM. That required me to stay beyond my planned 4pm departure time.

As a result I was about an hour late to the Volleyball game. It's regrettable, but acceptable. Afterall, Zenoss is helping to pay my bills, whereas my photography is not (yet). I phoned ahead and let Al know that I was going to be late and that he should go ahead and head on home.

Al was going to meet up with me at the Volleyball game to give me a second battery for the D2H he sold me as well as a belt for us in photography. I didn't want him to have to wait for me so I said I would just hook up with him later in the week. He told me Greg was in attendance and I was hoping I'd catch up with him.

I was also looking forward to chatting with Joey Flyntz. He was the individual from Maryland that approached me during the Miami game and asked me to first check in with media relations prior to shooting a game. I had Al submit a request to him on Monday and strangely we didn't hear anything back from him. I wanted to talk with him to see why he hadn't responded.

Of course I had to stop at home prior to heading to the game. Before I left for work I debated putting my gear in my car. I thought: "Nah... I'll just make sure I leave at 4pm..." I should've gone with my instinct and put the bag in the trunk. There have been 2 or 3 other occasions where I've been caught behind schedule and without gear.

Having to stop by my house on my way to an event can add anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes to my travel time. It's not so much the time inside my house as it is the time it takes to get off the road, drive through the local roads with lights and traffic, and then get back onto the highway and headed in the right direction.

I should also realize at this point that most of these shoots that I go on for Al are last minute types of things. They tend to be "btw there's a shoot this evening for some team... Can you cover it?" I end up going but I usually end up stopping by the house to pick up my gear.

I should just get in the habit of locking my gear in the trunk of my car. The only downside to that is increased risk to the equipment and the added trouble in the morning of moving my gear out to the car and then taking it in when I arrive home.

The shoot itself went pretty well. When I arrived I noticed Greg was on the far side of the court shooting. I was glad to see that credentialed photographers shot from that side of the court. I've been shooting from the crowd side and I get blocked pretty often by teenagers getting up to go out to the hall to gossip about some news. It's pretty annoying.

I also noticed that Greg tends to stand up to shoot his subjects. I've been sitting down while shooting for two reasons: 1.) I'm in the crowd so standing isn't an option. 2.) I tend to shoot while on my knees so that I get more looks of faces rather than the tops of heads.

Most players look downward to keep track of a ball while they dribble. The exceptions to this rule are volleyball players and basketball players (albeit even basketball players look down quite often). If you're down low you have a better chance to get a shot of their eyes. If you're standing you'll end up taking a shot of the top of their head as they look down towards the ground.

If I'm credentialed for volleyball one day I'm going to shoot standing up from the other side of the court. Greg's shots came out very well. Greg shot vertical and standing up. Most of my shots are from down low and some are vertical. As a result I have a lot of the gym wall in the background. Greg's background is the court. It's a lot more soothing that the cinderblock background I get.

The bricks in Comcast are painted white and so they tend to wash out the shot. On the other hand, the floor is a nice brown. If you shoot standing up you get more of the floor in the picture and it adds some much needed color to the shot.

I was also very impressed at the noise level in Greg's shots. It gives me new hopes for my D2H in low light. He must be using Noise Ninja or something. I know he post-processes in Photoshop and I imagine he's doing some noise reduction there as well. When you look at his shots online you can't tell that they were shot at ISO3200.

I shot at ISO1000 and 1/320th of a second. Greg's ISO3200 allowed him to shoot at 1/500th and it stopped motion. The next time I'm at a volleyball game I'm going to give ISO3200 a shot at 1/500th of a second so that I can stop motion on the spikes.

I'm also going to ask him what he does for noise reduction in post processing. Maybe I can get some good night-game use out of my D2H after all!

I looked around for Joey but couldn't find him at the game. At the same time I noticed that the person who has been responsible for denying us credentials was present. I asked Greg about it and he said that Joey was out of town for his honeymoon. That explains why he didn't respond to our credential request.

I didn't want to approach the other individual because I don't want him to know that I'm there shooting for the group that he's denying credentials for. I don't know him well enough yet to know how he would respond to that kind of knowledge.

I figured that if he approached me and asked why I was there I could always say that we went through the channels we were told to go through: look up the volleyball media relations person and contact them. If he gave me any grief I could plead ignorance and put a positive spin on it. Fortunately he didn't approach me.

I continued trying to get some more diversity in my photos, and I took a lot of pictures of the players serving. They came out alright. They're not too exciting but they do make for some great file photos.

I also tried to get some pictures of the back line bumping. That was a real challenge - you can't see who the ball is going towards until it practically reaches them. At 70mm on f2.8 the depth of field is shallow enough where you need to focus on 1 of the 3 players in the backcourt. I just try to do my best and watch their body language to see who's going to receive the ball. Sometimes it worked. Most of the time it didn't...

My articles are getting progressively longer and I'm finding that I have more to contribute the more I go to games. I suppose that's to be expected. As you get to know the players and the style of the game you can make more intelligent observations in your articles. I'm definitely enjoying writing more than I did originally, and the length of my articles shows that. My latest DC Sports Box article for volleyball is located here.

After the Volleyball game ended I split apart from Greg and headed over to men's soccer...


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