Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Saturday afternoon the Terps soundly defeated Old Dominion by a score of 5-0. You can read my article about it on the DC Sports Box site over here. On Sunday afternoon they played the Penn State Nittany Lions. Al managed to get credentials for the game and I covered the game. You can read my writeup of the Penn State vs Maryland Terrapins 2007 NCAA Tournament game here.

Unfortunately Penn State was too much for the Terps. The Nittany Lions defense was just too strong and the Terps struggled to get very many shots. Muracco and Katie O'Donnell played well, but they couldn't connect with the back of the net.

The shoot was a lot of fun because it was outdoors in the afternoon in full sun. The temperature was comfortable in comparison to other night time games the Terps have had and I was quite comfortable with a winter coat and a hat.

As usual there were very few photographers present. Yuchen and Greg were there, as was another photographer from a Field Hockey reporting website that I can't recall off the top of my head. No videographers, and no photographers from Penn State. There were some pen and paper reporters present, including a writer from the Diamondback.

It was difficult to capture some good shots of the Terps because the Penn State defense was so strong. None the less, when Maryland did go on the attack I tried my best to capture the moment. I shot 1/3200 or better on ISO 200 for the entire game (at f2.8) except for when the Terps were in the shade. I then had to dial down the shutter speed to 1/500 or thereabouts.

Fortunately I didn't have to go any slower than 1/500th. You can go down to 1/400th in field hockey, but at that point you're starting to risk some motion blur. If you're lucky you can get away with 1/320th, but most of the time you'll get motion blur.

At those speeds you also start getting into focus trouble. I've noticed that I have more difficulties properly focusing while my subjects are in the shade vs in the full sun.

I've been covering a lot of games lately, and as a result I've been forced to speed up my post processing. In many media organizations there's a writer and a photographer who do arguably completely different jobs when reporting. But in a scrappy young organization like the DC Sports Box we have to do everything we can with the limited resources we have. That means that reporters might have to shoot, and more often than not photographers have to write.

I've enjoyed writing, and I've blogged about how you get to know the teams better. It's definitely true that researching the team and writing about them gives you a lot more understanding about the chemistry at work on the field. It also helps you with your shooting. As you write you're forced to report statistics on individual players. The background research into player stats helps you on the field when you raise the glass to your eye and release the shutter.

If you know that O'Donnell is closing in on some particular scoring record, or coach Meharg is about to surpass some coaching record with the next goal, you can anticipate the moment and position yourself to capture it. I've blogged in the past about how so much of sports photography involves anticipating the next action, and I've found that writing has helped me to do that.

Unfortunately the Terps lost this afternoon, and that means that my research on the Maryland Field Hockey team will draw to a close this weekend rather than continue on to the 2007 NCAA Final Four next weekend. They've had a remarkable season but I'm sure they are disappointed with their post-season performance. They were shut down in the ACC Tournament and their effort against Penn State this afternoon could have been better.

I'm sad that the Field Hockey team is hanging up their sticks for the long winter because it's been one of my favorite sports to shoot. I've had a great time reporting on the 2007 Maryland Field Hockey team, and I'm looking forward to next Spring's practices and the games next Fall. The field is sufficiently small for a 400mm lens, and the action is good.

They also play a lot of daytime games in comparison with the soccer team. I think the Maryland men's soccer team played 1 day game this year, and the rest were all at night. One was at dusk and there was about 20 minutes of shots you could get with decent exposure before you had to crank up the ISO and go to a 70-200mm lens.

The field hockey players also celebrate a lot when they score. I suppose that's true in any low-scoring game (like soccer), but I've noticed that this team has some great moments.

It was truly a pleasure to attend 8 or 9 games this fall for the field hockey team and report on their success this season. I enjoyed my travel to North Carolina to report on their play against the #1 UNC Tar Heels (even though they were held shotless), and I think my skill as a sports photographer has improved. I definitely know that my writing has improved since covering them.


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