Sunday, September 28, 2008

Last evening my hopes of capturing a close friend's wedding came to a grinding halt when the assistant photographer forbid me from photographing my friends (the bride and groom) and accused me of interfering during the ceremony. My wife and I had a hearty laugh at her accusation - we both sat next to each other 4 seats in from the aisle and 3rd row from the back. We laughed because I didn't take any pictures during the ceremony. I'm not sure how that qualifies as interference but anyhow...

This afternoon I attended the Terrapins field hockey game against the Richmond Spiders. Coach Missy Meharg has been a dominating force in field hockey the past several years and the Terrapins have consistently been ranked in the top-10 for awhile. I enjoy the field hockey games because the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex is a great venue for photography, the game itself offers action shots, and the environment is very low-stress.

The weather during the day was highly variable. It was rainy, then cloudy, and then really sunny for a bit. The humidity shot up and then the temperature dropped when a rain cloud passed over. It was really all over the map.

I crossed my fingers for a sunny game but also welcomed an overcast sky if that's the way nature was going to play it. A full sun really makes the photos "pop" but at the same time you risk catching a lot of shadows. That limits where you can shoot from. Practically speaking you wouldn't want to shoot directly into the sun because the players faces would be in the shadows. In order to properly expose the players you'd have to overexpose the background.

On the other hand if you can position yourself with the sun over your shoulders and the players marching towards you then you'll capture some great shots. The Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex is set up such that the Terps shoot at the open end of the stadium in the second half. The sun sets over the left corner of the open end of the stadium, meaning I'm able to catch the team shooting into the sun in the second half. In the first half I'm at about a 60 degree angle from the sun being directly behind me because I shoot from a sideline rather than the endzone.

When theres a lot of overcast the sunlight is diffused and you won't have any problems with shadows. The positive aspect of the highly diffused sunlight is that you can reliably expose the players faces without concern that part of their face will be hidden in a shadow. You're also able to position yourself in the spot that's most likely to catch the best action in the game because you're not competing with the sunlight for exposure. You can shoot right into the direction of the sun but with the diffusion from the clouds you don't have to worry about the halo effect around the players hair.

The negative aspect of highly diffused sunlight is that the colors won't "pop" and the image looks flat. You can correct for this in post-processing to some extent by increasing saturation or vibrancy along with bringing out the blacks in the photo and increasing contrast. But when you doctor the photo so extensively the image appears artificial.

The best time of day for sports photography is in the mid to late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. When the sun is directly overhead (e.g. a noon game) the player can easily cast a shadow on their face by looking downward. In sports players tend to look towards the ground because they keep their eye on a ball or stick. As a result they often cast a shadow on their face when the sun is overhead. When the sun is low in the sky their face will be properly illuminated even when they look down.

Wedding photographers are experts at the use of diffused or reflected light. Most outdoor photographs of brides and grooms take place under a tree, behind a building, or when clouds are overhead. They understand how to use the available light to their advantage and a highly diffused light source produces few shadows.

This afternoons game was a lot of fun because the sun started to get low in the sky by the time the second half rolled around and the Terps ran west. I lined myself up in my corner position and got a few good exposures.

The only stress I had came from some condensation that formed behind the front lens element on my 400mm f/2.8 lens. Greg offered me a cloth to wipe off the front element but the condensation persisted. When I looked at it in further detail I realized the moisture was between the front lens element and the element immediately behind the front element. That implies moisture has somehow entered the lens and that concerns me. I used an Aqua Tech on Friday during the soaker of a soccer game and everything was dry and protected. Maybe it was the high humidity on Friday and today that caused the condensation to occur.

I noticed that the condensation began to form when the sun came out and it heated up. I read online that condensation tends to form under those circumstances. A few people suggested using that disselent stuff that comes in packages to suck out moisture. They recommended putting your lens in a ziploc bag with one of those things and it'll hopefully suck up the moisture. The concern I have is that if moisture got in once it could get in again.

Hours after the event I examined my lens again and the condensation has evaporated. I'll keep my eye on it and if worst comes to worst I'll have the lens repaired or examined by NPS. Photography is an expensive hobby and business to be in due to the equipment cost!

My photos of the Maryland Terrapins win over the Richmond Spider are up on Flickr. You can also read my article of the Terps 7-0 win over Richmond over on the DC Sports Box.


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