Monday, October 20, 2008

Men's Basketball: 2008 Media Day

The basketball and football programs at the University of Maryland hold annual "media day" events where photographers, writers, and videographers have an opportunity to visit the school and interview the players, coaches, and support staff. It's a great opportunity to interact with the team and other professionals in the industry.

Maryland held it's men's basketball media day on Thursday, October 16th at the Comcast Center. Earlier in the week I started scraping together some thoughts for a good photo of Coach Gary Williams. We prepared a pretty in-depth analysis of the teams the Terps will play this season and I wanted to make sure we had a compelling photo to use as a lead-in for the story.

I GIS'ed for "Comcast Center" so that I could re-familiarize myself with the court. The 2 emblems that immediately jumped out were the M at midcourt and the ACC at the foul line. Both logos are symbolic and highly recognizable. Placing Coach Williams in front of either would make for a great shot.

Eventually I settled on a shot where I looked at a 45 degree angle towards the M and realized that if I added some elevation that would put the frosting on the shot. I thought about how I could do that - maybe a 400mm lens from up in the rafters? Or maybe I just bring in my step-ladder and shoot from a few steps up.

Not having been to a media day for basketball and with the desire to play within the rules I reached out to Greg Fiume to ask him if it would be alright if I used an 8 foot step ladder on the court to take a photo of Gary Williams at midcourt. He said that would be fine but to coordinate it with Doug Dull since Coach Williams was going to be extremely busy that afternoon.

I checked with Dave Lovell and he said he was available to help out with media day. That really worked out perfectly because it meant that I had a test subject for the shots. I could've borrowed a light-meter and taken test shots to determine the proper exposure but it seemed easier to just use a test subject.

Dave and I arrived 15 minutes before the lunch was served to the reporters. I wanted to get there early so that I could drop my gear and tag my spot at midcourt. When we arrived a player was out on the court practicing, so we just left our gear on the sideline. As soon as the player was finished we staked out our spot at midcourt and began our metering.

In retrospect we had a huge advantage because we arrived early. We were able to set up our rig and get all the lighting just right without the interference of other media groups. When all was said and done we placed some gaffers tape on the court to mark the positions on our light stands and ladder.

During the press conference Dave used his cameras to photograph Coach Williams while I took notes in the audience. This worked out perfectly because I didn't have to disrupt the settings on my camera or change a lens. We asked Doug for a 1 minute heads-up prior to bringing Coach Williams over so we could drag out our speedlights and ladder. During that 1 minute period I didn't want to have to tinker with my exposure settings or lenses, and because Dave was able to shoot during the press conference I was safe leaving my camera behind.

I fired 2 shots of Coach Williams and looking back on it that was pretty risky. Often times people blink when flashed and it's very difficult to see that on a 3" LCD when you have the pressure of "you have 30 seconds" weighing down on you. Sure enough Gary blinked in the first shot but in my second shot he came out perfectly.

Post-processing the photo was a little difficult because another photographer had a bunch of gear down along the 3 point arc in the background. Normally it's not too difficult to clean up artifacts in a picture when straight lines are prevalent. But arcs are difficult. If you look carefully you can see the dirt associated with my touch-ups in the arc.

You can read a season preview of the Maryland Terrapins Men's Basketball team over on the DC Sports Box.


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