Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Men's Basketball: Red vs Black Scrimmage

Another scrimmage for the men's basketball team brought me out to the Comcast Center this afternoon. The guys I'm working with also asked if I could bring out the lights again and get an interesting shot of Greivis Vasquez for a cover article they're working on. I wish I had a lightbox or an Alien Bees strobe but I honestly don't do enough flash photography to justify the cost.

Lightboxes, softboxes, strobes, and reflectors are really great tools for serious photographers that shoot a decent amount of portraiture. But they're pretty pricey... An AlienBees B800 strobe will cost you $280 new, the stand will run you $90, two PocketWizards Plus IIs will cost you $360, and the Vagabond II portable power pack for the B800 sets you back $300. All told you're looking at just over $1000 to launch yourself into professional lighting.

Or you can go the speedlight route. An SB-800 can be had used for about $225 on CraigsList and uses a built-in infrared transceiver to communicate with the master unit on the top of the camera. The SB-800s also support the Creative Lighting System (CLS), which allows you to synchronize above 1/250th of a second. That allows you to open up the aperture wider and shoot faster shutter speeds with flash.

When shooting a group photo for the DC Sports Box our photographer, Mike Busada, had to use a 4X neutral density filter to bring down the ambient light to a level where he could shoot us outdoors at f/7.1 under bright sun. He had a really difficult time focusing his camera using the built-in AF system while applying a 4X ND filter. Had he used SB-800s and the CLS he could've sync'ed at a higher shutter speed and avoided the ND filter.

The downside to using SB-800s over true lightboxes is that you don't get nearly the same level of diffusion. You can create stunning effects using a wide diffusion field on a strobe. In that sense you could honestly say that speedlights are no replacement for strobes. But, you could also argue that speedlights may be "good enough" for what you need to do if you're on a budget.

As I mentioned before the subject we wanted to capture was Greivis Vasquez. We weren't granted access to him until after the scrimmage and that probably wasn't the best time to catch him for a photo. He was tired after running up and down the court for 40 minutes and the team was leaned into by Coach Williams after the scrimmage. As a result the subject wasn't too happy and that came out in the shoot. He didn't want to pose the way we were hoping he'd pose and there wasn't any chance of a smile. Oh well...

I decided to switch over my WB preset this afternoon to the Comcast Center. I previously had it adjusted for Ludwig Field's lighting, but since soccer is winding down and basketball is quickly coming upon us I decided it was time for the transition. I believe there is a way to store WB presets but I haven't read the manual about it. I also don't know how much use I would have for such a feature since I can always reset the WB preset in the Spring when lacrosse takes over.

I learned a little bit about bracketing for exposure this afternoon, albeit completely accidentally. Somehow I managed to set a +2 exposure bracketing strategy and that impacted the number of frames I could shoot continuously. Rather than the normal 9 FPS my D3 gets I could only grab 2 at a time. Likewise I noticed that the exposure changed. I double checked my settings to see if maybe I had flipped to Aperture or Shutter priority but I was still on Manual at 1/500th and ISO 3200 (f/2.8).

I noticed the BKT displayed on the top display on the camera but I didn't know how to change it because I never do anything with bracketing. I poured through ever setting in the shooting and utility menus without luck. It wasn't until I got home and read my D3 manual that I realized that I could adjust the exposure bracketing by holding down BKT and using the spinner on the camera. A few quick adjustments and I was back to firing off 9FPS.

I'm anxiously looking forward to tomorrow evening's Field Hockey Senior Night photos. Greg Fiume asked me if I would be willing to photograph the seniors, their parents, and the coaching staff while he worked the women's soccer match. I was happy to take the assignment because I enjoy working with the Field Hockey coaching staff and the players have been very kind to me on the field (I don't think it's personal - I think they're just happy to have the coverage!) None-the-less tomorrow I get to shoot some more flash and that will be fun.

Lately I've been playing with light a lot for the mens and womens media days for basketball and today for the shot of Greivis Vasquez. Tomorrow I'll be firing the lights at the seniors. Maybe one day I'll give up the f/2.8 glass and go the strobist route... Nah probably not!


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