Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ahhh men's basketball... Julie's favorite sport...

Maryland opened their season this afternoon with an exhibition game against the Northwood Seahawks. I've been to a handful of scrimmages this year as well as both media days for men's and women's basketball so I've been inside Comcast several times prior to the Terps taking the court for the first time this afternoon. None the less it's always exciting to see the Terps in their actual uniforms and Gary dressed in his regular suit and tie.

Accommodations for the game were unusual because the game was exhibition. Normally Maryland places cards on the baseline with each organization's name that has been awarded a photographer's seat. This evening the baseline was absent of any such identifiers, although the assignment sheet just outside the media room identified spots and locations.

The DC Sports Box took the #1 seat under the home team basket. Different people look at this spot with different perspectives. On one hand you're close to most of the action but on the other hand you have to shoot directly up to get players dunking or going up for rebounds. As a result you often have a difficult time catching the players faces. But, you get some great shots on dribble penetrations by guards and forwards striking in from out beyond the free throw line or the arc.

Some people like the spot out beyond the 3 point line. I've shot from there and you certainly get a different perspective that is equally great. You can catch defensive players leaping out to block a shot by a perimeter shooter. Or you can capture a guard driving baseline from the opposite side while they struggle to remain inbounds. In all due honesty I think the most appealing aspect of the outer most spot on the baseline is that the referee doesn't block your shots as much! When you are right under the basket the baseline referee seems to constantly be in front of you.

I chose to go up high for the opening tipoff and see how a 14mm shot on an FX sensor would look from where the TVs are located. It was decent but nothing stunning. If this were Duke or North Carolina or some other team that would pack Comcast to the rafters the shot might've come out pretty well. But since it was an exhibition game against a team that just added a basketball team a year ago not too many people showed up and the stands were empty.

I also believe that shooting from the 200 section is too high for the shot. For Friday night's game against Bucknell I'm going to try and shoot from lower down and see what I can capture. I'm trying to get as much of the arena in the frame as possible but I want the stands to be all over the frame. When shooting from the 200 section I was mostly shooting down and the stands on the opposite side of the arena were dark and hardly noticeable.

After going wide I went down to the court and shot a few frames on my 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens from the wing spot. I literally only shot a few frames because the whistle blew after 1 or 2 plays and I was able to race back to the media room to pick up my 300mm f/2.8 VR lens.

I've been wondering how that lens would perform at a real basketball game and after tonight's game I have to say I'm very impressed. The 300mm f/2.8 lens on an FX sensor does a great job isolated players on the opposite side of the court. The reach is great for basketball and the long focal point narrows the depth of field well enough to isolate the players while blurring the background.

Last year I went back and forth between a 400mm f/2.8 lens on a DX sensor (yikes!) and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on a DX sensor. On the 400mm lens (equivalent to 600mm on an FX sensor) I was way too tight and I only got a handful of shots. The few that I got were great but it was really difficult to focus and properly frame the players. It was just too much reach.

But 200mm was too short and I couldn't isolate my players against the background. 300mm is perfect on the FX sensor and I'm really happy with it's performance. I shot nearly all of the first half using the 300mm glass and I even wrapped up the closing 5 minutes with the lens in the second half (I wanted to shoot the defense). The 70-200mm is an ideal lens for shooting basketball under your current basket because it can easily reach the players out on the perimeter and it can be pulled back wide enough to capture the players dunking or driving towards the net. I recommend it and a 300mm lens for good basketball coverage.

I was also very happy with the performance of my D3 at ISO 2500. Last year I capped myself at 1600 due to noise on the D200 sensor but now that I'm on a D3 I can go up as high as 6500 without offensive noise. Keeping myself locked at ISO 2500 and 1/500 shutter speed all night I didn't ever think to myself "I wish there was more light in here."

During the game I looked up to the rafters towards the strobes and thought about a spot for a remote. I'd like to try to place a remote with a really powerful lens (e.g. maybe 400mm or 400mm with a 1.4 TC) up in the rafters parallel to the baseline focused down on the rim. I bet you can take some great shots from the position. My only problem is that I only have 1 body so I can't try it out.

I've been thinking about picking up a used D3 since prices are down due to the economic pullback. I've been really busy at work lately and have a ton of jobs lined up for awhile so I think I can afford it. Then again you never know in an economy like this and a new president set to move into the whitehouse in 3 months.


  1. Patrick Smith said...
    I just sold my D300 with thoughts of getting another D3. But the D700 seems like the perfect alternative for me. Although, the D3 is down to $4100 it is tempting. That also makes me wonder if Nikon has something else coming out soon.


    PS> FH went well! Thanks for the SMS!
    Christopher Blunck said...
    It's the D3X. I think it'll be out by Christmas. The last firmware drop had references to a 22MP or 24MP sensor and speculation is that it'll have lower FPS than the D3.

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