Monday, November 17, 2008

Friday evening rolled around and the Terps opened their 2008-2009 regular season with competition against the visiting team of Bucknell from Pennsylvania.

I've been to the Comcast Center a few times this season for various media day events, scrimmages, and exhibition games. However, tonight was pretty exciting because it's the official start of the season where records start to tally up and the win column gets a lot of attention.

A lot of familiar faces were on hand on the baseline and it was nice to see everyone again. I had my laptop with me in the car but I chose not to take it inside during the game. Instead I decided to just work with camera gear and prune down my photos on camera.

In the past I brought my laptop inside Comcast with me and would review photos and prune out the bad shots during the post-game press conference. This year I'm shooting for Inside the Shell and I don't have any writing responsibilities so that changes the equation somewhat. When writing for the DC Sports Box the post-game press conference was a perfect time to wade through my photos in Aperture and tag the bad ones for removal. By the time the press conference ended I had both offloaded my imagery from the night while at the same time pruning my out of focus shots. After a quick stop-off in the locker room to get some player quotes I'd end up back in the media room where I'd pack up my things and leave. At that point all the traffic had left the arena and the roads were open for me to head home, making my commute time about 5 minutes from Comcast Center to my home over in College Heights Estates.

I'll have to play it by ear for the first couple of games and see how things go in so far as sticking around or leaving after the game. If I leave immediately I'll be caught up in traffic and I'll miss the post-game press conference. However, by leaving early I might actually make it out before the masses and get home before the rest of my family! Hmmm...

Settings for tonight were the standard ISO 2500 with f/2.8 aperture and 1/500th shutter speed. I used a custom WB that I set a few weeks ago during a scrimmage and that has worked really well. Nothing too unusual happened during the event tonight in so far as equipment problems - everything functioned properly and went smoothly.

I've been shooting more and more with the 300mm in basketball and I really love how close you can get to the players using that lens. The 200mm simply doesn't isolate the players as much and the 300mm really gets you up close and personal. I've actually contemplated pulling the 400mm out for some shots of players on the far side of the court. Last season I used the 400mm on a D200 with a DX sensor and had a remarkably difficult time tracking my subjects. The few shots I did manage to capture were great because they were really up close and the background was all blurred out due to the long focal length. With a D3 and an FX sensor I'm curious how manageable the 400mm will be.

After the game I thought about going up in the rafters with my 300mm and taking some test shots looking down at the basket. The unfortunate fact about basketball is that the players look up towards the rim and lift their arms up while shooting. Lots of times their faces are blocked by upward reaching arms as the player shoots or goes in for a layup. By placing a camera above looking down you could get some interesting shots where the players are looking towards the camera.

I asked Greg about it and he said I could accompany him up to the rafters after the next game to see what it looks like. He cautioned me though and said that he had tried it before and there's a bunch of limitations that make the shot difficult. None-the-less I'm looking forward to seeing the angle and trying to figure out a way to get the shot.

On a surprising note I was told by some friends and family that Gary Williams remarked on some booing that occurred during the opening 5 minutes of the game. I must admit that when I'm on the baseline I tend to get wrapped up in the mechanics of photography and sometimes things happen and I'm unaware of their existence. I'm looking at the bench for reactions, the visiting coach for what he's doing, and Gary Williams for his scowling looks onto the court. I'm watching the players on the court to see who's going to drive the lane for a finger-roll layup, or which guards are going to dive onto the court for a loose ball. I'm looking at the refs for the technical foul call, or where Testudo is walking around. In short, I'm trying my best to be aware of as much of whats going on as possible so that I can capture something special.

Things slip past often. I rarely know the score because the scoreboard isn't that interesting (although knowing when the home team is about to take the lead for the first time is interesting). Tonight I missed the booing and I missed Gary's apparent reaction to it when it happened. During the post-game press conference I was standing no more than 10 feet away from Coach Williams while he addressed the crowd and I missed his comments on the event (he apparently referenced UCLA only winning by 1 but not being booed). I wasn't paying attention to what he was saying because I was focused on watching his lips eyes, and facial expressions looking for the right time to fire the shutter.

In my last post I talked about paying less attention to exposure settings and more attention to being in the right spot to get the best shots. As we head into the winter basketball season I'm reminded of the lessons learned from last season and will do a better job in remembering that my ears are a valuable tool for finding those "special moments" that make a great photograph. As photographers we tend to look to our eyes for those cues but our ears can be as effective...


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