Monday, November 17, 2008

On Sunday I headed back to the hardwood for a women's basketball game between the Lady Terps and Delaware State.

Women's Basketball is where sports photography began for me a few years back and it remains one of my most enjoyed events to shoot. Access is very convenient and there is plenty of room on the baseline to shoot and try new things. I don't have to worry about bumping into many people with my photo gear and if I want to move down to the other side of the court I can without a problem.

This afternoon I didn't try out any new techniques other than using my 300mm lens. I've used the 300mm lens in men's basketball for some scrimmages and for a couple of games but I really wanted to give it a shot in women's basketball to see how it performed. In women's basketball the rules are slightly different and that changes the tempo of the game. The ladies shoot with 30 seconds on the shot clock rather than 35 and they don't have a 10 second back court rule. As a result you can get a team that likes to double team in the backcourt to force turnovers and that changes how you shoot the game.

In men's hoops you grab your long glass as soon as the play under your basket is over because the offensive team needs to get out of the backcourt quickly and past the midcourt line. In women's hoops half the clock could be burned in the backcourt so you don't want to jump on the 300mm as quickly. However, shooting a player between yourself and midcourt on a 300mm produces a wonderful image if you can catch them in focus properly!

There aren't any universal do's and dont's in sports photography in so far as what body and lens to use so I was looking forward to my first women's game of the season to see how useful the 300mm lens was. It came as no surprise to me that I went to the 300mm for most of my shots, including shots in the front court. I sat out along the 3 point line and shot under the basket at the far baseline and 3 point line. That distance was just perfect for a 300mm lens but it would've been too far for 200mm and too close for 400mm.

The 300mm lens has really expanded the variety of shots I publish from my basketball games. In the past I relied on my 70-200mm for penetration shots while I used my 17-55mm DX lens for my under-the-basket shots. With the FX sensor I'm enjoying using my 300mm glass for across-midcourt shots as well as shots on the near side of the court. When I switched to the 70-200mm it was with the thought process of "I guess I need some layup shots".

After the game I headed up to the rafters to take a look at the basket through my 300mm lens. Greg was right in his comments about the difficulty of the shot - there are definite challenges from up there. When looking down at the glossy floor the lights from above create a noticeable reflection on the court. However, if I shot using the 400mm lens I would be close enough to just capture the faces and fingers of the players as they went up for the basket.

I have some more tricks up my sleeve that I'm working on with this shoot. I don't want to spoil anything by posting it online and I need to talk with some people to verify some assumptions. I'm crossing my fingers though that I can pull this off. If it works it could be some really cool shots!


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