Friday, December 5, 2008

A few posts ago I talked about picking up a second body for basketball season. With a lot of support from Julie I moved forward and picked up a used D3 for a pretty penny. I've been really fortunate to have such an understanding wife that encourages my photographic interests. Without her support I wouldn't be where I am today and wouldn't be thinking about where I could be a year from now.

Shooting basketball with a second body is no new experience to me. Last winter I covered the Terps using a Nikon D2H and a D200. I was always torn about how to pair the bodies with the glass because the D2H offered a higher framerate but a lot worse high-ISO performance. Do you go short on the D200 with a 70-200mm lens and get 4fps under the basket for dunks or do you opt for the 9fps the D2H offers but get a lot of grain in your pictures? It was a tough decision.

Fortunately this year I have 2 of the same bodies (D3) and that removes that mental exercise from the table. I shot this evening's game using a 300mm and 70-200mm lens. I carried my 24-70mm lens out to the baseline but didn't attach it. There were some opportunities for some great wide-angle shots but overall the 70-200mm did the job well. It has great reach even on an FX sensor and can get me out to midcourt pretty well. I can also shoot the opposing sideline reasonably well. Lastly, the 70-200mm is great when there is full-court pressure and you want to be wide until the team crosses the timeline.

It didn't take long for me to warm up to the dual-camera shooting mode this evening. There's a lot of bulky equipment to balance and the straps make it difficult. I also use Aqua Tech eyepieces to prevent my forehead from being marred by the hot-shoe mount on the top of the camera. The Aqua Techs stick out from the camera body about 3/4 of an inch and are a great hook for catching straps. Ideally I'd work without straps because then I wouldn't risk any snags as I transition between bodies. But I need the straps for safely transporting the cameras back and forth.

I shot ISO 2500, 1/500th, and f/3.5 for the entire game on both cameras. Last game I shot f/4 and I wanted to see how sharp f/3.5 would look. At f/3.5 I let in a little more light but still had some reasonable sharpness. The bigger difference I noticed was the poor performance of the auto white-balance system. On my first body I manually set the white-balance using a neutral gray card. I didn't bring the gray card with me this evening so I set the second body to auto. The performance was garbage. The whites were way off and everything was a mess.

Fortunately I picked up on this pretty quickly and set a programmed white balance based on the M on the baseline. It's not as accurate as the neutral-gray card but it worked reasonably well.

I used continuous high speed shooting for the entire game but stayed on top of reviewing the photos during timeouts and breakpoints. I really feel good when I'm able to rip through almost all of my photos and delete the bad ones before I leave the court at the end of the game. I realize that I should probably spend more time socializing with the other photographers because that could lead to more work but at the same time I want to be able to get through my post-processing as quickly as possible and deleting the photos on camera is a huge timesaver.

At halftime I offloaded both cards onto the MBP and began the Lightroom import process. I made it back out to the court just in time for the beginning of the second half. This worked out well because after the game I was able to copy over both second-half cards to the hard drive before shuffling off to the Gary Williams press conference.

During the press-conference I got through my first round of picks and had my photos narrowed down to around 100 potentially publishable shots. After getting home I pieced through those and got it down to around 25 that I quickly captioned and published.

It's nice that things are moving along so quickly with my post processing and publishing. Last year when I had to write an article for most of the games it was a large time-suck to get through everything before heading to bed. Many times I went to bed well after my wife and I kept looking forward to the day where I can simply shoot, caption, publish, and head to bed. Happily that time has arrived. How long it will last remains to be seen but for now I'll enjoy it while it is here!

Please go and take a look at Andy Churchill's article on Maryland's win over Michigan on the DC Sports Box.


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