Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Men's Basketball: Maryland Terrapins vs Elon

After a quick run home to watch part of the 2008 Humanitarian Bowl between Maryland and Nevada I raced back over to Comcast for a men's basketball game between the Terps and Elon. The media room was packed with reporters watching the 4th quarter of the Humanitarian Bowl and Maryland was up 42-35 with about 7 minutes to go. That made the media room especially pleasant this evening!

As I prepared my laptop and equipment I recalled my last experience at a men's game. In it my seat was grabbed by some other photographers while I snapped a shot of Gary Williams entering the arena. I debated whether or not to head out to the court early to stake my place on the baseline or to punt and head into the stands for the first half. My shots from earlier in the day from the stands came out very well so I decided to opt for the latter choice and headed up into the 100 level section.

I spent part of the first half parallel to the basket and caught a few decent profile shots of players heading to the rim. At the 12 minute whistle I headed into the student section and snapped a few decent shots of players under the basket. I wanted to get a little lower but students were present for the game and I didn't want to move in front of them to get to a vacant seat.

During the first half I shot approximately 100 or so photos I could probably publish. That's a lot for me! I also experimented with different apertures from up in the stands. I wanted to see how f/2.8 compared with f/4 when shooting players on the court while I sat in the stands. The difference was hardly noticeable. I took 2 shots of a CSC staffer on the court during a timeout at f/2.8 and f/4.5 and after examining the photos in the LCD I had a tough time distinguishing between the two from a depth of field perspective. The court looked very similar at f/2.8 and f/4.5. However, the sharpness on the CSC staffer was evident even on a 3" LCD.

I thought about the experiment some more and realized that shooting a smaller aperture in basketball might not be as bad as many people would have you believe. If you shoot from the stands the surrounding backdrop will hopefully either be the rest of the court (which is uniform in it's texture, color, and shape) or the seats in the distant background. At high zooms (e.g. 300mm or 400mm) you get a decent separation between subject and background even at f/4.5 under those circumstances. And at that smaller aperture you obtain considerably sharper photos.

This experience has definitely reinforced my prediction that slower glass will wedge it's way into sports shooting in the future. Bodies with better high-ISO performance will allow photographers to shoot at reduced apertures that will result in crisper photos that still maintain sufficient separation between the foreground and the background to be aesthetically pleasing to the casual viewer.

By the time I left Comcast this evening I had all my photos offloaded and my 25 images for publishing cropped, lightened, and ready for captioning. A quick check of the final stats helped me out and I was all wrapped up about 15 minutes after making it home. It's definitely nice to be fast on the computer and have a post-processing workflow I can execute within 15 minutes of making it home. I'm sure Julie likes that too...


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