Sunday, March 22, 2009

This afternoon I shot the Maryland's women's basketball game against Dartmouth. I've shot every home game for the Terps this season in Comcast and I'm very comfortable with the light and the environment.

Drawing on my great experience using the 400mm from the stands I decided to rely more heavily on the long glass for the second game of the afternoon. I remained in the stands for the entire first half and shot at 300mm and 400mm. It was partially by choice and partially by necessity. Amazingly all of the photo spots on the floor were occupied. I say "amazingly" because in the 2008 NCAAW Tournament there were very few photographers on the floor. I'm not sure what's different this year but every available spot was taken.

I wasn't upset though because my shots from the stands often come out on equal footing to my shots from the baseline. There's a lot more light up there and you get a lot better shots of players faces when you are up higher.

At halftime I retreated from the stands and made my way onto the court for a spot on the baseline in the second half. There was 1 spot that opened up on the Maryland baseline for the second half and I grabbed it. I stayed out on the court to hold my spot for fear of it being taken by another photographer!

I shot the opening minutes of the second half with my 300mm lens but I quickly switched to the 400mm with 15 minutes remaining. The transition to the 400mm was a bit difficult at first because it's such a powerful zoom but the shots came out really well. You definitely get more shots on the 300mm but the quality of the shots on the 400mm is simply amazing.

The only problem I had this afternoon came during post processing. Last night while cleaning one of my D3 camera bodies I noticed a compartment in the battery area that seemed to detach. I decided to explore it and I found a battery present. I believe it is the CMOS battery and sure enough when I post processed today all my photos were out of order. When I removed the latch it disconnected the CMOS battery and the date on the camera reverted to 1970. Oh well... Guess I learned my lesson there. :)

On Sunday afternoon I photographed the Utah Utes battling Villanova in the opening round of the NCAAW Tournament. Comcast has been a great venue to photograph this season and I've learned a lot about shooting basketball this season. I pay a lot more attention to which center is going to tip and which hand they use to tip along with which direction each team will face in the first half. All of this input flows into the equation of where to sit so you have the best chance of catching a great shot.

I changed my approach slightly this afternoon by bringing my 400mm lens into the stands so I could better photograph the far end of the court. I typically shoot the better part of the first half from the stands and focus on Maryland's shooting on one end using a 300mm lens. That usually puts the other end of the court out of reach for the 300mm but today I decided to extend it by switching to the 400mm on the far side. The results were great!

The only problem I had was from crowd density. There were enough people in Comcast this afternoon that I had to take a suboptimal spot in the stands where I wouldn't disturb anybody. My position behind a handrail blocked about 1/3 of the far side of the court. I suppose it wasn't too bad though - the area of the court the handrail blocked was close to the Maryland bench and there would've been a lot of noise from the coaches standing up and directing the defense.

I got some great shots of Utah shooting in the paint in the first half and moved down to the floor at halftime. Rather than offloading I thumbed through my photos on the camera and weeded out the out of focus, cluttered, or boring shots. At the end of halftime I had it down to roughly 100 photos.

During the second half I shot entirely from the baseline and got some great shots of the defense. It's incredible how much difference there is in the quality of the light on a 300mm prime lens vs a 70-200mm lens. I use the same body, same exposure settings, same AF strategy, and same white balance but my 300mm shots come out looking incredible while my 70-200mm shots come out lacking. I wish I knew how to make my 70-200mm shots look like my 300mm shots. Maybe an 85mm prime would look better...

After the game I fired off a quick lead-in photo while I started post processing. I didn't get very far before I had to head back down to the court for the Maryland game vs Dartmouth.

After 10 days off I got back behind the lens and shot a baseball game at Shipley field between the Maryland Terrapins and Boston College.

The game was televised and there were cameras on the first and third base lines as well as behind home plate and in center field. I seem to recall a handful of games that were recorded last year but I don't remember 4 cameras on the days when the games were captured.

I took advantage of the TV behind home plate and climbed up onto the roof of Shipley to capture a wide angle shot of the field and the stadium. Unfortunately there weren't very many fans in attendance and the stadium looks pretty empty. None-the-less it was a fun shot to take, even though the camera man barked at me to "walk lighter". I don't know if that is physically possible. Walk "software" maybe, but "lighter"? Last time I checked I didn't have control over gravity or could quickly manipulate my body mass.

I also shot from a variety of angles including on the ground at first base. I was going for a shot where I could see completely under the runner as he slid back into first. I couldn't get quite low enough though and my exposure was too dark. I'm going to give it another shot when it is sunnier.

Julie wrote up an article on the Maryland vs Boston College baseball series and I posted my photos up on the DC Sports Box.

Gymnastics has been an interesting sport to photograph. It is played in the Comcast Pavilion where the lighting is extremely difficult to work with. On the other hand, the gymnasts work to perfect their routines over the course of the year. That makes them somewhat predictable. Additionally, they are offered a 3 minute "touch" period where they can warm up and practice their key movements. Observing their practice period before their actual exercise helps you as a photographer anticipate what direction they will face and how they will perform.

I've gotten steadily better in photographing gymnastics this season and this evening's match was my final competition for the season. I anticipated the routines pretty well and was able to prepare for where the gymnasts would be when they finished a routine. I also worked with the available light a LOT this evening and slowed down to 1/320th at times when there wasn't very much motion.

The colors in my photos from this evening were remarkably better than before. I'm not sure how that happened or if there is any way I can reproduce it. It might've been the added sensitivity and slower shutter speeds that produced more accurate colors. Or it might've been leprechauns - I don't know. I was just happy that in post processing the colors didn't come out completely green and yellow like they normally do in Comcast Pavilion.

Julie attended the meet and wrote up an excellent article for the DC Sports Box. My photos are also included. Click over to the DC Sports Box to read about Maryland gymnastics win over Pittsburgh and view my pictures and photos.

Football: Scout Day

On Wednesday afternoon I was sent over to the practice fields to photograph some Maryland wide receivers running routes for scouts from the NFL. I haven't shot this event before so I didn't know what to expect. I packed my standard bag and towed it out to the practice fields.

I was surprised to see so many members of the media present. A couple of people had 400mm lenses and I wished that I had brought mine. Fortunately I keep my 300mm in my standard bag and I was able to make do.

I took all of my shots from as low on the ground as possible so that I could really make the football players stand out. All of the other media at the event stood upright with monopods shooting through 70-200mm lenses. I was happy to be on the ground a few inches off the artificial turf and my photos came our really well. Of course not as well as a 400mm lens but...

Post processing went very quickly for this event because I only had a handful of photos. A quick publish to the web and I was back at work on the keyboard an hour or so later...

After returning home from a trip to the University of Virginia I headed over to Robert E Taylor Stadium the following afternoon for a softball game between Maryland and the visiting Gardner Webb crew. Maryland hosted a tournament this weekend and all told I believe there were 5 or 6 games played over the course of 3 days. It was quite a lot of softball from what I hear.

Dave and I did some synchronized shooting for part of the game. We used PocketWizards to synchronize our cameras and I brought handheld radios so that we could communicate. During baseball my brother and I relied on some primitive hand gestures to signal each other and agree on the subjects to track. I thought that handhelds would work better. It's a toss-up...

The handhelds emit an awkward blip noise when you finish talking. The noise is very disruptive and obnoxious. I'm sure that fans around us wouldn't appreciate the distraction and I'm doubly sure the players and coaches wouldn't take kindly to it. It was also difficult to grab Dave's attention over the radio because he often tucked it into his camera belt. Visual signals were much more effective.

If we had earbuds, vox, and microphones it would probably work much better. But if we jumped to those accessories we'd have the wires that we'd have to deal with. After a post-mortem after the game we both came to the conclusion that hand signals were probably the best bet.

We also talked about how best to manage the media produced by synchronized shooting. Regularly when 2 people photograph a game both sift through their photos and send 12-13 individual shots to whomever is designated as the "gallery publisher". The gallery publisher integrates the other person's 12-13 shots and then uploads the gallery to the site.

However, when you are synchronized you have to consider who is going to do the photo merge of the synchronized shots. Additionally, how are you going to handle that in post-production if the shots are on the same media as the rest of the other shooter's photos? Despite having our timing synchronized our focus isn't always sharp, the shot isn't always interesting, and the exposure isn't always right. In post production you have to go through the 15 or so synchronized "setups" and then pick 1 or 2 that actually worked out. Doing so requires access to the photosets from both photographers.

We're thinking that before we do any additional synchronization we're going to assign mashup responsibilities with merging and publishing. Whoever is the person that's going to merge will give a card to the secondary shooter to be used whenever we do synchronized shooting. After the game the second shooter can take their own card home and return the synchronized card to the merger for mashup in PhotoShop.

The game this afternoon taught us a lot of things and I believe that after another few games we'll have a nice process down that will offer us some incredible shots!

You can't find more photos of Maryland softball's win over Gardner Webb on the DC Sports Box.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

On Saturday Julie and I traveled to the campus of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville to report on the final men's basketball game of the 2008-2009 season for the Maryland Terrapins. Julie did an extensive pre-season review ofmen's basketballand also wrote up a couple ofgymnastics events for the DC Sports Box. She's also reported on a couple ofwrestling matches. She's also gotten involved with baseball recently. Her recent involvement with the DC Sports Box is really invigorating!

After working through some last-minute credential request issues we were both approved to attend the game. Julie wrote for the DC Sports Box while I shot for Inside the Shell. The travel time from College Park to Charlottesville VA is quite reasonable (2 hours) and the mileage is decent (126 miles from house to arena). John Paul Jones Arena is quite remarkable and the lighting is superb! I was able to shoot ISO 1600 (and even 1250 sometimes!) at 1/500th at f/3.5! Wow!

Although John Paul Jones Arena only seats 11,050 the venue is really nice. The brickwork, lighting, and scoreboard are top-notch. Several people I work with remarked on the scoreboard by saying "it looks like a little Verizon Center." The University of Virginia pulled out all the stops in building the John Paul Jones Arena and the experience really shows it.

It took about 8 minutes before the fog of the opening player introductions cleared and I could get a clean shot. However, once that fog cleaned up I was really happy with my exposures. ISO1600 through a 300mm at f/3.5 and 1/500th and I was properly exposed. Everything was great except for the venue officials.

The backstage Arena officials were polite and courteous while helping me find my way to the media room. However, the floor officials were typical - arrogant, condescending, and closed minded. I don't want to go into the details but I'll just say that I felt really unwelcome at the event, and that was surprising considering Virginia is 9-17 this season, the students are on Spring Break, and a lot of paid ticket holders were missing this evening.

However, the light was spectacular! ISO1600 at 1/500 at f/3.5 and I was sufficiently exposed! I needed a touch of lightening in post production but it was nothing like Comcast. In Comcast Center I'm at ISO2500 or 2500 at f/3.2 at 1/500th. It was very refreshing!

On the quick drive home both Julie and I got a chance to write our articles and post process our photos for publication. Driving up route 29 from the campus is dreadful and the timings of the lights are awful, but once you escape the greater Charlottesville area the drive is quite nice. I'm looking forward to next Fall's football game with the Wahoos and hopefully Julie will join me!

There was much anticipation of the Maryland final home game matchup against the No. 10 ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons. With a win over No. 2 ranked Carolina and a narrow loss to Duke it seemed like the Terps finally got their feet under them and a home matchup against a top-10 team was a great opportunity to secure their inclusion into the NCAA Tournament.

Unfortunately the Deacons had other plans.

Maryland honored Dave Neal before the game this evening by bringing his family out to the court and presenting the lone senior with his jersey behind glass. Dave Neal has had a tough 4 years while playing injured and behind the likes of Bombale Osbey and James Gist. However, Neal has been a cornerstone for the Terps this year both symbolicly and physically on the court. He's the only man the Terps can put in the paint this year to protect against the opposing team on defense. Braxton Dupree hasn't filled that role this year and Neal has been the lone forward out to protect the basket.

I was a little late to the game but I knew that the senior ceremonies would be quick. I readied my SB-8A power pack and 24-70mm lens before heading out to the court. I got some decent shots before game, however, the ceremony wasn't too momentous. As a result the photos were pretty bland and I don't think we even decided to run them as part of our gallery on Inside the Shell.

Like the Boston College women's game I approach Greg Fiume and asked for permission to shoot the player intros and team huddle for the final home game. Greg agreed and I took my position close to the perimeter during the player intros. I put my camera to the ground while I shot at roughly 20mm to capture the bench while the spotlight shone down on them.

Afterwards I was really happy with how the photos came out. I tried to stay as close to the out-of-bounds line as possible so that I didn't interfere with the spotlights or TV and that worked out pretty well.

As usual I shot most of the first half from up the students section. To my surprise Coach Gary Williams played Braxton Dupree for several minutes and during that time I captured a dunk by the sophomore. Braxton began the season as a young-and-hopeful starter but was unfortunately relegated to bench warmer and didn't serve playing time in several in-conference games. His unexpected re-appearance was very interesting from a domain perspective and his dunk made for a great photographic capture. Unfortunately I think that the impact of my capture of his dunk was lost because he only played a couple of minutes and the Terps lost the game. However, had the Terps won and had Braxton played more minutes the photo might've been a headliner. Funny how that happens ... same photo but just different circumstances.

Olympic Sports at Maryland is starting up for the Spring and that introduces some welcome changes to the schedule. Olympic sports are typically outdoors and can be a lot of fun.

This Saturday marked our first involvement with Spring Olympic Sports and both Julie and I attended the Maryland vs Quinnipiac baseball game played at Shipley Field at Maryland. Julie has started writing for the DC Sports Box and has covered a couple of wrestling matches, men's basketball games, and gymnastics meets. She has a background in English and Journalism and her experience is relevant to our growing organization. It's also been nice to have her at the same games I attend because we're able to spend more time together.

Baseball is a difficult sport to cover because the teams typically play 3 games in a series and each game takes at least 3 hours. Some games have gone as long as 5 hours. When you add it all up you're looking at a least 9 hours of gametime for a series compared to 40 minutes of gametime for a basketball game. It's a huge difference!

This afternoon I shot the Maryland vs Quinnipiac game while Julie wrote. Andrew has shot a couple of women's lacrosse games this year for Maryland and he arrived at the baseball game to return some of my equipment. I brought 2 PocketWizard MultiMax units for an experiment I cooked up a week or so ago...

The idea was the use multiple photographers to capture parts of a game while synchronized using Pocket Wizards. Two different photographers from different vantage points communicate with one another and agree on a focusing pattern while one photographer controls when the shutter is released. As long as the cameras have their times synchronized you can very easily line up the timestamps on the resulting files and build a nice composite picture of an event that occurred using different perspectives.

With Andrew's help I took a stab at this approach during the Maryland vs Quinnipiac game. We started out with Andrew on the first base line on a 400mm lens shooting the pitcher while I sat behind plate on a 300mm on the pitcher. The problem we had was that the 400mm was too strong from the first baseline. It was difficult to relay that information to each other because we didn't have radio contact.

The next approach we tried was for me to be on the first baseline following the ball while Andrew was high above 3rd base following the ball. We got some decent shots with this approach. The tightest shot we got was a combination where I was low and got a Maryland batter diving back to first while Andrew caught the pitcher making the throw back to first. It really came out well in post production!

Having personal radios would've helped a lot because it would've meant we didn't have to run around the ballpark to communicate. I plan on picking up some batteries to run the radios we use for skiing so that the next time I head to a multi-photographer event I can use radio to communicate.

I also headed way over to the football practice fields so that I could climb the observation deck and shoot through the 400mm from a great distance from the outfield. the angle was definitely unique and I wish I had a 600mm or 800mm lens to use from that position. It's close off the pitcher to catcher line but down the second base to third base alley so it's a great spot for some long shots. I'd love to marry it up with some PocketWizard multi-angle shots but I need to think about how to compliment the shot well.

While I was perched up there I was fortunate enough to capture a steal to second base (including a slide) as well as a batter rounding third heading for home. It's a great spot but it's a huge distance from the ballfield.

Julie's article, along with my photos, of Maryland's sweep of Quinnipiac in baseball at Shipley Field can be viewed up on the DC Sports Box.

Senior nights are always special moments for student athletes. However, no two seniors can rack up as many accolades as Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver from the women's basketball team.

From sinking a 3 pointer in Maryland's NCAA Championship berth to Marissa Coleman's 2000 point achievement it's hard to question if two other players had a bigger impact on the Maryland program than these two. Both Coleman and Toliver have left large shoes to fill for juniors and sophomores anxious to expand their impact.

This evening the Terps honored the memory of these two players with a pre and post game celebration where their jerseys were hung from the rafters in a sign of respect. The two took it all in stride and exhibited their usual care-free demeanor off the court. When tipoff came the two where all business.

Coleman and Toliver lit it up and combined for the first 30 points of the Terps. Boston College struggled and trailed behind while the duo bombarded the Eagles with beyond-the-arc shooting. The two were stoic in their performance.

Prior to the game I received special permission from team photographer Greg Fiume to shoot the starting lineup for the Terps. The player introduction of the starting lineup is one of those "protected class" scenarios where precedent dictates you want to receive permission from the team photographer before approaching the bench. This year I've stayed away from the starting lineup and introductions but with this being the last game I wanted the chance to catch the two iconic starters (Coleman and Toliver) in their final home-game regular-season march-out to the floor. Fortunately Greg obliged and I took my position.

The shots from the player intros were a lot of fun. I love sharp light in situations like starting lineups because you can really accentuate the color differences in the frame. You can max out the contrast to really draw the players into a spectacular position. A completely black background helps accentuate the players and draw the viewers focus to their position in your frame.

The game itself was a lot of fun to shoot. I shot all the women's and men's basketball games this season for Inside the Shell magazine and that's roughly 35 games total in a 4 month period. At an average of 10 games per month and 4 weeks per month that's 2.5 or 3 games per week. In that timeframe it's easy to get really locked in on the behaviors of basketball players. I can feel myself improving heading into March and I'm kind of sad that basketball is coming to a close.

I got some great shots of Marissa Coleman this evening as well as DeMauria Liles. Coleman has been such a joy to shoot these past few years because she's a very versatile player and that allows me to capture her in a variety of different positions. I can grab her on the long lens racing up the backcourt after a turnover, or I can snag her at 100mm on the perimeter shooting the 3-ball. I can also capture her under the basket fighting for a rebound, or I can shoot her on the dribble-penetration in the paint. I liken her to Greivis Vasquez in that regard as a highly versatile player that you can't shoe-horn into a shooting guard, point guard, power-forward, or defense player. She's been a lot of fun to shoot and I'll miss her presence on the Terrapin bench.

After the game Maryland Head Coach Brenda Frese made many kind remarks about Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman. I prepared for this by readying my SB-8A battery pack from Nikon along with my 24-70mm lens. The SB-8A is a $150 alternative to the $400 Quantum Lithium Ion pack. The SB-8A offers < 2 second recycle time and it runs on 6 AA batteries (optionally rechargeable). The Quantum is a rechargeable pack that offers a faster recycle time but comes at roughly 3 times the cost. I like the Quantum's $0 variable cost in comparison to the recurring cost of AA batteries for the SB-8A but at the same time I realize that I rarely shoot flash. A pack of 36 AA batteries costs $12 at home depot. That's 6 full recharges on an SB-8A. The $250 difference in price represents 20 purchases of those batteries, or roughly 120 recharges. Since I shoot flash about once a month that's roughly 10 years before I could recover the cost of a Quantum. It's simply not worth it for me...

Before the game ended I grabbed my SB-8A and connected it into my SB-800 on my hotshoe. The 5 AA batteries just power the circuitry at that point while my SB-8A powers the flash and I went pretty wild shooting the two seniors at midcourt. While most went back to ambient light or waited for 6-9 seconds for a recharge I was able to fire away and get some good moments of the two players looking at each other or at the coach.

I also prepared myself for the over-the-shoulder shot looking from down low behind the players while their jersey was lifted to the rafters. I anticipated this shot during a former women's game but was beaten out for it by another sports photographer. I wanted to make sure I got the Coleman/Toliver shot this evening.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nothing amps up the Maryland faithful like a match between the Terps and the Blue Devils.

On Wednesday evening the Terps entertained the Blue Devils at Comcast. Coming off a North Carolina victory on Saturday this game had a lot of hype heading into it. A win over the No. 2 ranked team in the country meant the Terps could take down a great team and a win over Duke would help Maryland re-establish itself in the hunt for an NCAA post-season ticket.

I had a lot going into this game tonight from a photographic standpoint. As a photographer your natural instinct draws you to the privileged spot of the baseline. However, experience begs to differ. Shooting from the stands gives you higher vantage points, better light, and better composition because your player is framed by spectators rather than vacant boring ceilings with sound dampeners and sharp lights.

I hesitated to gain elevation in my shooting perspectives the last 2 years although I did experiment with my 400mm from time to time. I visited the upper levels of Comcast and noticed that I could shoot at ISO 1250 at 1/500th second at f/2.8 without problems and have plenty of light on my subjects. However, the perspective isn't always great.

If I had to sum up what I learned this season it would be: shoot from the stands. And do it often. My shooting and dribble-penetration shots of Maryland while sitting in the stands are some of my favorites from the season because the faces are so visible! When you're on the baseline you get a ton of leg, torso, and chin shots but faces are hard to come by when a player goes for a dunk. Often times all you can get is a downward facing glance after the ball has been dunked. But, if you're at eye level with the basket you can get a lot more face. And as the old saying goes, if you can't see the eyes I'm not interested...

It was difficult to balance my enthusiasm for the Maryland vs Duke game with my knowledge that shooting from the stands in the first half was the right thing to do. However, I'm an engineer and I know that doing the right thing rather than the emotional thing leads everyone to better pastures. As a result I remained in the stands and varied my position several times in the first half of the ball game.

Towards the end of the half I retreated down to the baseline and captured some shots. It's difficult though going from shooting in the stands down to the baseline position because the perspective is so much lower. Shooting all the way across the court on the 300mm is so much easier than looking through the 70-200mm trying to grab a guard driving to the net.

In the end the Terps couldn't hold it together and 2 3-pointers by Duke sealed Maryland's fate. I give the team a lot of credit though for taking a great Blue Devil team to the final 3 minutes of play. After losing to Morgan State a lot of people questioned if the Terps could hang tough in tight competition. The answer is still up in the air, but the fact that they took the Blue Devils to within 3 points with 2 minutes to go is impressive.

After wrestling I headed down to the media room and prepared for the women's basketball game between the Terps and Duke.

I had a special interest in this game after Duke's performance in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Up by 24 with under 40 seconds to play Duke Head Coach Joanne P McCallie, still less than a year old on the Duke Coaching Staff, encouraged her squad to continue the full court press, drawing the ire of the mixed Maryland and Murray State crowd. In the post-game press conference she was unaware of the cause of the booing that ensued. After having it explained to her by a reporter she opined on the Maryland crowd "They're just great coaches aren't they. ... Clever. That must be the turtle IQ."

The put-down was noticed by others in the media and Maryland Head Coach Brenda Frese tangentially remarked on it during her Maryland Madness address and again at a subsequent game at Comcast where she encouraged Maryland faithful to "show Duke Maryland's IQ." I don't think many people connected the reference but it struck a cord with me on a personal level. Pummeling an opponent with your starting lineup with a 24 point lead with 40 seconds remaining is pretty low, but doing it with a full-court press is poor judgment from a coaching standpoint. Little is learned or gained from leadership like that.

As media you are supposed to maintain a certain predisposed disposition to the events you witness while on the job but it's impossible to be completely impartial. Experience lends itself to biasness no matter how open minded you are. And with Coach McCallie's comments fresh in mind from less than 12 months ago I was extremely open to a solid Maryland throttling of the Blue Devils. And if Maryland happened to lead by 24 with 40 seconds remaining and Coach Frese decided to put all 5 starters in play and apply full court pressure that might just be poetic justice...

Truth be told Maryland throttled the Blue Devils and soundly sent them back to Durham 77-59 losers in the contest. Interestingly enough as the game came down to the final minutes Maryland protected an 18 point advantage over the Blue Devils. Coach Frese sub'ed out starters Demauria Liles with 1:35 remaining, Marissa Coleman with 1:42 remaining, Kristi Toliver with 1:42 remaining, and Lynetta Kizer with 2:24 remaining. As the final seconds ticked off the clock and the 77-59 (18 point) upset of No. 7 ranked Duke by No 9 ranked Maryland went into the record books the lone starter on the hardwood was Marah Strickland. There was no full-court press by all 5 starting Terrapins. There wasn't any running-up of the score. It was undeniably 180 degrees in the opposite direction that Duke Head Coach Joanne McCallie led her squad last year in her NCAA Tournament win.

I think that's quite interesting.

This game was also special from a photographic standpoint. A few weeks ago I picked up a Manfrotto 2929 swing arm in addition to a super-clamp. I've been purchasing used Pocket Wizard MultiMax units off of the Buy/Sell forums at and the opportunity to place a remote camera at events has opened my mind to new angles I could use to capture different perspectives of an event. I've gotten Greg's permission to attach my camera to the stantion on the hoop support structure. That gives me a much higher perspective on the players.

A few games ago I used my 14-24mm lens because I wanted to capture as much of the action as possible. After reviewing the photos I realized that a lot of the space in the paint under the net is behind the backboard and there isn't much action there. As a result I changed my approach for this game and I used a 24-70mm lens zoomed in around 35mm. I practiced my framing with the help of Emery Wallace from the Terps prior to the game.

I set my f/stop to f/5.6 so that I could have a wide depth of field when shooting. When you're up high there is a lot more light you can capture reflecting off the players and as a result an ISO of 2500 at f/5.6 with 1/500th was a good enough exposure setting. It was slightly dark but the colors were properly captured and I could increase the exposure a stop or two in post-production.

The shots from the stantion were incredible! I would love the chance to use that angle for a men's game because the presence in the paint is so significant. However, with 2 bodies I don't want to sacrifice myself and go down to a single body while on the baseline. Fortunately for me Al lent me his D3 tonight so I had 3 bodies to work with. However, if I wanted to do this on a more regular basis I'd have to invest in a third body. That might not be a problem though with Julie's growing interest in sports writing and photography.

All in all the game was an exciting one and I'm glad the Terps gave the Blue Devils a throttle. I'm sure they'll meet again this season in the ACC Tournament or in the NCAA playoffs.

After an awe-inspiring win by the men's basketball team over the No. 3 ranked Tar Heels of North Carolina on Saturday night I headed back to Comcast on Sunday for a wrestling dual between the Terps and the Cavaliers of Virginia. It was senior day for the Terps and I snapped a few shots of the lone graduate of the class.

I shot the dual through a combination of a 300mm lens on one body and a 70-200mm lens on the other. In the past I've only used the 70-200mm lens for wrestling but having the reach of the 300mm was really beneficial this afternoon. I could get in really tight on the wrestlers faces and get some great shots of the competitors.

Unfortunately I was short on memory cards. The past few days were really busy for me and I loaned out a pair of cards to Andrew to use for women's lacrosse. I also neglected to re-pack my Think Tank CF card carrier and as a result when I flipped it open today all I saw were 3 2GB cards. Those get chewed up really quickly when shooting 9FPS on 2 bodies where each photo is roughly 6MB!

When heading out to the mat I only loaded a single 2GB card into both bodies. I planned on being very judicious with my shots but wrestling is a fast sport at times and the down-time between duals is tiny. I kept my eye on the "remaining" count on my first body (with the 70-200mm) while I continued to rely heavily on the 300mm lens. When I reached 20 shots remaining at the end of a dual I raced over to my bag to grab the last 2GB card in my stash. I popped it in and readied myself for the next dual.

It was a good thing I grabbed the card because the next contest was quite memorable. The Terrapin wrestler trailed through the entire match but gained ground in the 3rd period by challenging the Virginia wrestler. As time elapsed Maryland closed to a single point and as time ran off the clock Maryland scored a 2 point take-down. The referee signaled Maryland as the victor but the UVA coach challenged. He had a great spot to observe the time and the referee whereas the referee had his back to the clock as he watched the two competitors.

The UVA Head Coach ran around the mat, raced over to the scorer's table, and even approached the Maryland bench as all the fans in attendance came to their feet to support either team. The other 2 photographer sitting at the mat started ripping frames (as did I) while the coach exploded in emotion. Had I not grabbed my card I would've been out of space and forced to go to the 300mm lens. A 300mm would've been too tight for that type of display and would've failed to capture the moment.

Being short on memory cards today reinforced the need to be prepared. I've been sharing my equipment lately and the need for additional CF media has become more apparent. I plan on ordering some in the next week or so.

Julie wrote up an excellent article and I posted my photos on Maryland's win over Virginia at the DC Sports Box.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


There's nothing else I can do to describe the game tonight between the Maryland Terrapins and the Tar Heels of North Carolina. Maryland was inspiring, collected, committed, and stoic in their performance.

Being in Comcast for the wrestling dual against George Mason I was plenty technically prepared for the contest of the afternoon between the unranked Terps and the No. 3 ranked Heels. Before the game I had plenty of time to get my laptop ready to receive photos and make my way out to the visiting team baseline for spot.

Several games ago a couple of photographers assigned to the home baseline grabbed my spot and were unsympathetic to my dislocation from my assigned spot on the visiting baseline. Accordingly I've been diligent in arriving early to retain my spot on the visiting baseline so that I don't get muscled out.

Although the spots are assigned by Media Relations several photographers and TV people fail to appear for an event. This leaves spots open. The regulars know this happens and they grab their seats. Sometimes in the seat-grab my seat gets sat in even though I'm there for every home game in Comcast.

For a game as big as the Terps vs North Carolina I wanted to make sure I was there with plenty of time. Fortunately I was and nobody grabbed my spot.

I shot the opening minutes from the baseline but quickly retreated to the student sections to grab some shots from higher up. This season I've really opened my eyes to the quality of the shots you can grab from the stands. The baseline shots are the standard ones you see in the paper but the ones from the stands can be really unique and inspiring. As a player drives to the basket your view from the stands of their face and upper body is a LOT better than your angle on the baseline and at knee level. A lot of the shots I see in the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post come from stadium perspectives rather than baseline.

As the game headed late into the second half the momentum favored the Terps. While on the home side baseline (I switched at half time) I started thinking about the post-game celebration. I noticed the students congregating near the aisles and I anticipated they would rush the floor. At a free throw with 11 seconds remaining I raced back to the media room to replace my 300mm lens with my 14-24mm lens so that I could capture the breadth of the excitement.

As things tend to happen in basketball games the following 11 seconds consisted of a lot of fouls and free throws. This gave me some time to collect my thoughts and prepare for the ground-swell. As usual I looked to the more experienced photographers on the baseline to see what they were doing. All were perched up on their knees with their spare body safely shouldered on a strap. Most of the time us baseline photos put down our second body on our lap while we shoot with our other body. The fact that they had their second body strapped to their shoulder they were on their knees implied they were ready to run at the conclusion of the game.

I readied myself similarly. I shouldered my 70-200mm while I held my 14-24mm in my right hand. I was torn about this because I wanted to get the inevitable ball-throwing up in the air as the time elapsed. But I figured that getting to the center of the team before the ground swell was more important.

I followed the TerpVision lead and bolted towards midcourt as time elapsed.

I was overwhelmed by the number of students on the court and I had a difficult time finding the players. I gave favoritism towards the TV and other photographers and let them cross in front of me. In retrospect I probably shouldn't have done that.

I held my 14-24mm lens up high and shot the crowd rush for several minutes. It was difficult to hold my D3 body and the 14-24mm lens above my head by I did it. As the crowd died down I shifted my focus towards the macro and looked for a way to capture a wide shot of the students down on the hardwood.

I grabbed a quick set of photos of Gary Williams talking with Johnny Holiday using my 70-200 before I ducked between the CSC and Maryland Police to head towards the home team basket. The AP photographer and the Washington Post fella were climbed up on top shooting the crowd. The AP photographer shot 70-200, which seemed odd to me, but the WP photographer was going wide.

Since I've climbed up on the basket in the past to rig up my remotes I was experienced and comfortable one-legging it up there. I hustled up there, grabbed a support arm, and hung off from the stantion shooting the crowd. I got intimately close to the AP photographer and was no more than 2 inches from her ear and shoulder while shooting wide. I don't think she minded though - she knew why I was up there.

After snapping a bunch of frames from the basket I raced up into the stands to get a higher vantage point for the photo. At this point I was sweating a good deal from being so close to the players and the students in addition to running around and jumping up on the basket. Climbing a bunch of steps added to the heat and fatigue.

I apologized to about 20 people while jumping up the steps and seats before finding a couple of spots to shoot from. I shot a variety of f-stops to get different exposures while adjusting zoom. I wanted to capture as much as possible.

It took me awhile to get back down to the media room to offload my photos but it was worth it. The sweat and the rushing around were good learning experiences and were exciting to live through.