Friday, April 3, 2009

On Wednesday evening I headed over to Eppley Natatorium to report on the meet between the Maryland Terrapins and the neighboring Colonials of George Washington. Maryland's had a tough ride this season and has only competed in 2 meets at home this year. The squad was on the road for the past 45 days and competed against top-25 teams on the west coast. With this evening being the final regular season home meet for the Terps I wanted to make sure I was there to capture it.

I went with a 400mm remote (using a PocketWizard MultiMax) trained on the Maryland goalie using manual focus. Unfortunately I didn't have the focus quite right in the first half and all my shots were off by about 3 feet of focus. It sounds like a lot but when you are a good 50 yards away the 3 feet is a pretty slim margin. None-the-less the shots were unusable. I corrected in the second half and was able to walk away with some publishable shots of Ashleigh Jobson in goal.

At halftime I had some fun and got a pretty cool shot of the team as they prepared to return to the field for the second half. I held my D3 out over the pool a good 2 feet while using a 14-24mm lens at 14mm. I was really happy with how it turned out. After breaking the huddle I headed over to where the referee dropped the ball and grabbed some shots of both the Colonials and the Terps swimming it down. They weren't as great as they could've been - the remote pole that Yuchen Nie uses in some of his huddle shots would've been really useful.

All in all the game was a lot of fun and I played around with the shutter speed a lot. The nice thing about water polo is that the swimmer's faces don't move around much compared to football, basketball, or lacrosse. The movement is in their arms as they fire a shot or make a pass. Thus you can slow the shutter to something like 1/250th and you'll get some nice blur on their arm that shows motion.

Go take a look at my article and photo gallery of the Maryland Terps water polo team facing the George Washington Colonials over on the DC Sports Box

I headed to a python programming conference in Chicago over the weekend and that prevented me from attending the Maryland Sweet Sixteen game against Vanderbilt in Raleigh NC. With Coleman's historic 42 game in the record book I looked to the calendar to plan how I would make it down to Raleigh on Monday for the game against Louisville.

The NCAA has rules about credentials that stipulate a requirement where photographers have to follow the team on the road in order to be granted Final Four credentials. With a win on Monday evening the Terps would advance to St Louis and I really wanted an opportunity to shoot a Final Four. As a result I was compelled to travel to Raleigh on Monday afternoon to shoot the game against Louisville in order to preserve my credential to St Louis.

Julie headed south with me and we had a great time on the drive down. The weather was sunny, the traffic was light, and the GPS was a lot of fun as it told us exactly when we would arrive. We had a long chunk of time to talk and get reacquainted, which was really nice considering I was just in Chicago for several days a programming conference. We arrived in Raleigh roughly 1 1/2 hours before tipoff and headed to the RBC Center. My parents were also in town for the game so we surprised them at the entrance to the arena. They were really excited to see us and were filled with smiles. That alone made the trip worth it.

Navigating the RBC Center was a breeze. I found the media room and tucked away my bag and laptop before heading out to the floor. I took a few samples and was pretty surprised by the flatness of the light in the arena.

Photos shot with flash have a lot of pop. That is, the histogram of the colors is very spikey. This provides great differences in color and brightness in the photo. I'm not sure if how much a photo "pops" is a factor of narrow aperture or if it is determined by the type of light that illuminated the subject in the frame. After tonight I lean towards the type of light being the driving factor.

After a few test shots I noticed that my photos seemed really flat. The RBC Center was well lit and I could shoot reliably at ISO 1600, 1/500th, and f/3.5 but my photos didn't have the same "pop" as they do in Comcast. The colors just seemed flatter.

The shoot was a lot of fun because I was in a new arena and surrounded by excited fans rooting on their team. Unfortunately Maryland lost but that opened up some decent tear-filled shots. It was sad to see Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman lose so badly in their final game in a Terrapin uniform but at the same time you can't forget the accomplishments of the two players. National champions with over 2,000 points each is no small feat.

After the game in the press conference I bumped into a photographer/videographer from Inside Women's Basketball. I didn't catch her name but I believe it's Kelly Kline after checking out their website. I bumped into her back during the Maryland vs Mississippi State game earlier this year while she was shooting some SLR Video in the media room after the post-game press conference. SLR Video is an exciting new area of imagery that combines the action of video with the detail of still photography.

A typical 1080p signal has a resolution of 1920x1280 which is roughly 2.073MP . In contrast a 10MP FX D3 sensor captures at 4236x2832, which is over twice the detail of a TV camera. The D3X, with a 24.5MP FX sensor, shoots images at 6048x4032. If the D3X could shoot SLR video it would contain roughly 3x as much detail as a 1080p signal.

Additionally, the image processing engine on a D3 is a streamlined monster that brings out great color and dynamic range in a photo. The colors on a SLR camera are considerably richer than stills shot on a TV camera, even when you drop down to lower resolutions. Simply put, a 2MP shot on a D3 will outshine a still from a TV camera due to the image processing engine on the D3.

Some really bright people in industry have looked at the greatness of SLRs and asked: what if we leave the shutter open and simply shoot video straight off the sensor? With sports photography cameras already reaching 11fps it's not too unreasonable to think about striving for 18 more frames to get us up to TV speed. In fact it seems unavoidable. I predict that in 10 years SLRs will shoot 25-29fps. Mark my words.

During the Maryland game over the winter I didn't catch the name or the outlet of the videographer/photographer shooting SLR video in the media room but I was extremely interested in what she was doing. It was the first application of this exciting new area of imagery that I had witnessed. Naturally, when I bumped into her at the Louisville game I was very excited to hear about how the SLR Video interview came out.

Fortunately she gave me a flyer that directed me to their website. I found the video of Kristi Toliver after the game interviewed for Inside Women's Basketball and it looks really good. Go take a look!

On Tuesday evening I returned to Comcast Center for my final home game of the 2008/2009 season for the Maryland Terrapins. The women's basketball team hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAAW Tournament and after Maryland's win over Dartmouth on Sunday I had the privilege to return Tuesday night for a tilt between the Lady Terps and the Utes from Utah.

I'm no stranger to Comcast and have learned a lot this season about shooting basketball from a variety of different angles. During my first year or two my excitement about being on the baseline and my inexperience proved too much from the standpoint of exploring the arena. This season the newness of shooting basketball has waned and I looked for different angles and spots to shoot from. By roaming around the various parts of the Comcast Center I learned a lot more about effective ways to shoot basketball.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) this evening's game was packed with fans. The higher the attendance the more difficult it is to move around in the stands and shoot from different angles. I did my best but the limited space cornered me into 2 or 3 spots in the first half. I built on Sunday's experience and brought both my 300mm and my 400mm into the stands. I used the 300mm for play on the close end of the court and the 400mm for play on the opposite side. I was very pleased with how well it worked.

Post processing this evening was especially time consuming due to the large volume of photos I shot. With this being the last game I wanted to capture as many shots of KT and Coleman as I could as well as of the visiting Utes.