Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The into-the-sun shots in my last Freedom shoot really jumped out at me and during this afternoon's game I wanted to take every advantage of the afternoon sunlight. I arrived with 10 minutes to go before first kick and I trimmed down my pack. This afternoon I only carried a 400mm and a 300mm with 2 Nikon D3 bodies. I also lotioned up with sunscreen before the game and chose a baby-blue t-shirt to wear for the game. I was determined to defeat the sunburn syndrome I've experienced so many times while shooting outdoor sports as a red-haired photographer.

I arrived and took my position at the side of the field that looked towards the sun. During the last game the Freedom shot towards this goal in the first half so I figured I was safe. However, as the teams took the field it looked like the Freedom would shoot towards the opposite side of the field. I was very surprised by this!

In all the sports I shoot the home team shoots towards one side in the first period and then things switch. That's just the way of things. However, this afternoon the Freedom shot towards the opposing team in the first half.

I stood my ground and shot into the light looking for my halo shots. However, it was tough because many of the Freedom players had their backs towards me. Additionally, I was positioned on the attackers left hand side of the field. Most of the attacks came up the right side, which meant I had all the dirty background of the home and visiting team. I moved over to the attacker's right hand side of the field and that opened up a LOT more shooting opportunities as the Athletics drove up the wing. However, when they inevitably crossed I didn't have the same quality halo like I had when shooting from attacker's left. It was a tradeoff - if I stayed on attacker's left I'd have great shots of crosses but they'd be few and far in between. If I stayed attacker's right I'd have so-so shots before the cross but I'd have a bunch of them. And there'd be action there as the Freedom tried to redirect, steal, etc...

I stuck in my position for 2/3 of the first period and then moved to the far end of the field so that I could shoot some Freedom attacks into the sunlight. I figured that I didn't want all of my shots from the game to be alternative-style halo shots. From the side of the field where the sun was over my shoulders I was able to grab some decent shots. I shifted around from attack-left to attack-right and caught a lot of action on the right hand side of the field. The light wasn't as favorable but it was decent.

Strobist says that flash mounted on the camera is dull because it fully-illuminates the subjects but it fails to show depth. A flash mounted off-camera can cast shadows based on a subject's features (brow, chin, nose, lips, etc) that gives more life to a photo. Shooting 30-45 degrees off of the sun can give some shadows on the players that bring them to life.

Shooting from the attacker-right corner for the close of the first half was beneficial because I caught favorable light that provided some depth to some of my photos. It was a good spot to be in.

However, in retrospect, all my favorite shots from the afternoon came from looking into the sun. It was very difficult to properly expose the players because often times the background reflected so much light that the cameras's built-in meter would report the image as over-exposed. Many of my shots turned out under-exposed because I did not anticipate how off the built-in meter could be.

During shoots I often review shots during dull periods of play. This works well inside buildings but it can be difficult outdoors when your eyes are adjusted for bright sunlight. During this "shoot-into-the-sun" experiment I tried to review photos but the LCD was simply too dark to give me a good idea of how well my shots came out. I attributed the darkness on the LCD to my eyes failing to adjust rather than to the shot being underexposed. I had to throw out many of my into-the-sun shots afterwards.

However, many of the shots came out very well and I was very pleased with them. The Freedom play 2 more home games this season. I can't make 1 of them due to a family commitment but I might hit the other one up. The difficulty is that it is played during the week and up in Gaithersburg. It'd be much easier if they played all home games in DC!


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