Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cheerleader: Maryland Terrapins

Golden light is great. The lower the level of the sun in the sky the better. After a Maryland touchdown I was downsun from the cheerleaders as they twirled and flipped through the endzone. I snapped this quick shot of one of them looking back towards the sun. The shot came out well because her face was properly exposed while the rest of the frame was in darkness.

Sharp light can be your friend.

Today was the perfect day for a football game: bright beaming sun, temperatures in the upper 60s or lower 70s, and a light breeze to cool you off if you happen to be out in the direct sun. Kickoff was 3:30pm this afternoon and I couldn't be happier.

Light on the field was superb and the temperature was great. This marks the second week in a row where we've lucked out and avoided the humidity and high temperatures that are typical for the opening 2 or 3 football games at Maryland. The only element that would've made it more perfect is if some high puffy clouds would've settled in.

I chose to shoot the first half with the sun over my shoulders. I could've shot into the sun and gone for some rimlight but I figured that this was football and I didn't want to experiment too much. I stuck on f/2.8 for my aperture and varied the shutter speed to properly expose. It worked well.

During the second half the shadow of Tyser Tower occupied most of the field and I adjusted my position. I shot into the sunlight at times and at a 90 degree angle from the sun at other times. I like the 90 degree angle from the sunlight because you get some decent exposure but you also still get the rimlight.

Towards the end of the 3rd the field entered this interesting state where a tiny sliver was lit by the sun while everything else was in shadow. I positioned myself to take advantage of it and the photos really popped. It was pretty neat because for about 10 minutes we had players in full sun while the background was completely in shadow. Perfect...

Friday, September 18, 2009

After shooting some soccer up at Ludwig I drove down to the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex to photograph the Maryland Terrapin field hockey team play the Towson Tigers. The lighting at Ludwig was spectacular and I expected equally great light down at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex. The Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex is lined with 50 year old oak trees that create really nice shadows on the field so I knew I would have lots of material to work with today compared to yesterday with the overcast skies.

There were so many great opportunities for unique photography with the light and the shadows from the trees today. Unfortunately the gamers (action photos) are what people are interested in. None the less I was shutter happy on the sideline before the player introductions and grabbed a lot of shots with shadows from the trees and bright blue skies that look really great.

For the first half I retreated to the side of the field where the Terps shot. This allowed me to shot my "rim" or "halo" shots. These are shots where the sun is located behind the player. Normally photographers want to shoot with the light behind them but shooting into the light can create unique exposures. In the case of field hockey shooting into the light is very advantageous due to the moist nature of the field.

Prior to field hockey games the facilities group waters the field. Interestingly enough this helps increase traction for the players. The benefit to photographers is that water droplets from the field are propelled into the air as the players race down the field and their feet impact the field. When they shoot or smack the field lots of water droplets are ejected up into the air.

The sunlight bounces off these droplets when you shoot into the sun. When you shoot with the sun to your back you don't see them very much.

I was very much looking forward to my first full-sun field hockey game this season because I really wanted to capture the light reflected off the water droplets.

I had to bail towards the end of the game so I didn't get to capture the entire game. However, the vast majority of my shots that I ran were into-the-sun style exposures.

After arguably the best birthday of my life I awoke Sunday morning to chirping birds and a beaming sun. Later on in the day the women's soccer team at Maryland faced James Madison. I headed over to Ludwig field to get some shots.

Sunday was my first visit to Ludwig in quite awhile. I shot a lot of soccer during Fall 2008 but Spring 2009 I was vacant as other photographers shot the men's lacrosse team. It was nice to get back to the field.

The weather could only be described as fabulous. Temperatures in the mid 70s with plenty of sun and high puffy clouds. I grabbed my second body and a 14-24mm lens to accompany me with my usual 400mm lens I use for field sports like soccer.

I was so happy that I brought the 14-24mm lens. The shots of the clouds came out very well and I feel like they captured the game better than the tight 400mm lens. For a couple of corner kicks I got down on the ground and shot the player with the clouds in the background.

Field Hockey: Night Shoot

Inside Maryland Sports may run a story on the success of the Field Hockey team. Since DC Sports Box also planned to run a season preview and requested a special shoot of the team I decided to tag along and get a few shots in myself.

Yuchen Nie and I talked about different shots we were looking for and we were both on the same page: a night shoot. We both own strobes and speedlights and wanted to put them to work on the field.

I wanted to get a few shots of both Terrapin goalies (Melissa Vassolatti and Alicia Grater) as well as a midfielder or back. My plan for the goalies was to light the goal with something red, orange, or yellow using my speedlights and then use my Alien Bees AB800 to light the player.

The University was very agreeable to the shoot and accommodated us very well. After a practice they shut down the lights in the stadium so that we were only working with our own controlled light. That was a huge advantage for us. It made working conditions difficult because we kinda stumbled around in the dark but it was worth it.

Although we had the modeling lamps of the strobes it was still difficult to focus. I did my best but several shots were out of focus. The most difficult shot I worked on was for forward Nicole Muracco. I dumped out a pitcher of water on the field and asked her to shoot the ball while I took a photo from on the field. It was difficult to focus on her face because her shot came forward through the focus pane (rather than side to side). We had to take several shots before I finally got one where her face was sharp. If I had another modeling lamp that would help.

It was a very fun shoot and I'm getting much more comfortable and familiar with my strobes, remotes, and with exposure. Artificial light is all about blending the power settings on each of your strobes. The more practice you get the easier it gets!

Saturday evening I headed out to Byrd Stadium and shot the Maryland Terrapins and the James Madison Dukes. It was the opening game for the Terps in the 2009 season and it was very exciting. During the first quarter I ran around so much that I hardly noticed the score. I focused on field position, possession, and what down it was. I didn't notice the score until the opening of the 2nd when I finally glanced up at the scoreboard.

The game was very exciting for spectators and I had an enjoyable time on the field. Most home openers I can remember unfold under sweltering heat where you struggle just to make it down the field. Today's abnormally cool weather (with overcast!) created a nice atmosphere. I'm sure the folks in the stands appreciated it!

I carried my belt with my 70-200mm and my 14-24mm lens. On my other camera I used my 400mm lens. I used the 14-24mm for crowd shots and the 70-200mm for endzone shots. In the end I exposed close to 2000 frames and got all the way up to ISO 3200 at 1/500th. I noticed motion blur at 1/500th so I may crank the ISO higher next weekend in order to get some faster shutter. I love sports.

Post processing at home took a couple of hours due to the large volume of photos. Hopefully next week I'll be more selective in my shots. Maybe not!

Saturday morning I headed down the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex at the University of Maryland to shoot the Field Hockey game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Nittany Lions of Penn State. The light was suboptimal due to overcast skies.

Clouds act as a giant diffuser and they push down the peaks in the exposure of a photograph. You can use an overcast sky to get great under-the-helmet shots of players faces but at the same time the photos don't pop the same way they do under bright sun or flash. None-the-less you can't control the weather so you have to work with the inputs you are offered.

I knew I couldn't get any decent spary shots due to the lack of direct sunlight so I just stayed on the side of the field where the sun was primarily over my shoulders. I say primarily because it was a mid-day game with overcast. Thus there was very little difference in my shots based on my location on the field.

It was good to get back onto the field and behind the long glass again.