Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Basketball Season

The season is in full swing now and I've already shot a few games for the Ladycats and the Bearcats. My favorite shot so far is of my son (surprise), Aaron. He plays on the Freshman B-team as a guard and is one of the team's leading scorers.

I shoot basketball with my Canon 1D Mark III and a 70-200mm f/2.8L lens. Occasionally I substitute a 24-70mm f/2.8L for wide shots below the goal or a 300mm f/2.8L for a different look from up in the rafters. I use a pair of Alien Bees (800s) located on the top row of the gymnasium that I trigger with a radio control from the hotshoe on my camera. It's a great setup. I use apertures of f/6.3 and f/7.1 with the shutterspeed set to 1/250 and the ISO around 1000. The strength of the flash units and the short duration of the flash event help me ensure the sharpness I want.

One thing about shooting with a flash is that you have to understand and anticipate the action. It's not like football where you can just hold the button down in machine gun mode. You get one chance for a shot and then the flash has to recharge. My Alien Bees are fast but they can't handle the 10 frames per second that the 1DM3 can dish out. Not long ago I got a great shot of a player on the baseline right before he went up for a slamdunk. I hadn't seen this kid play before and I wasn't expecting him to explode to the goal that way. Now, whenever I see him with the ball, I try to hold out for the explosion. Of course, I've already got him on the baseline. I don't need another one of those.

I generally sit along the baseline under the home team goal about halfway in from the corner. This allows me to get good views of the ball as it is advanced across midcourt. The shots I like the most are the wide shots looking up at the players as they approach the opposite side of the goal from my position. I always shoot from as low as possible in order to make the players look taller. Many times I've stood up during a timeout only to discover that my butt was completely asleep, but that's okay. The view from down low is the best one.

I think basketball is my favorite sport to shoot. The action is close and it is fast. Unlike football, you get to see the players eyes and the eyes add a lot of emotion to the photographs.


Mr. Smith said...

I see that you referenced Canon's 70-200mm f/2.8. I was wondering if you had any experience with the f/4 versions and the IS vs. non-IS versions?

In case you are wondering who I am, I was the student who asked you about photography when you spoke at LA Tech last week.

SaltFork said...

Mr. Smith - I shoot a lot of photos with my lens wide open at f/2.8. Of course that one stop means that I can use a shutter speed that is twice as fast as what I could use at f/4. Sometimes that difference in shutter speed makes all the difference.

If I'm shooting sports and I can get 1/500th or faster then I'm happy. In those cases, IS would not matter because IS is all about compensating for my inability to hold the camera steady. It won't matter at 1/500th of a second. On the other hand, If I'm shooting in low-light where the action is not fast (like in church) then IS helps me get an acceptable shot at slower shutter speeds where MY steadiness begins to matter.

I hope some of that helps.