Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sports lessons learned…

One of the challenges I find the most enjoyable is shooting a sporting event. However let me start this off by setting the record strait, I am no sportsman. In fact I was only a marginal sports player in high school, college and as an adult. I have to admit I do not follow any sport, unless I personally know the players. In order to get me up at 7AM on a game day you have to have one of two things, either a bribe of a good dinner after the game or you have to be someone I want to see play. Having said that over the last year I have found myself at a lot of sporting events and I have become pretty adept at getting the shot. In the last year I have shoot soccer, football, cheerleading and basketball. I’d like to try my hand at some auto sports or motocross soon!

I learned a lot from the different venues:

1 - Always dress yourself and your equipment for the weather. Here is a classic example of that.

This was a nasty day for soccer, notice that two of the players have their jackets on and that the same two players have long hair. The kids were drenched from the rain. I was soaked as was my camera. After this event I looked into ways to waterproof my gear in an emergency. And lo and behold what did I find among all the recommendations for this brand or another, a simple recommendation that made a lot of sense. Carry Ziploc bags or hotel shower caps. make a whole for the lens to look through and shot away. It actually spit snow some that day.

2 - It’s not the camera, its the lens, that matters. The shot below was taken with a Sigma 50-500mm lens. I love my bigma, it may be a bit heavy but it always brings in good results.

3 - Sometimes the action is not on the field. Pay attention to the crowd, or the players after the play is over. It is emotion that you are trying to elicit in your photos, not just hte action.

4 - Shot close crop closer. I use my big zoom for most sports so I can get the faces of the action. One of my favorite shots is of the player below. I loved the shot and I was close in, but not close enough so I cropped it closer. The first is the original shot, the second is after cropping.

I didn’t notice the finger until I cropped it, then I started looking at other shots I had of our player, he always runs like this.

5 - Don’t forget to white balance your camera if you are shooting inside. Particularly in a gym under sodium lights.

All in all it has been a great year of learning, and I look forward to learning more.

Hope you are enjoying the thread, leave comments if there is any topic you would like to see me explore more in depth.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

He won't get anything...he's not using a flash.

I by no mean call my self a professional photographer, but I do call myself a photographer. A few weeks ago Shannon and I took the kids to a stage production in town. I always take my camera. If they tell me I can’t take it in I’ll return it to the car but if they don’t I take some shots for the family to remember the event. At the last event a lady behind us commented “He won’t get anything because he is not using a

flash.” We ignored her because we knew it was not true. In a dark theater or concert hall the stage is typically brightly lit, I was not taking pictures of the entire room; I was taking pictures of the performers on the stage. Had I wanted to take pictures of the folks seated in the audience I would have needed my flash. I did have to allow for the darkness but it was only a minor blip on my radar. Here is one of the shots from the show.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The holiday snapshots!

Normally I take on topics of interest for a DSLR shooter but today as the holiday’s approach I want to take a moment to talk about those holiday snapshots. You know the priceless ones of the kids on Christmas morning, a grandparent or parent. Try and make it a memory that is worth hanging on the wall. The virtue of a snapshot I that it is spur of the moment and there is little thought involved, you just see a moment to capture, grab the camera and click. However, if you want to make a truly unique capture that will be treasured for years to come scope out the scene before you click.

Here is what I do:

1 – When I come into a room, I take note of the stuff in the background, yes the background. Nothing like a great picture of your aunt with some ugly distracting bottle or a half eaten plate of holiday goodies behind her. I try and move to a location that will eliminate that, remember she doesn’t know you are going to take a picture, but you do.

2 – Lighting, most point and shoots and pro-sumer cameras have a flash on them, use it if they are needed. There is nothing more frustrating than pulling up a dark image with nothing but a shadow for an aunt. Watch out for red-eye! Remember just because you have a flash and the room is dark doesn’t mean you need it. My next post will talk about that topic as I continue to explore light in photos.

3 – Use a shooting mode that you are comfortable with, for me I find the camera on Manual, Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority most of the time. For Shan it is often on full auto, the object is to get the snapshot, not how you got it.

4 – Be ready and anticipate the action. I learned this shooting sport photos. My best shots are the ones where I was following the action and then jumped ahead to where they would be in a second or anticipated the tackle or pass. They make for great shots. So this holiday if you feel the punch line coming or you see something about to happen have the camera ready and in easy reach to snag the action. A picture of grandma with a fresh cake in her hands is one thing, it is an entirely different thing when she nearly drops it.

5 – Remember to come out from behind the camera and enjoy yourself. I am guilty of spending entire events hiding behind the camera. Sometimes it is on purpose, sometimes it is because I am getting paid to do so, some time it is because I am having so much fun taking the pictures. What ever the reason don’t forget to interact with the family, not just take their pictures.

Happy Holidays and keep the shutters clicking!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Strobist..a great place to learn off camera flash

Recently I have been exploring lighting in my photographs and as a result I often find myself judging the everyday light to find the best time to take a photo. For example this morning on my way to the office I noticed that at around 8 AM the light had a great feel to it. The entire Kanawha Valley was bathed in sort of golden light that made things seem warm and inviting, despite the nearly freezing temperatures outside. Had I not been in a rush to get to the office I would have stopped to take a few photographs, particularly of the capitol dome.

The time of day I am referring to is called the golden hour by many photographers and its time changes depending on weather and other conditions but as a rule of thumb it is from sunrise to about an hour after and in the evening it is an hour before sunrise to sunrise. In West Virginia, like any mountainous area, we have adjust the times due to the terrain where we are shooting.

Though natural light is a definite desire we can not always rely on it to make a good picture. Which means we have to use some other source of lighting. The most common alternate source of light is the cameras flash or strobe. You can spend a lot of money on strobes or a little money depending on your budget and it can greatly change the way you take pictures.

I am new at the use of flash and have very little experience at it but one of the greatest sources of information I have found in on the strobist blog, Strobist is dedicated to one ting and one thing only, off camera flash. There are a lot of benefits to the techniques of off camera flash one of which is reducing the chance of red-eye. If this topic interest you check out the blog and learn more.