Experiences: Squash and Tennis

Hello there, again! We got a grand total of one request to continue these types of posts and because it was such a nice request, I felt obliged to write at least one more. Just one friendly reminder before I continue: the pictures I include with these posts will from now on be low-res and cannot be reproduced without my express permission! My school newspaper gets me into many of these events (especially the sporting events), and as such they hold part of the image copyright. So, please, don’t steal these images!!!

Okay, onto the shooting from this Sunday… This week, I was assigned to cover the squash match against Harvard and the Women’s tennis match against Temple. As with other sporting events, being able to shoot fast was key. Especially with sports like squash and tennis, where people are swinging racquets at blistering speeds, I need some fast shutter speeds. To make sure I could get the shots that I needed, I had to bring my fast lenses (35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.4, 70-200mm f/2.8, and a borrowed 300mm f/2.8!) in addition to my 18-55mm. I didn’t bring my flash this time around because flash photography was not well suited for either of these sports. As I will explain later, I was positioned behind the glass wall of the squash court which would not have dealt with the flash well. I feel like it’s more self-explanatory as to why I didn’t use the flash for tennis; flashes don’t have nearly enough reach. In addition to the location of the shots not being ideal for flash photography, I generally avoid using flashes in sporting matches as a rule. It would be really inconsiderate and awful to ruin a match because you have blinded an athlete! Bottom line: deal with the light you have.

Having said that, I’ll start with squash.

This was my second time shooting squash, and I had learned a bit since my first attempt. Before I get into any tips, I’ll explain what I was dealing with. For those who don’t know, squash is played in a glassed-off room and players will have their backs to you unless the ball is bouncing off of the very glass that you are sitting behind. The glass is dirty most of the time and can be tinted, so scout ahead! Pictures can be impossible if the glass is not good. I was sitting low and in the corner because that’s where I could get a dramatic angle and is also where the ball would be bouncing a lot. Okay, onto some tips…

  • Tip 1: wide angle, wide angle, wide angle! It might seem a bit backwards because for most sports you’d be insane to show up at a match without a decent telephoto, however, in squash the only time the players don’t have their backs turned on you is when they are right next to the glass that you are crouching behind. For this reason, I made some extensive use of my kit lens (which I recommend you always bring with you – it’s light and will always work in a pinch). My 35mm f/1.8 was also a great improvement over the 50mm f/1.8 that I had been limited to with my first time shooting squash because of the wider field of view.
  • Tip 2: Bump up the ISO. As sad as it might be to see your pictures get noisier and noisier, it is sadder to get your pictures onto your computer only to realize that everything has been ruined by motion blur. For example, I took the picture above at ISO 2000 or perhaps even 2500, but it was worth it to reach a shutter speed of 1/400th (which was even on the slow side!).
  • Tip 3: If at all possible, use a lens hood to reduce flaring off of the glass. Some reflections are inevitable, but a hood can certainly be handy.
  • Tip 4: As with most sports photography, timing is everything. That isn’t to say that you need to be rattling off frames at a constant 7fps burst rate, but now is not the time to be sparing with your shots. Again, the theme here is rather safe than sorry. Just keep at it, and shoot smart! Follow the path of the ball and try to predict when it will end up in your corner when a player will be there to have their picture taken.

As for tennis… I can’t say that I learned that much about shooting tennis from this outing. I was honestly more focused on the lens I was using because I was completely awestruck by the newspaper’s 300mm f/2.8. Granted it is an older lens, missing it’s giant hood and lens cover, and with auto-focus slower than drying paint, but it is still an impressive behemoth and it made me smile. I tried to use this lens the entire time I was covering tennis just because I wanted to really test the lens and there was a second staff photographer there to get real pictures anyway. All I can really say is that 300mm on a crop-sensored camera is A LOT, and that I could not have handled this lens without the extremely thick Gitzo monopod that it was attached to. The shot below was taken from about 20 meters away, and is more to show you just how much reach this lens has than to show that I am even someone who could be called a competent photographer. Maybe I’ll just have to write more about tennis the next time I cover it. Until next time, see ya!

Note the ultra-shallow depth of field at 300mm @2.8!

2 responses to “Experiences: Squash and Tennis

  1. Pingback: Experiences: Cornell Hockey | AvidVisions·

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