Experiences: Basketball

Just one friendly reminder before I start: 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!!!

I like to unbalance some sports pictures sometimes to make them more interesting in terms of composition

(note: that this is not true in all cases!!!)

This weekend is a big weekend for sports here at Cornell, two Ivy League basketball games and two Ivy League hockey games! Needless to say, I wanted in on the action so I marked my spot to cover the Cornell/Yale basketball game. Basketball is actually one of my favorite sports to shoot because as far as sports go, the lighting is not all that bad and I can really get to most of the spots that I want to shoot from. I typically hang around the corners of the opposing team’s basket with the 70-200mm f/2.8 to get the important offensive pictures that will get published. With f/2.8 I can even freeze motion reasonably well at acceptable noises (1/400th or 1/500th @ ISO 2500). I know that some of you out there may say that ISO 2500 is not acceptable, but you have to see where I’m coming from first. My sports pics end up in a newspaper (not the best image quality on grainy paper), or online not very large – no pixel peeping here. With some reasonable noise reduction in CameraRaw, I’m golden. As I said in my last article about squash and tennis, freezing motion and getting a crisp image is much more important than having some noise in dark areas. Having said that, remember that I am using a Nikon D300s and that I really try to cap things at ISO 2500 (higher ISO values reduce image sharpness and make colors look awful in addition to adding noise). Not only is the 70-200mm good for sitting in the corner with, it is good for getting body shots of the defense from across the court. The odd close-up player portrait never hurt anyone either, especially if they are making a really intense face. This brings me onto another topic of shooting sports and that is the crop of a picture. In this context, I don’t mean crop as in the amount that you post process a picture to fix the framing. I mean how much you are zoomed in to begin with. Very zoomed in is a tight crop, and less zoomed in is a loose crop. As a sport and news photographer, it is sometimes difficult to get the right crop and you may notice yourself constantly cropping too tightly or not tightly enough. Noticing is the first step of improving though! Just think about what you want to capture in the moment before you click down the shutter and if you have the luxury of time (probably not during a sporting game) try to zoom in and out a bit. You might not think it, but one of the most helpful tools to improve in this area is a monopod. Most fast sports lenses or telephotos in general can be very heavy, and I can’t tell you how much easier it is to play with the zoom when you aren’t also trying to support the entire lens

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On another note, remember that it is important to scout ahead so you know whether or not even f/2.8 will suffice. Some gyms are just really dark, and for that reason I like to bring my 1.8 prime lenses along too. Often times, I find that I get my best shots at these games by sitting right behind the basket and getting some normal-zoom shots of the action. The 35mm and 50mm are great for this. Although the depth of field is not quite as shallow and can lead to some distracting backgrounds, the field of view is really nice and f/1.8 allows me to step down my ISO while boosting my shutter speed (to 1600 and 1/640th respectively).

this is a loose crop

As always, really try to move around and find spots to shoot that work for you. This is just what works for me! Another reminder: this is not the time to use a speedlight!

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