Jun 132010

When Equipment Drives the Results

Sports photography is one of those areas of the craft where the equipment really does make a difference.  (If you think you’ll get results from the kids’ soccer match like those shown in the Canon TV commercials without spending from $1,800 to $6,000 for each lens — you’re living in Fantasyland.)

I typically shoot soccer sitting on a folding stool.  One Nikon D300 on a monopod has a 300mm f/2.8 lens (often with 1.4x converter).  A second D300 mounts a 70-200 f/2.8 lens which, with a converter, weighs just under 7 pounds.  I shoot long shots with the 300, and when the action gets closer, I lean the monopod against my left leg, and reach down to my right and swing up the camera with the zoom (the 6 1/2 pound curl).

The problem with the original Nikon 70-200 is that the contacts (for camera-lens communication) tend to oxidize.  When this happens, the lens won’t auto-focus.  Some at Nikon, even after eight years, don’t readily acknowledge the problem, though it has been widely discussed online — especially among sports photographers.  The consensus solution is to use Caig DeoxIT to clean and protect the contacts on the lens and the internal connections.  Despite Nikon’s reluctance to accept the problem, the proof to many is that the DeoxIT works.  But you do need to clean the lens contacts regularly.  And I didn’t.

So for Saturday’s Majestics match the 70-200 fired about six shots — and stopped focusing.  Nothing I could do in the field helped.  So I was down to just the 300mm lens.

The team's first goal of the season.

The question is my mind is whether or not I would have made these shots if I had been switching back and forth between the two cameras.  The advantage is that with only one camera and lens, you just track the action all the time.  However, sitting just behind the goal line and near the corner, a lot of action is just too close, and the framing is difficult — and too tight.  On the other hand, there is no time lost switching between cameras.

The aesthetic and creative contradiction:  Shooting with just one lens simultaneously restricts and releases you.

May 292010

Women’s Soccer…

Today I shoot the home opener for the Northern Virginia Majestics.  They are an amateur team which is primarily made up of collegiate players — though occasionally foreign players are on the roster.

This shot is from last year (Majestics in blue)…

You can learn more about the Majestics through their web site.  All the game shots on their site are mine — I’ve been shooting the team since 2003.

Technical:  The photo was taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens with 1.4x converter, using a monopod.  1/4000 | f/4.5 | ISO 800 | Aperture Priority with Matrix Metering | Auto White Balance.

Apr 052010

Something Related to a Project…

Pre-Dawn on Route 7

Not that this has to do with much of anything, but I happened to shoot this on Sunday morning on the way to shoot some other pictures for a project.

I’m not going to use this one in the project, because I already have my quota (one) of motion-blurred pictures — but this is still a fun image.

For the technically minded, here is the photo-geeky stuff:

  • The Nikon D300 camera was set up on a Benbo Trecker tripod — the middle leg was set into the Outback’s forward cupholder.  The other two legs rested on the rear floor, one on either side of the hump.  Lateral movement was controlled by a couple of bungee cords to the front seat head restraint rods.  If you know anything about Benbo tripods, you’ll understand why this works.
  • I used a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens.  The focal length was 11mm and the aperture was f/5.6.  Focus was preset at manual.
  • The camera’s ISO was set to 800.  The aperture priority mode was used, with 5-shot auto-bracketing.  The brackets were 1 f/stop apart.  The exposure for this shot was 1 second controlled by a Nikon electronic shutter release (squeeze and hold until all 5 shots were taken.
  • The image was recorded in RAW (NEF) so that I would have access to all the image data recorded.  Post processing was done in Adobe PhotoShop CS4.  Color temperature as adjusted to 6550K.  The white line on the right was used to set the white value in Curves.  Noise reduction was with Noise Ninja.  I Smart Sharpened it a little.

My biggest surprise was that even with the slow 1 second shutter speed and the pretty dodgy camera installation, the image is sharp enough to use — at least for the web.  Certainly not razor sharp, but sharp enough.

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