I thought that I should post a couple of photos from my first high school basketball game of the year. I always try to show up early so that I can set up my lights, make sure everything works and get ready for the game. When I walked in, the photo above is what I saw. Wow. That was the actual score from the junior varsity game. Evergreen absolutely destroyed Battle Mountain. I know some of those mountain schools have a hard time getting enough people together for both JV and varsity squads. That is the worst loss that I have ever seen. The funny thing is, the team hardly seemed as devastated as I thought they should have been. It was almost as if they were expecting to lose big. Just wow.
The other photo is a wide angle shot from the varsity game. It almost worked….almost. When shooting with lights you get something that I refer to as “stupid-arm-shadows” syndrome. It happens when an otherwise great moment is ruined by a stupid-arm-shadows. Wide angle shots from basketball games are hard to do well. This was an attempt. Maybe I will put it in the photo gallery-maybe not. I will try again next time and hopefully avoid the stupid-arm-shadows. Its really hard to write using a trackpad.
Its the little things in pictures that can lead to a lot of head aches down the road. I’m not talking about bad white balance or composition. I’m talking about what your subject is doing or looks like they are doing. I had already written a cutline and color corrected a similar image (with a better facial expression) for pre-press when i took a closer look. Yeah, the baby totally looks like shes flipping me off. There are about a dozen frames like it with the same gesture. Had I went ahead and published this I would probably come back to email and voice mail about how we have “no standards” for what we will print and how “offensive this was” to some of our readers.
I am reminded of a time when the former Rocky Mountain News published a photo of man who’s house burned in the Hayman fire. He was wearing a pair of revealing shorts and from the angle that the photo was made appeared to show one of the man’s testicles protruding. The photo ran the full width of the page. The photographer paper claims it was just a shadow. Careful editing could have saved them from a lot of reader insults not to mention it would have kept the man from being embarrassed. While the photo above is not nearly as important or as controversial its a good example of why you need to pay attention to the little details.
I had an assignment last week to photograph a fencing class taught by former Olympic competitor Tom Strzalkowski. The lighting inside the room where it was being taught was predominantly florescent and the walls were a tan or sand color. For some reason my camera had a really hard time adjusting to this combination. I tried several settings including a custom white balance, preset and auto white balance. Yet everything was coming out with a yellow orange color cast to it. If I had more time I probably would have lit the entire room with strobes, but this was assignment 2 of 3 and I was already skipping the first part of a football game to complete it. I managed to pull the color out of any image I was going to publish but it took a lot of tweaking in post production.
This was part of series of photos to go with a story about lodging in evergreen. It was a Simple set up using available light, a long exposure and a tripod. In and out in minutes.
I used to light almost every indoor sports assignment. Lately it seems like I don’t have the time to set up lights or they just aren’t allowed. If I had to boost my ISO above 1600, it meant that it was probably time to break out the lights.
Gymnastics is one of those indoor sports where you are not allowed to use a flash. It would be great if High School gyms were lit like the stadiums in the Olympics but that is never the case. F2.8 and ISO3200 are the only way to go if you want to stop action. I have come to accept the way the photos look at 3200. I have been using a custom white balance with anything above ISO800. It cuts down the time I have to spend in post production to get the photos to look right. With high ISO images, the less you have to color correct, crop or tone on each image, the better the end result will be.
I definitely see a future where lights are just to costly in both time and money to be used. Hopefully I will have found a couple of cameras with cleaner files above ISO3200 by then.
© Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010
Anticipating a moment is one of the most important things a photojournalist can do. Straying away from a crowd or choosing a different place to shoot from can make all the difference.
The photo above speaks volumes about the sport of rodeo. But it was a chance. The arena at the Evergreen Rodeo and Fair grounds is old and the positions to shoot from are few and far between. This photo was made from directly in front of the chutes in the stands at the 2008 rodeo. The photo position where many of the other photographers were shooting from is to the far left and, throughout most of the afternoon, looks directly into the setting sun. I chose to show up early, scout for other positions and take my chances by sitting directly across from the action.
It is a fairly simple idea when shooting most sports: get as close as you can, set up directly in front of the action and wait for it to come at you. And boy did it come at me. Seeing riders bucked from horses is a common thing at the rodeo. Seeing a horse roll over on top of the rider is not.
Its that time of year again, the time when temperatures drop, school starts back up and the underpowered lights of familiar battle grounds are fired up on Friday nights. With the available light fading fast, its time to fine tune our technique for shooting high school football. Many photographers dread this time of year while others thoroughly enjoy it. I for one have mixed feelings on “Friday Night Lights”.
While its nice to be shooting organized sports again, it’s also a lot of work. I usually try to show up more than an hour before the game. This gives me an opportunity to shoot some “fan art” and hopefully track down a copy of each teams roster and figure out what equipment I am going to need for the rest of the game.