Lighting High School Gyms for Basketball

© Matthew Jonas 2010/Evergreen Newspapers 2010

Editors Note: While I am compiling my Year in Review photo galleries, I thought it would be a good time to post a few things I had been keeping in the bank. Enjoy.

The frozen parts of me are glad to be off of the football field and into a more temperature controlled environment. I’m talking about the start of the high school basketball season, of course! With the change of scenery comes a change in the equipment. This year I have streamlined my lighting equipment and managed to pack everything I need to light a gym into one small backpack, my Think Tank Photo Airport Antidote. Many shooters have given up on lighting gyms with the introduction of cameras that are capable of producing low noise, high ISO pictures. I still like the thrill of timing a picture just right and making an image that has good color to go along with good action.

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A List of 5 Things I Wanted to See in 2010

As I look back over 2010, there were a lot of things I wanted to see that just didn’t happen. The list is short but these are the things that I think about while I am working as a photographer.

  1. Canon failed to update the firmware on the EOS 7D to allow disabling the Automatic Gain Control. I am finally starting to enjoy using my 7D for work. I shot an entire football season without using a flash this year. But when it comes to video, I am still better off using a dedicated video camera because it takes an additional $500+ worth of gear to capture decent audio with the 7D. Canon’s low end (under $400) High Definition camcorders feature a mic and headphone jack and allow you to set the levels. Even the consumer oriented 60D allows you to disable the AGC.
  2. Paul C. Buff can’t seem to meet demand with many of their products. I had planned on purchasing a lot of Alien Bees monolights and light modifiers this year. Specifically I wanted to buy a couple of Parabolic Light Modifiers and a bunch of Einstein 640 units. Both have been on back-order or have had manufacturing issues for several months. Needless to say I don’t own either and will probably buy monolights from another manufacturer.
  3. Speedlight makers are still using a prehistoric PC sync port on modern hardware. I use both Nikon and Canon speedlights for off-camera work. I have to constantly bend and tweak the PC sync cables I use to get them to fire consistently. Why can’t they use the 1/8inch mini jack like Pocket Wizards have? It’s stronger, fits tighter and is widely available. 2010 is in the past. In 2011 the PC sync port must die.
  4. I really wanted to see the price of lenses decrease. Instead, most of the line of Canon lenses and camera bodies actually saw about a %10 increase. The weak dollar really screwed the US on that one. Canon announced version 2 of many lenses including the 300 f2.8, 400 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8. The lowest price for the 70-200 f2.8L IS II is a little over $2K. I won’t even mention the prices of the other 2 lenses.
  5. The standard sized hot shoe disappeared from many non-pro camcorders instead of being included. Canon only makes 1 camcorder that includes a standard width hot shoe and it’s on the endangered species list. Sony no longer makes any. Most of the non-pro camcorders now have a smaller, proprietary hot shoe that somehow bares the name “advanced mini accessory shoe”. How advanced can it be when 99% of mics, lights and accessories no longer work without an adapter?

Should anything else make the list?

Bleachers without hand rails

© Matthew Jonas 2009/Evergreen Newspapers 2009

Finding a place to mount a strobe was a pain last night. On one side of the gym there were no handrails on the bleachers. They went right up against the wall. The only thing on one wall was a heating/air conditioning vent. To make matters worse the wall was about 15 feet behind the basket which would have thrown awful shadows from the hoop. I did what I could. The results weren’t bad. The setup was a super clamp, a magic arm, an umbrella stand adapter, a cold shoe and a Pocketwizard.

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