Daily Photo – Dalhauser vs. Lambert

I took this shot at the AVP God and Goddess of the Beach tournament last September in Las Vegas. The general idea behind this tournament is to play with a wide range of different partners (and not your regular tour partner) against a varying combination of opponents. So in each round of pool play, the four players in the pool will play three matches (the number needed to play all possible combinations in the four player pool).

The win for each match is credited to both players on a team. At the end of pool play, the individual player with the most wins advances. After all rounds of pool play are complete, the top two players each pick a another player from the tournament to play with in the final match. This photo is from the final match for the men between Dalhauser and Hyden — Dalhauser had chosen Rosenthal and Hyden had taken Lambert. Hence the matchup here (Hyden won).

The whole reason I was actually in Vegas for this tournament was thanks to an amateur-level King of the Court tournament (whose rules I won’t bother explaining) thrown by one of the sponsors at the Dallas AVP event. Of the 20+ entrants, my double partner and I came out on top. The prize was a free trip to the Vegas tournament (we had to play in another King of the Court tourney there too, but only finished 5th out of 9).


  • Shutter: 1/2000
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • ISO: 1600
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1d mIII
  • Lens: Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM (at 70mm)


Composition and Processing

  • One of the nice things about AVP tournaments, even ones like this with one court, is that despite the crowd it’s relatively easy to get a front row seat. The barrier between the players and the crowd is low, and unlike some sporting events, you can bring in whatever (still) camera gear you like. I could probably get a press pass for some of the less popular tour stops (like Dallas), but there’s almost no benefit to it. At least, not if you know where the best angles are and have an understanding of the game. Press pass or not, when you’re trying to capture the hit, it’s good to be back far enough on the angle to get the blocker too; it’s also helpful to shoot from the opposite side of their hitting arm so that their arm doesn’t obscure the face.
  • Shooting any sport at night is a challenge. I’ve sometimes used prime lenses wide open (at f/1.2 or 1.4), but there are serious drawbacks: first, they simply focus too slow for this level of action; second, the depth of field is so shallow that you’re unlikely to catch more than one player in focus on a shot like this. I normally like to shoot f/4 at the net to guarantee both hitter and blocker will be sharp (I probably got lucky at f/2.8 due to both players being lined up more or less in the same plane of focus). That said, I’ve lately been shooting some sand volleyball mid-day at f/1.4 as an experiment (I’ll post some from that at a later point).
  • Lighting for this shot came from two banks of lights atop mobile cranes at opposite corners of the court. There was enough light I could stay at ISO 1600 and not have to go to prime lenses. I could have shot at ISO 3200 or 6400, but 1600 is the last point on the 1d where I know the noise cleanup will be easy. Beyond that, and given a bunch of other exposure issues likely to be present, it becomes a bit more problematic.
  • I shoot a lot of local volleyball and I’ve gotten used to the players and what they’re capable of. The pros jump a lot higher though, and often at the peak of the action they’re high enough that the tape (at the top of the net) obscures their face. So you have to get really low, or much higher, if you don’t want photos of a bunch of anonymous volleyball players. I shot this pretty low, but mostly I benefited from Lambert’s late jump to intercept Dalhauser.
  • This is normally a vertical composition, and ultimately that’s what I settled on. But I shot it horizontally because I was just learning to use the AI Servo focus and wanted to keep the hitter lined up with the center focusing point without losing the blocker from the frame.

A small side note: it may look impressive that the ball is being compressed during Dalhauser’s hit, but that’s actually pretty common even from weak hitters I’ve shot at local courts. It’s a fairly soft ball. Dalhauser hits really hard, of course, so odds are the ball ultimately compressed down to about one quarter of it’s size during the hit (I have photos of other pro players where the ball is nothing more than a pancake on impact).

For more AVP volleyball photos, check here.

August 10 2008 09:21 pm | Photography and Volleyball

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