Daily Photo – The AVP in Color (Nicole Branagh Spike)

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Nicole Branagh spikes the ball at the 2007 AVP God and Goddess of the Beach Tournament in Las Vegas, part of my series on professional beach volleyball.  The rest of the series, so far, can be found on my flickr account.


  • Shutter:  1/3200
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO:  400
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM

Composition and Processing

  • I’ve done some experiments lately with shooting and/or cropping volleyball shots above the ground.  Normally you’d want to shoot something like this low, with the ground visible, to show and exaggerate the hitter’s jump.  The closer crop, despite the odd cutoff of the legs, grants us the same perspective as the hitter.  We see Branagh’s gaze in the direction of the ball and the angle of the arm in relation to the ball;  we also her in relation to the net.  Those are much closer, intimate relationships than her position vis-a-vis the court, which is nowhere to be found in this shot.
  • It’s a small thing, but if you’re not going to show much of the face in a sports photo, it helps to have the athlete’s name visible (on a jersey, shorts or in this case, bathing suit).  In addition to providing some information for fans of the sport (Branagh is one of the top beach volleyball players in the world and competed in the 2008 Olympics), it creates identity.  Even if you don’t know who Nicole Branagh is, seeing her name says this is an individual, not some faceless volleyball player.


April 22 2009 05:19 pm | Photography

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