Daily Photo – The AVP in Black and White (Casey Jennings Pass)

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.

Casey Jennings passes the ball at the 2008 Dallas AVP Tournament, part of my series on professional beach volleyball.  The rest of the series, so far, can be found on my flickr account.

Exposure

  • Shutter:  1/5000
  • Aperture:  f/2
  • ISO:  100
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM

Composition and Processing

  • Last year I started experimenting with super shallow depth-of-field for sports.  Shooting wide open isn’t exactly uncommon in sports photos, where a premium is placed on capturing the action.  But most sports are shot with fast zooms and telephotos, most of which cap out at f/2.8.  So I tried using shorter focal length primes at f/2 or wider.  The results have been mixed:  when cropped in close or when the subject is moving parallel to the lens, you get great separation from the rest of the scene;  in other conditions there’s an odd miniaturization effect not unlike what you see with a tilt shift lens.
  • I’m ok with not seeing Jenning’s face in this shot.  We’ve got Fuerbringer’s face, and even if he’s out of focus it makes more sense since he’s on the receiving end of this action.  His posture should be open and facing the ball, and by extension, facing us.  With Jenning’s back to us, facing the same we are (as the viewer), he’s drawing us into the scene as if we were the one’s passing the ball.  And since he’s the one in focus, it’s where our eye is drawn to first (the fact the ball is there too also helps).
  • This shot could have worked the other way around, with Fuerbringer in focus instead.  Rather than being about the pass, it would have been more broadly about court movement:  i.e. the relative position of Fuerbringer as he moves past the comparatively static Jennings.

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April 29 2009 | Photography | No Comments »

Daily Photo – The AVP in Color (Ty Tramblie Gator)

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.

Ty Tramblie with the gator at the 2008 Dallas AVP Tournament, part of my series on professional beach volleyball.  The rest of the series, so far, can be found on my flickr account.

Exposure

  • Shutter:  1/5000
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO:  200
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM

Composition and Processing

  • Here’s how I capture a player digging the ball in sand volleyball.  First, I line up near the net and point the camera at the shorter player (95% of the time he’s not going to be the one at the net blocking).  Then I listen for the sound of the ball being hit (at the net).  At that moment, I press the shutter.  I’ve found it’s the best way to capture the ball heading into the frame as well as out.  Sure, I’ll wind up with some empty frames if the ball is hit where the defender isn’t.  But trying to track the ball or even just waiting for the defender to move is almost always too late.
  • If you shoot a sporting event with lots of players, I’d highly recommend taking a few photos of all of them in action before settling down to focus on a specific game or individual.  That’ll give you time to see who looks good on film and who doesn’t.  Even if they’re great athletes, why waste time on players with bland facial expressions or boring movements?  Better to spend all your time on a couple individuals to get the great shot, instead of being comprehensive but universally dull.

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April 27 2009 | Photography | No Comments »

Daily Photo – The AVP in Color (Anthony Medel Dig)

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.

Anthony Medel digs the ball during the 2008 Dallas AVP Tournament, part of my series on professional beach volleyball. The rest of the series, so far, can be found on my flickr account.

Exposure

  • Shutter:  1/2500
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO:  200
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Composition and Processing

  • One thing I’ve noticed about sand volleyball — and this may be true of other sports too — is that the most exciting action shots aren’t at the point of contact with the ball.  Instead, they’re the ones immediately before and to a lesser extent, just after.  Before shots, like this one, are all about anticipation.  We don’t know if he’s going to make the play, and neither does he.  There’s far more excitement and tension when the story hasn’t been written yet.
  • With many sports shots, I like to set up in a position where the player will be moving toward the camera (or at a minimum, moving left to right).  I’m far more likely to capture their face — and any expression — that way.  For volleyball, the best angle for dig shots is probably at the net facing into the court.  Professional players are pretty good at keeping the court in front of them, and it’s far easier to move forward than back.  So it’s unlikely they’ll chase down a ball going over their head, but very probable they’ll try to pick up that little drop or cut shot near the net.  Their typical defensive position before the hit also requires they move at an angle, meaning there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll be facing the camera when they go after the ball (as is the case here).  In sports with a high degree of repetition it’s important to choose your angles and set up for a specific type of shot; seeking out general purpose locations may allow you to capture a broader range but will reduce the opportunity for “great” shots.

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April 18 2009 | Photography | No Comments »