As I get settled in to the relatively low-stress time of summer, my very nearly-full hard drive beckons me to do some housecleaning. Don’t get me wrong here, 24-megapixels of RAW imaging make for a great file to chew through in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4; the problem is file size! At nearly 25 megabytes a pop (more or less depending on the amount of detail captured) and firing off hundreds of shots at a time at my sporting events, a 500 gigabyte hard drive can quickly get clogged.
Since I am both in-between computer upgrades, and cannot back up another external hard drive, every now and then I go through “purges” in my Lightroom catalogue to free up hard drive space. Any photographs that are a) Moderately (or more) out of focus b) Doubles or c) Just “meh” in overall quality get permanently deleted. In a sense, I’m making sure to hold on to my best work, so that I don’t have to dig through any refuse years on down the line.
In my most recent purge, I’m going through most of my sports events and sorting out photographs the best way I know how (and the way I recommend to novice photographers):
- Start looking through a photographic outing (could be something as large as a full athletic event or as small as a walk around the flower garden)
- Realize that only the best work should be saved
- Run through the list, highlighting what “stands out” as far as subject matter, composition, exposure is concerned
- Move highlighted files to the front of the list, then look through the non-highlighted items again quickly to make sure nothing is overlooked
- Take a deep breath, select all the other files, and put them in the trash
With that in mind, here’s some of those “best” shots from my last tennis match and baseball game shot before the end of both seasons. Tennis shots were under awful indoor, fluorescent lighting that required me to shoot both at high ISOs and fast apertures to simply get a useable shot at all. Of course, this was a nice torture test, of sorts, for not only how ISO 3200 performs on the NEX-7, but also how the 85mm f/1.4 produces images wide-open.
85mm, ISO 3200, f/1.4, 1/800
It seems that every year, spring sports season comes and goes with such an undecided vigor. Much like spring weather, one week it’ll be cold and dreary with only a single game to shoot, whereas the following week brings warm weather and a multitude of home games. This past weekend fit into the latter category, sporting generally warm temperatures with five games to photograph in four days (three on Saturday, one on Sunday, another on Tuesday). Needless to say, my shutter count—and eye fatigue—went up tremendously in a short amount of time.
I figure a good exercise to keep from over-saturating this post with too many photographs is to cull four of my best photographs from each game: 2 baseball, 1 softball, 1 tennis, 1 lacrosse. Let’s see what I dig up. All captured with the Sony NEX-7 and Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED or Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AI-s. P.S. A good number of these are in the 2:1 crop ratio. Since this is how my images are sent in to my supervisor for displaying, I usually shoot with this in mind.
300mm, ISO 200, f/4, 1/2000
Now that school is back in full swing I will have to go back to my weekly update format for the near future. This way, I can have at the very least have a quality post every week filling you all in on my photography happenings. Special events and subjects (such as intermittent lens reviews and the like) will usually warrant their own post. For instance, in a couple weeks I’ll be doing a non-profit portrait session for a local organization that I will most likely be reporting back on here. Photos here and there (many of which will make it into these weekly posts) will be posted to my Google+ and Facebook pages, if you just can’t stand to go without photos from me every day. ;)
But back to the update, I’ve used the 35mm f/1.8 OSS a little more now, and am still enjoying it thoroughly. I’m starting to be able to catch where the aberrations wide-open are, but for the most part I can edit them out, so it’s no big deal. The lens can work for full-body portraits if there is substantial distance between the subject and background, but you still won’t get near the subject separation like a 50mm f/1.4 will provide on a full-frame camera:
35mm, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/250
This month marks the one-year anniversary when I started sports photography. Back in the “early days”, I shot all my basketball pictures with a d300 and a super-old Nikon 50mm f/2 AI under the basket. My Tokina 80-200mm f/2.8 AT-X I had simply wasn’t fast enough in the relatively dim indoor court. With my limited outfit, I still managed to get some great shots, ones that I can still look back on and be proud of; shooting wide-open enabled me to generally stay in between ISO 1600-3200 at 1/500. This was enough to stop motion okay, but the spherical aberration from shooting at f/2 kept shots from “popping”. For a lot of my shots, some heavy editing was required, whether that be editing exposure to make things contrastier and sharper, or heavily cropping shots that the 50mm length just couldn’t reach.
One year later, I was highly looking forward to shooting basketball with my NEX-7 with my “new” fast legacy lenses, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AI and Nikon 105mm f/1.8 AI-s; both of which perform exceptionally well at f/2 for low-light. Since the NEX-7 seems to match the d300 in terms of high ISO performance up to ISO 3200 and at twice the resolution, I not only have more room for liberal cropping, but even uncropped images retain more detail!
The following twelve images were captured from a three-day basketball tournament at my university. In order to upload the photos in time for my supervisor, I was only able to photograph the first half; halftime and the second half was always used for sorting and editing my photographs for export. All photos captured with the NEX-7 and the aforementioned lenses at f/2. Women’s shots were all at ISO 1600 and 1/500, while the men’s shots were mostly at ISO 3200 and 1/640-1/800. Most shots do not have any noise reduction applied, and some are heavily cropped. Other than that, enjoy some action pictures! :)
As luck would have it, I currently cannot write any detailed posts for the site yet. Upon returning home for Christmas break (and after the dreadful finals week), I have found my internet to be…sporadic at best. Currently it goes in and out every few minutes; rendering the uploading of photos and saving of posts useless. The only reason I’m writing this post now is that I am on location for a sports shoot, waiting for all my photos to export to my supervisor. Luckily there’s a bit of wi-fi I’ve hopped on to. I really do hate this happening, seeing as one of the biggest things I was looking forward to coming back home for a few weeks was to not only take photographs but to also share them on this site!
Regardless, I do have a quick photo I can share before I have to leave the building, one of the shots from the game tonight. I am photographing a basketball tournament for my university, with at least 3 more games over the next couple of days. I can’t wait to get back into the groove of basketball shooting, as well as getting my internet fixed soon! Once it is, count on a basketball-filled post (among other things). :)
50mm, ISO 1600, f/2, 1/500
What better way to finish up my return to sports photography than a true test of both my manual focusing skills and the capabilities of my camera than indoor volleyball? Sure, soccer was much more difficult to chase focus, and field hockey didn’t fall too far behind in the challenge department, but both of those sports are generally played outside; where there is a lot of sunlight. Shutter speeds can top out very fast and ISOs can stay at a cool low thanks to the abundance of natural light.
Not so for indoor sports!
Save for professional arenas well-lit by tons of floodlights or corner-mounted room strobes, getting high shutter speeds with low ISOs under artificial light is pretty much impossible. Staying around ISO 1600-3200 with a shutter speed of at least 1/500 will stop most motion in sports such as basketball and volleyball (and should have controllable noise with modern cameras). Only problem for this situation, a fast aperture is needed to get what little light there is to the sensor. If a lens isn’t at least f/2.8, forget about it, and if the optic doesn’t perform well at this aperture, consider it a nail in the coffin for trying effective indoor sports photography.
But I came prepared. Enter the 180mm f/2.8, 105mm f/1.8, and 50mm f/1.8 E (not used this time, but I brought it just in case), three lenses that perform very well at f/2.8. With these I get the light, I get the shutter speed, and I also get the “pop” from the large aperture allowing subject separation. In other words, no worries. :)
All of the following captured with the NEX-7. I decided to not apply any noise reduction to maintain as much detail as possible. Pretend it’s just like old-timey film grain. :D
105mm, ISO 1600, f/2, 1/500
I guess my first excursions into sports photography this year will all be trials-by-fire. Following up my first time shooting soccer last week, I shot my first field hockey game this past weekend, and will be photographing indoor volleyball for the first time later this week!
I won’t lie, field hockey is a strange sport. It’s essentially ice hockey (which is interesting enough by itself), but with shorter sticks, a ball instead of a puck, and it’s played on short grass. Oh, and there’s no real pads or helmets, so players feel every push and shove from their adversaries. It isn’t as fast-paced as soccer, but when the ball gets in-between two players, chaos ensues—what I try to capture, in other words.
Conditions were bright and sunny for this match, helping keep ISOs low and shutter speeds very high. Harsh shadows are no match for Lightroom 4’s excellent shadow recovery tools. All the following taken with the NEX-7 and Nikon 180mm f/2.8 AI-s ED and Nikon 300mm f/2.8 AI-s ED, two lenses I love more and more every day.
300mm, ISO 200, f/3.5, 1/1250