The Giants managed to pull tonight’s game in LA by the skin of their teeth thanks to a 2 run homer from Brett Pill. Posey did a great job of being aggressive with Kershaw to land a base hit that put him on to make the home run count all the more. Tonight was a great pitching matchup that featured the Dodger’s 1st starter, Clayton Kershaw, and the Giants 5th starter, Ryan Vogelsong. Kershaw had the sights set on him early on, as just about every Giant that was with us last year remembers the 5-0 record Kershaw had with the Giants in 2011. Ryan continues to pitch like a mule and reminds Giants management that he worth every penny of the 2-year 8 million dollar contract they awarded him this year. Vogie showed up the Dodgers and kept them to the 1 run deep into the game. Our bullpen came in and shut the rest of the game down.
What worries me is that we had no other significant threat of scoring for the remainder of the game after the home run in the 2nd inning. The Giants are known for low scoring and extreme pitching for their wins, but this is a formula that quickly tires out the starting rotation and hands the ball over to the bullpen. With the announcement of one of our better relievers, Guillermo Mota, being out for a 100 game suspension due to a banned substance, the Giants will have to focus more on the offensive game if they want to keep their bullpen rested. But, a win is a win. So, we’ll take it and be happy that we stand a chance of taking the series tomorrow if Lincecum has a good day.
My son’s little league team had a game this evening and I was able to get the camera out of the house to take a few shots. With sunset happening after 8pm as of late, the games are lit well enough to not require me to shoot in high ISO for extremely noisy images. So, I made it there as quickly as possible and got to see most of the game. Shooting sports is unlike any other type of shooting, as it requires awareness and knowledge of the game being played and an almost uncanny ability to predict where plays will happen since everything happens in the blink of an eye. Although there is no such thing as a sports photography set-up when it comes to equipment, there are a few factors in equipment choice that will increase the likelihood that you will end of with favorable images. Of course, the first thing you have to consider is how “fast” the lens is. Since all lens are measured in an aperture reading, sports photography favors “fast” lenses like a f/2.8 aperture or larger. This becomes especially important when the light of the sun is not sufficient and stadium lighting comes into play. With faster lens comes a higher price tag, so trying to get into sport photography almost becomes the ability to balance your budget with your expectations. Fast lenses are also lenses of high quality. No manufacturer makes a crappy telephoto lens with an aperture rating of f/2.8. Some are better than others, but I would always reach for the lesser quality f/2.8 than a sharper f/4.0 with better image quality. Eventually, there will not be enough light to cause even the best f/4.0 to be inadequate. Trust me, I know…
After your lens choice, there is the camera capability. For sports photography, the faster the frames per second (fps) that the body is capable of capturing, the likelier you are to capture the exciting action shots that you see in the magazines and websites. I am a Canon shooter, so I am pretty familiar with all the camera body offerings in the past and present Canon lineup, and there quite a few gems for every budget. This isn’t to knock on Nikon users, cause I just don’t believe that the clear difference in what each manufacturer specialized in is still the case. They both make fabulous equipment, but I started out with a Canon and feel a brand loyalty to Canon to stick with them through the thick and thin. I am currently shooting with a 1D Mark II n that shoots 8.5 fps. This is a set up for me from the Canon 40D I had just a year ago that shot 6 fps. Believe me that 2.5 fps makes a world of difference. I would still say the same if I were to upgrade to a 1D Mark III that shoots 10 fps or even the 1DX that shoots up to 14 fps. What do you get with all that, a machine gun camera that mows all the action down to almost be able to watch a movie on your LCD when scrolling through the JPEGS quickly. It’s pretty sick, let me tell you.
Do you need or use all those frames? Absolutely not!! But, when you have sports action going on, the ability to record many frames per second allows you to inspect the images for that “perfect” shot that makes it to the press. The rest of the images can go unused. So, I started out in my DSLR adventure with a Canon 40D and loved the camera. I sold it when I upgraded to the 1D Mark II n, but I sometimes wish I had held on to it. It was a budget decision and at the time I couldn’t justify the need to hang on to two camera bodies, but eventually I will want a back-up body and would definitely consider buying another 40D. Another body that would make a great back-up or even main body is the Canon 7D. That monster can shoot 8 fps and record high quality images.
Besides the frames per second, the other two factors (among many) that I would consider when thinking of a “sports friendly” camera would be the ability to record high ISO and whether the camera has a crop or full frame sensor. The high ISO capability while still retaining good image quality is crucial for those events under the stadium lighting. For example, my 1D Mark II n shoots up to ISO 3200, but anything over ISO 800 requires a LOT of post processing. Anything over ISO 1600 is completely useless and I put the camera away. What is this ISO thing? Well, simplified, it’s the cameras sensitivity to light very similar to the light sensitivity of film when you used to buy 400 speed or 800 speed film. The higher the number, the more sensitive the camera is to the light coming through the aperture on your lens. My 1D sucks for low light conditions if I’m not using a f/2.8 lens. But, if I had a Canon 7D that shoots acceptable images up to ISO 3200, I could afford to use the lenses that aren’t as bright as f/2.8 and still come out with decent stuff. This isn’t the answer, cause it’s never that easy, but it helps. There is a reason why all the guys in the media pits are shooting with Canon 1D Mark IVs or 1 DX and shooting with 400mm f/2.8 lenses.
The last point I mentioned was whether the camera was a crop sensor or full frame camera. What this means is that full frame cameras have a sensor to the size equivalent of a 35mm camera. It’s pretty big and pretty awesome. The crop sensor cameras usually have either a 1.3X or 1.6X crop. All this means is that is contains a smaller sensor in the camera that if you took the same photograph along with a full frame and printed the images, the crop sensor camera would appear to give you a cropping effect of 1.3X or 1.6X. There really is no effective telephoto property here, but just a smaller sensor being able to record less of the image coming through the lens aperture. Because of this cropping effect, the camera gives you added reach with your lenses. If you are photographing anything from a seat in an audience, you are going to want as much reach as possible.
So that’s the camera lesson for today. By no means did I go into extreme detail, although I can since I have given all these points much thought in my decision-making process, but I wanted to give a glance over to start with. If anyone needs additional information, please let me know and I would be glad to go into your question in detail.
In these photos that I am sharing today taken at my son’s little league game tonight, I tried to cover a few points that I use when shooting baseball. To start, the evening light is hard. What is hard light? Hard light is any light that generates a shadow. Soft light, in turn, is light that is diffused to the point that it does NOT create a shadow. When shooting anything, you want to have the light source (in this instance, the sun) to your back. When that is not possible, you want it at either side of you. You never want to shoot into the light source, as your lens will have a LOT of trouble interpreting what your eyes do so well of adjusting to.
Also, I tried to give different perspectives of the game, since shooting the same position all the time would only render hundreds and hundreds of the same image over the course of a season. Different perspectives allow you the opportunity to “see” things differently in your prints and may add or detract from what the image is telling the viewer. I shot these from the visitors side, the home field side and even from the scorekeeper’s booth behind the backstop. All of these were shot through a fence, which is something that all sports photographers have to learn to do at one point or another. As you can see, most of the distortion from the chain link fence can be removed in post processing as long as you remember the cardinal rule of shooting through fences; you have to shoot dead on. If you are trying to shoot through a chain link fence at an angle, the space between the links diminishes to the point that it blocks out the light trying to get through. What you then have is a blurry image and your auto focus will tend to search for something that is not there. When shot directly through the chain link fence, not only do you have the certainty that you aren’t going to be taking a foul tip to the head, but you’ll end up with an image that with a little contrast work in post processing should be acceptable for most venues.
Lastly, I forgot to mention my lens setup for these. The one lens I own is a Tokina 100-300mm f/4.0 that I absolutely LOVE!! I did a lot of research in trying to find a 300mm prime lens in the f/4.0 aperture rating, but came across some rave reviews about this lens on various forums and blogs. So, I decided to give it a shot. I figured that with it being a zoom lens I would have bad spots on the lens, but other than a little vignetting on the two extremes, I can say that this lens is a monster. Compared to the fixed 300mm f/4.0 from Canon, the Canon still has a slight edge, but the Tokina gives me the range of 100-300mm that Canon cannot in that aperture setting. The autofocus is a little slow, but I have yet to have it impede a shot I wanted to take. If I missed a shot, it was probably user error and not equipment performance.
I’m sure I will talk plenty about the Tokina 100-300mm f/4.0 in the days and months to come and everyone will be able to see the lens in action. I love my Tokina!! Have a great night everyone!!