Feeling the Rage – Photography Mode
The last couple of weeks have given me an opportunity to really get myself into football photography. Prior to this past January, I had NEVER shot football save one practice for the Chicago Force, a Professional Women’s tackle football team who practiced near our old home. Now, I am taking my game indoors where I’ve already learned a lot and have been having a blast!
I’ll be writing another post about my recent experiences with the Evansville Rage shortly after this one. First, I want to talk about the photography aspect and then I will get a little philosophical, perhaps mushy, with the second one because I have really grown to appreciate the team (players, coaches and staff) and have become a fan of OUR Evansville Rage!
So, what am I learning about photography? I am definitely learning to be patient and not force the shot. I am used to shooting outdoors, specifically auto racing and cycling, two of my absolute favorites where bright sunshine is my biggest obstacle. I also love shooting hockey, which is similar to indoor football in the fact that they are both indoors. Football has a green floor though while the floor in hockey is, well, white ice. The Rage also give us two different environments – practice and game.
The two Evansville tryouts were and practices are held at Metro Sports. The lighting is dim and the action is fast, a tough combination for a guy who is trying to get used to panning with football players. Actually, the lights are plenty bright, they are just some 15-20 feet in the air AND there is netting between meaning that whatever light we get on the field is already diffused. My main lens is a Canon EF 70-200mm, 2.8L IS II, my BABY! So, when I talk, know that I am almost always shooting f2.8. Also, I try to shoot Manual when I can. Anyway, I ended up shooting ISO 1600 and about 1/160 sec shutter. Hello grainy! This week, I went to the final practice before gameday, a walkthrough. The action was not intense and I had the chance to practice. I kept f2.8 all night. I practiced with shooting mode, ISO and for probably my first time ever, metering! Thanks a lot to my friend Nancy for helping me with metering.
First thing I wanted to accomplish was to get some of the graininess out of my shots; i.e., reduce the ISO. I honestly don’t like shooting higher than ISO 800. But, sometimes you do what you gotta do until you learn to be better at panning. Panning is easier in a game as everyone is wearing the same thing and there are small targets on the jerseys, helmets and elsewhere to serve as points of focus. By the way, when I shoot sports, I am almost always on single-point focus mainly because it lets me use the # button on the back of the camera body for quick autofocus – this let’s me push forward when I click rather than push down. If you’ve tried this, you know what I mean. Anyway, practice offers a number of obstacles both in contrast and minimal focal points. We get a lot of high contrast (dark clothing/light skin and dark skin/light clothing). This is really a matter more in metering which we will discuss in a second.
Okay, I’m rambling. Where were we? Oh yeah, ISO. I wanted to shoot ISO 800. I tried it; but, the 1/40 and 1/60 shutters gave me troubles when guys were moving. I ended up shooting about ISO 1000 at practice and on gameday which offered better lighting meaning that more light could reach the sensor resulting in shutters between 1/100 and 1/125). I also decided to give up some of my photo-machismo and change my shooting mode to Av, aperture priority. If you haven’t shot in Av (on Canon, might be AP on Nikon and others), you are telling the camera, “hey, I want my f2.8 or whatever) to be constant and you go ahead and choose my shutter speed.” At ISO 1250 (practice), I ended up shooting right around 1/100 sec shutter speed. At the game Friday night (Clarion Field at Swonder Ice Arena), I was able to shoot ISO 1000 and generally was shooting between 1/100 and 1/125. I admit that I dumped a bunch of shots. But, I was SO happy with how crisp the keepers came out and , how about this, how some of the blurred shots looked. Sometimes blurry looks pretty cool. This was true for both Thursday practice and the game on Friday.
So, we’ve discussed ISO and Av. I also practiced with and REALLY loved the effects (or is it affects) of metering. On the back of the camera body is a * button that allows you to meter to the lighting conditions. I used spot metering and I think this button only works when you set it for spot. If I use the wrong terminology here or just plain have it wrong, please do leave a comment as this is something with which I have VERY little experience and I want to improve. For practice, what I did is before I shot in a certain part of the field (since the lighting changed), I would autofocus on an area (sometimes I would use skin for lighter complected guys or lighter colored clothes), hit the metering button and then recompose and shoot. Does that make sense? I also made sure not to meter on white as the darks would have been really dark! On gameday, there was a strip of turf right around midfield that was lighter than a lot of the rest and I often metered on that which I REALLY attribute to the improved photo quality.
So what’s left for this season? The next game is the Evansville Rage season opener against the Indianapolis Enforcers at Clarion Field at Swonder Ice Arena; Saturday March 17; 7:30pm CDT (you know the time changes this weekend, right? Spring forward.) I plan to shoot Av, f2.8, ISO 1000 and will meter on midfield much of the time. I will work on panning and will hopefully be able to work my way down to ISO 800 in a game or two and hopefully below 1/100 shutter speed in a few games. Fingers are crossed.
One more thing – if you read this before the Indy game and want to help me with window duty (I clean a bunch of the hockey glass before each game so that I can give the Rage clear photos), I’ll be out at Swonder around 5:30pm. I’ll bring the cleaning supplies!
Evansville Rage website - http://www.evansvillerage.com/
Evansville Rage Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/EvansvilleRage