Action Photography

Considering that I got my first NCAA press pass last Saturday, I couldn’t think of a better topic for this weeks entry than action photography. As a life long baseball player I have always loved action photography. My mother was always a photographer for at least one of my sports at any given time and was fearless to boot. She was even the team photographer for my tournament paintball team that I played on for four years. I have never seen someone go through so many filters in my life as she did during those four years of shooting major paintball tournaments on the field. I still have a 62mm Tiffen Skylight of hers with paint stuck inside of the retainer ring. I also have never seen someone take such awesome sports shots either. What she got from a 3.5 fps Nikon D70 in the midst of a hailstorm of paintballs all the while wearing jeans, a hoodie and one of my old masks still dumbfounds me. I struggle to get some of the shots that she did while shooting my D7000 at 7fps for crying out loud. My mother is definitely the reason I feel such a draw towards action photography.

Sports photography has always appealed to me because I am a sports nut. I also am a slight adrenaline junkie and the danger and excitement level draws me in as well. Lets admit it, to any photographer who enjoys the thrill of sports and excitement the thought of trying to take the best picture possible all the while dodging linebackers or foul balls sounds like fun.

This past Saturday I got my first official NCAA press pass to the University of Hawaii vs. San Jose State basketball game here in Honolulu. I had never been on the floor of any event like that so needless to say “nervous” was an accurate description. I found out a few tips that I would like to share very quickly during that game. I have shot plenty of baseball before but not having the photographer point of view of basketball yet I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as far as my settings. The following tips are just what I picked up from this game. Keep in mind that to me this genre is still a major work-in-progress so take my advice with somewhat of a reservation. Think of it as something between gossip and gospel.

Shoot in manual: As intimidating as it may seem, and it did to me, shooting in Manual or Shutter Priority is a must. Sports scene does an OK job but to get the best results these modes are better suited. ISO is going to depend on the venue of course. I was in a D1 single A University Stadium but obviously you may need to stop down and increase your ISO if you are shooting a high school or other youth game where lighting isn’t as intense. Using these modes will also help you reduce motion blur greatly. By controlling your ISO and shortening your shutter speed with a low F-Stop it helped me reduce motion blur greatly.

Set a focal point for Auto focus and put the AF in Continuous: By doing this you will force yourself to pre-crop your image but it is easier to maintain a constant focus on your subject by locking onto a certain area in the frame and then tracking with it. The tough part about basketball is that there are so many players crossing in front of the camera and so much ball movement that tracking your subject, from what I gather so far, is more of an art form than anything else.

Try to focus on a certain shot you want to see: This is often easier said than done with basketball, but I had good luck with it. Baseball is easier because usually plays happen in certain areas on the field and it is a large field so plays develop rather slowly and intently. I decided to focus primarily on low post shots and got some good dunks and driving pictures. This however, does lead to my next point which is by far the most important of all.

Know what you are shooting: This should be implemented in every type of photography no matter the subject but it is absolutely necessary when shooting sports. To shoot a sport effectively you must understand the flow of the game to know what is exciting and when to expect it. Usually this isn’t a hard thing to accomplish because, lets be honest, who wants to shoot a sport for 4 hours that they hate. Understanding game flow and what is expected, or just as important unusual, will help you capture the moments that everyone wants to see.

Hopefully these tips will help and I hope you enjoy the pictures too. Feel free to email me any questions and please comment and rate the blog.

See ya’ll next week.



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