Saturday, May 15, 2010

Shooting from the field at the Impact game!

I had the opportunity last week to shoot a pro soccer game with a press pass. My wife was great in securing me the pass for the Montreal Impact game against the Toronto FC. My only issue was that the game was on the same day as the Montreal Canadians game 7 against Pittsburgh, but hey, its a chance in a life time for a new photographer like me.

My first thought was to gear...or lack there of. I was going to be able to spread the 7D's wings as this camera was said to be built for sports and wildlife photography. 8 fps, good AI servo focusing, 19 cross type AF points, various focusing modes, good high ISO handling. What I lack was lenses. I know sports photography requires some fast glass... f/2.8 or faster. Why? Well, you need to capture motion...and very fast motion. In order to freeze soccer, you need approx 1/400th shutter speed. And when you are shooting at night, the light just isn't there.

So I asked a good friend, Didier, who is ever so generous in loaning his photography gear, and borrowed a 70-200 f/2.8 L IS and a 300 f/4 L IS. I also brought along my XSI and a 28-75 f/2.8 for when they got close. Soccer is played on a big field, so you need long lenses. Ever watch a football game and see all these photographers on the sidelines with these giant lenses that look like bazookas? They need those if they want to get up close and emotional shots. But one of those is about $8,000, so they normally have their companies pay for them.

Emotion is what sports is about. Just as with any other people photography. You want to capture faces, you want to capture emotions, triumph, struggle. You don't want the back of someone's head (although that can work for some shots). Heh, look at me, thinking I'm a pro. This was my first time shooting pro sports, and I have minimal sports shooting experience. On to the game!

I show up early (I'm anal about that) and get my press pass. My wife was meeting some friends and her dad, so we went our seperate ways. Having the pass was pretty neat as I was able to skip over the lineups to get in. When I got near the field, the security guard opened the gate to let me on the field. "Cool! I'm a superstar!". Then reality hit...where the hell do I go? Its a big field, lots of people. And yet, there were no photographers there (the bane of being early).

The Impact staff on the field where great. The Field Coordinator gave me the ins and outs of what I can and can't do. I was basically limited to one of four spaces between the corner kick line and the goal post. No sideline access, as this is reserved for their staff photographer. Hey, I'm just happy being there.

So I start taking out my gear. I mount the 70-200 on my 7D and attach the monopod. I take out the XSI and mount the 300. I prepare the 28-75 for quick access, put the lens hood on, and ready it in case I need to grab it. I set the empty memories cards in the bag for easy access. Then the big guys show... the Associated Press and the Reuters photographers. They walk by me, giving me a little glance as I guess I'm the new competition. But man oh man, did I have lens envy. They each had these ginormous lenses slung over their shoulder, shooting with 1D Mk IIIs (2 of them) and 70-200's on their second body. When you tally up the cost of the two bodies and two lenses, you hit just over the $20k mark. This is why they say sports photography is the most expensive type of photography.

The game started, I shot away. I had a 1.4x extender on the 300mm lens which was mounted on the XSI, which made it more like a 420mm on my 7D (which also has a crop factor of 1.4). However, it cuts 1 stop of light, so the f/4 is not an f/5.6. I was only able to get a shutter of 1/100 at ISO 800, which was useless. So I quickly switched on the 28-75 for the really close shots (which didn't happen).

I spent most of the game shooting with the 70-200 on the 7D. The game is so fast, its insane. One moment, you are zooming in on the winger running down the line and within an instant, the ball is flying to the goalie. You have to know the game and anticipate shots. I would sometimes wait with my camera pointed at the goalie to capture a save or a goal. I probably missed a few shots in doing so, but I did manage to get a diving save (which the AP and Reuters guys, sitting opposite me, had a great shot of the goal post and the goalie's butt haha!)

I would assume that hockey is the same style of shooting, but on a smaller surface. The gameplay is fast and hectic and can change directions at anytime. Basketball is on a small court, but a different shooting style as one team is on offense, one on defense. Sure, that can change quickly, but generally, you can get in a mindset for a certain shot and wait for it. With 80+ points in a game, you have many opportunities for layups and dunks. Football would be a mix of soccer and basketball... the field is huge, but the play is a little more straight forward. Knowing each sport is key though. If you are shooting an NFL game and its 3rd and 1, I wouldn't really focus on the receivers as chances are its a run play.

All in all, I had an amazing time. I would do it again in a heartbeat. You can view the set of 50ish images on my flickr and here are a few of my faves from the game. I have plenty more to say on the game, but I feel I've gone on long enough

In closing, I have to say that I chose the correct place to shoot from as I could see the TV sets in the boxes not too far and was able to zoom in to watch replays of the Habs game! haha :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Never forget

I heard a quote not long ago that rings true with me: "Photography is about capturing life at 1/100 shutter speed" (I think thats going to be my blog's subtitle!). Sounds geeky, I know, but it is very true. One of the reasons I love candid portrait photography is that you can capture a moment in time forever, and you need to be quick, else its gone.

I've been taking photos at the Remembrance Day memorials for the last 2 years. My first year in 2008, I went to capture an event. After taking pictures from the outside in, I made my way inside the tent they had setup for the veterans and managed to get up close with some of them. I was mezmorized by these heroes. When I went back to the memorial in 2009, I went with a different focus, one to capture the people and not the event. I managed to wiggle my way up with the press photographers and managed to get up close with the people. I'm very proud of these photographs, I feel they are my best work to date as they capture the people and the emotion of the day.

You can view the full set (42 images) up on my flickr, here are the few images that I particularly like from the day: