I spent today shooting with one of my friends, Laure at the Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. They have an awesome sports program and an amazing track and field, so pulling off some portfolio-worthy shots was all on me, no backgrounds to blame this time.
I'm usually known for my lighting or photoshop, and these pictures lack both of those. All natural light, not even a speedlight to pop some fill in, and post was done almost exclusively in lightroom, except for removing some errant tree tops and the like. Check out some more after the break.
Sports photography relies on long, fast lenses, the most popular being the 70-200 f/2.8 IS, the quintessential lens for nearly any type of photography. While I did run into an enthusiastic parent with a 400 f/2.8 IS and a 1DMK4, the 70-200 covered most of my focal lengths. The 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 IS is also a great lens that I used early in the day, before switching to the 70-200 as the light fell off.
I'm of the opinion that sports photography, whether high school or pro, relies a lot on luck and good timing. The skill is in knowing where to be and when to be there, but if nothing is happening in front of you, all the equipment in the world can't save you. I spent a lot of time walking back and forth to events for practice runs, where I got my own practice in. This shot of the long jump is where all the luck came in. Getting to the end of the sand pit was no challenge, and getting that awesome spray of sand was pure luck, made slightly more difficult by the slow framerate of the 5DMKII.
The 5DMKII is a great portrait camera, but not necessarily good for sports. the 1D series (no S) is renowned for its speed, and users complain more of having too many good shots to choose from rather than a lack thereof. the 5DMKII shoots at less than half the speed of the 1D, so timing, even for multiple frames, is important, as many great shots can get lost in between one frame to the next.
Typically, the longer the lens in sports, the better. Unless you can get on the field. And unless you can get right next to the crash pad, so close in fact that you have to dodge the occasional pole vaulter landing. While I didn't go as wide as my camera bag allows me to, the 24-70 f/2.8 is an amazing lens, and is probably my most used. At 24mm there's a little distortion, but not bad at all, and the quality is tack sharp.
Shooting up into the sky has become a bit of my trademark, though I usually do it with a few hundred wattseconds of light hitting my subject. Putting the sun to my side with a still bright early afternoon sky in front gives me that look of balancing the ambient with flash, without having to worry about slow sync speeds. A speedlight would have been great to put a little fill into the bottom of the athlete, but I was traveling light for the day.
While I'm primarily an advertising photographer, being able to do the candids out on the field is a much better way to spend a day than in a studio. I'm starting to balance out my portfolio as school comes to an end, and there may be a few surprises left yet.
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