Monday, April 15, 2013

How Quickly The Rust Accumulates

My last football assignment was the FedEx Orange Bowl back on January 1. That's just over three months ago and since then I've shot tons of basketball, baseball, track, golf, tennis and even sand volleyball. That is, until this past Saturday when I was on the sidelines once again to shoot the Florida State Garnet & Gold football game, which is the culmination of spring practice for the Seminoles.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly I get rusty when I don't shoot a particular sport on a regular basis. Every football season, I find that it takes one, and sometimes two games, to really get back into the swing of shooting the game. During the first game, try as I might, I hardly ever get as many "keeper" shots as I do during the second game or the third game or so on. Eventually, it gets easier to anticipate plays and lock in on players at the peak of action but man oh man is it frustrating to be a split second slow, or worse, not even close to getting "the shot".

The icing on the proverbial cake is correctly anticipating where a play is going, settling on a spot from which to shoot, and then having the play develop exactly the way you expected...but to a side of the field that for one reason or another does not lend itself to a good photo. That happened to me quite a bit Saturday.

The photo above is a great example. I guessed that the play would be a fade route to FSU's gargantuan wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (1) and positioned myself near the corner of the end zone with my 200-400mm f4 lens zoomed to 400mm to get a good, tight shot of Benjamin leaping up to grab the pass. Over time I've gotten some great fade-route-catch images from that position so I decided to go with what worked in the past. As the players broke from the huddle, I winced - Benjamin lined up on my side of the field instead of on the opposite side where he normally lines up. Before I had enough time to move, the play literally came right at me and Benjamin made a leaping grab in font of me. As the play developed, I managed to zoom out to 200mm but I had rotated the camera body to a horizontal orientation. You see what I got - a nice tight shot of the back of his head. Oh well, at least the ball was in the frame.

As the game progressed, the rust slowly shook off but I was nowhere near "on". TD's were scored, plays were made, and I was either on the wrong side of the field, blocked by refs, changing ends of the field, or just plain slow locking in. I realized it was time to shift gears and go to Plan B.

Ah, Plan B. It has saved my bacon more than once.  When I know I'm not having a good game, I try to look for other ways to generate usable images. Art shots are always worthwhile as are images which depict some nuance of the game that might be overlooked by others.  Sprinkle in a few action shots and it beats having nothing to upload. So, during Saturday's game, I got a shot here and a shot there of the little things that go on during a game which fans may not notice. On the left are some examples of what I mean: 

- a QB making changes to the way players are lined up; 
- the concentration of the holder on a field goal attempt;
- a coach giving a player an earful during a timeout. 

None of these images are going to land me in the Sports Photography Hall of Fame, but they sure beat a sharp stick in the eye.

Even though I wasn't in mid-season form, I told myself that a bad day of shooting football is better than a good day at the office. In the end, I got enough useful images to make it a decent day and, I got one last football "fix" which will have to last me until the Fall. Here's a few other shots from Saturday's game.

Photoshop World, Here I Come

Tomorrow morning I leave for Orlando for four days of Photoshop World. I'm looking forward to seeing Scott and the folks from Kelby Media as well as immersing myself in all the goings on. Tonight I'm planning on cleaning the sensors on my camera bodies and lens glass so whatever gear I decide to pack up and take with me will be clean and mean. It's one thing to have dust on lenses or sensors when you're shooting at f2.8 so the dust spots don't show up on images. It's another to shoot at f11 as I often do when shooting in a studio setting and ending up with those tell tale blobs on images.

While away I hope to find the time to keep up with the Blog, but if not, look for a recap of Photoshop World after  return home.

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