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Taking your own photos -- basketball & flash

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by sweetbreads bailey, Nov 26, 2007.

  1. For those of you who take your own pictures, how many use a flash for prep basketball?

    I've gotten to the point where I can't stand it because of all the red-eye issues and just generally having a tough time getting it "just right" with my flash (lots of pics overexposed or underexposed, etc). I've tried available light but I usually don't have enough to make it work in my little high school gyms. I have older Nikons (D1-H and D100), and the pics look like crap once you get past 1250 ISO.

    Just wondering if folks had tips on how to get better pictures with flash. I had a friend at a past gig who used make-shift strobes during hoops season. He bought two flashes and set them up on tripods in the bleachers at the corners. Then he had a radio remote trigger them as he fired away. I'd love to do that because the pics look a lot more "three-dimensional" but I don't have a clue on what to buy as far as equipment for that (i.e. all the remote stuff).

    Thanks for any help folks can provide...
  2. RedCanuck

    RedCanuck Active Member

    The trouble in most cases is that these gyms have awful light, so you have to use flash just to capture anything. I have some of the same issues, so it would be nice to hear the tips...
  3. Pilot

    Pilot Well-Known Member

    Try to bounce the flash off the ceiling or the wall. There are a number of cheap ways to do it. You can buy a diffuser ( a white cap that slips over the end of your flash.) They run like $10 or less and it takes away a lot of the harsh, sharp light that I hate.

    You can also fake one of those things with a rubber band and a notecard. It looks like shit — people always comment on it, "The Podunk Poke-her is first class all the way," I reply — but it costs about 50 cents. It doesn't soften the light up as much as the diffuser, but it provides a little more light on target than bouncing the flash.

    You can just point the pivoting flash head straight up or behind you, over your shoulder, or just angle it up toward the roof. Doing that doesn't help your photo a ton in terms of lighting someone up, but it goes a lot further than you'd think. If you're under the basket or something, just getting anything to add light helps. The bounce off the wall or the ceiling goes a long way toward lighting up the whole area some instead of lighting up one spot a whole lot.

    I have a pretty nice lens for shooting hoops — a Nikon 85mm f1.4 — but I primarily shooting in one of the shittiest gyms in the state. I go other places and can produce great photos w/o a flash, or with minimal flash. At this shit-hole cave though, it's just never right. It sucks. I need to spring for strobes but, well strobes are expensive and it's all out of my pocket so that isn't too likely.
  4. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Red eye sucks. Even photogs with hoity toity equipment get it, though not as much. Sometimes I'd nail the shot of shots -- world class shit -- only to be left wanting to punch the world in the stomach because of red eye, which I'd have to tweak out in photoshop.

    You do the best you can. I don't know any tricks to the trade in terms of avoiding red eye. There are times, though, depending on the lighting of the gym, where I shoot sans flash (Hi, Flash :D ) and instead of action shots focus on "the moment" in which players, coaches, fans, refs aren't moving much. I used to move all over the gym to capture moments other than action; only so many jump-balls or layups or rebounds before you start getting the same shit over and over. But, a quality coach shot is priceless. Or focus on the benchers when they're not paying attention and you can capture fantastic moments. Or during timeouts when the refs are holding the ball looking into vast nothingness awaiting the restart horn.

    No flash in a gym can be hard to pull off because you're using the natural light, which isn't always that good. So you've got to bump the settings on the camera and really hold the camera steady while clicking.

    Have at it, and have fun experimenting.
  5. Bob Slydell

    Bob Slydell Active Member

    I use a Nikon D2h2 and Nikon Speedlight SB-800 flash. I set my ISO at 800 and set the shutter speed on 250. I can usually bump my flash higher and get great shots.

    I've shot in some gyms that have bad light and I still have shadow issues at times, but I just live with it. And I just live with my redeye, although I don't get that as much as i used to.
  6. 2muchcoffeeman

    2muchcoffeeman Active Member

    Two other things:

    Don't station yourself at the bottom of the key constantly. Move around; shoot from all angles of the baseline and add some sideline shots. In some gyms, I used to get some very good pictures by shooting from the mezzanine area behind the baselines one floor above the court; success depends on how close the mezzanine walkways are to the court itself (the closer the better). That's also a good place to shoot action at the other end of the court, assuming you can come up with a lens that's long enough.

    When on the baseline, sit down, especially if you're using flash --- in that instance, for the rest of your days sit down. :D It keeps the flashbulb out of the players' eyes and visually, it adds some perspective to your photographs.
  7. Canuck Pappy

    Canuck Pappy Member

    I recommend a fast lens.
    I have a 85mm f1.8 and it works OK in most gyms and arenas. Just out of curiosity how much was your 85mm f1.4?
    My f1.8, I bought used for $225 on ebay a couple of years ago and it works well.
    I priced strobes and a pocket wizard and I was looking at around $2,000, which is way over my budget.
    Also has anyone used a slave flash at sporting events for lighting? Maybe a few alien bees? I used a few cheap ($40) slave flashes at a kids Christmas concerts and they worked well, except they go off whenever they see a flash. So some mom's and dad's in the audience got pro level pics. Others got overexposed photos.
    Just curious of the results when using with sports.
  8. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Agreed. At Windsor High in Vermont there's a balcony on the second level that overlooks the entire court. Makes for unbelievable photo-ops. To that end, don't be afraid to lay on your belly, chin close to the floor, camera as low as you can get it while still being able to focus and click. Other times I'd put the camera on the floor, hold the clicker down halfway to lock into focus, and click random moments.
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