Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Boerne-Champion Basketball & Nikon D700

I shot both the varsity girls' and boys' basketball teams Monday, 29 December, during their 2008 home tournament.  Both teams won handily, with the girls beating Stony Point and the boys beating the Eagle Pass Winn Mavericks.

The new gym is really well lit for a high school facility, but when shooting volleyball with my Nikon D300 I still ended up with either lots of low-light, high-noise artifacts and/or slightly blurry shots due to having to use a slow shutter speed.  This was shooting at ISO 2000, shutter around 1/250 and either 70-200/f2.8 or 50/f1.8 glass.

I was really looking forward to trying out the the new Nikon D700 for the basketball games and it was almost as good as I expected. The D700 uses the same sensor as Nikon's $5000 D3 at a much better price point.  I was able to shoot at ISO 2500-5000, shutter around 1/400 to 1/500 using my 70-200/f2.8 zoom.  Auto-focus acquisition was a bit slower than expected, probably due to the limited light coming through the 70-200.

The nice thing was my ability to get much sharper images than with volleyball, though even this camera isn't a miracle worker at ISO 5000, so some noise does start to show on the web images, though prints are a bit more forgiving.  I'll probably limit myself to ISO 3200 next time and see how that works.

It's a somewhat interesting problem.  A good photo needs a clean background so I tend to shoot from a low position, but the gym lights are very bright when shooting upward, while the players often create their own shadow. Sometimes the camera just can't get it right and I spend way too much time post-processing the images before posting them for sale. ;-)

I'd love to be able to set up lights in the gym, which mitigates the somewhat flat look you can get with low-light, high-ISO, images, but I don't see that happening anytime soon, so I'll continue to enjoy shooting the D700 and hopefully even improve on some of these enjoyable images.

Everyone have a safe New Years and feel free to say hi if you see a tall guy with grey hair wandering around the court with a camera or two (or on the sidelines of the soccer field, as the one sport I was actually competitive in starts in January. ;-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm back... Boerne-Champion Basketball Tournament -- 29-30 Dec

Well, things have stabilized a bit in Mexico for me so I'm back here sorting out some estate issues.  I'm going to try and shoot at least one game of the Boerne-Champion Basketball tournament on 29-30 Dec.  We'll see how good the new Nikon D700 really is, as long as I can do my creative job of actually making the picture. ;-)

If your son or daughter is playing in the tournament and you'd like me to try and focus on them a bit, drop me an email or catch me at the evening games and let me know their team and number.

Looking forward to soccer, then baseball and softball.  Spring sports will be great!

Just a reminder, since I shoot mostly 'spec' I have to limit the number of games I cover unless my print sales justify more coverage.  If you or a group of parents would like me to shoot a particular game, please let me know and I'll try and schedule it.  Custom coverage is also available with a confirmed session fee, just like doing senior or family portraits.

Questions or suggestions, please email me.  I really want to meet your needs and exceed your expectations.

Happy New Year...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December Update

Sorry I haven't been posting much. On December 4th I had a family emergency develop down in Mexico, so I'm still down here helping out. I hope to be back before Christmas and maybe shoot at least one Boerne Varsity basketball game.

More to come...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

University of the Incarnate Word - Startup Season is a wrap!

In case you hadn't heard, San Antonio has a new college football team, courtesy of Tom Benson and the University of the Incarnate Word.  The team just finished up their first 'red shirt' season and will start playing other schools next year.

Today's Homecoming game was the last intra-squad scrimmage for the season.  Since my nephew graduated from Smithson Valley and now plays linebacker for the Cardinals I'm really looking forward to the games next year.  The first real season will be interesting for all, I'm sure. ;-)

While I won't be shooting the games, they will be covered by John Albright, THE sportsshooter for Incarnate Word.  Some great images from today's game may be found here.

Last, but hardly least, did I mention they have really flexible cheerleaders that trusts their peers to catch them ?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chargers Football Closeout...what a game.

Boy, do the Boerne-Champion Chargers know how to close out a season.  After both teams traded touchdowns all night, the game ended in a tie. In overtime play, whereby each team gets the ball on the 20, New Braunfels Canyon scored first with seven points , followed by the Chargers.  The Chargers decided to go for it with a successful two point play. Final score:

Hill Country View article by Mike Reeder should show up here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Boerne-Champion Volleyball

Boerne-Champion Girls Varsity Volleyball team defeated San Antonio Breckenridge in 27-4A, bi-district playoffs, winning their first three games, in a best of five match at Boerne-Champion High School, Boerne, Texas, Monday, November 3, 2008.

Volleyball, like football, is hard to shoot due to the low light situation in most gyms.  Without the option to setup external strobes images tend to be a bit fuzzy.  Clean images require good light and good backgrounds, both of which can be hard.  All that said, the jumps, spikes and digs make for some great action and exciting play.

Monday, October 6, 2008

High School Football & Camera Gear

Shooting the Boerne-Champion varsity football games has been a blast, I'm just sorry there are so few home games this year. (Yes, it's hard to get field access at away stadiums.) While nothing beats the energy of Friday night football, I found shooting JV on Thursdays was just as much fun and since they start at 5PM the light is great.

Since I had a few folks ask about the gear I've been using, including one of the players as I was jostling for position on the sideline (he won), I thought I'd talk about equipment a bit.

My primary kit: Nikon D300, Nikon 70-200/f2.8 lens, Nikon SB-900 strobe and assorted hardware to hold it all together.  I've been experimenting with flash above the camera and on a monopod below the camera, all in an effort to limit red-eye/demon-eye.  Nothing like coming home and looking at a field of vampires on your monitor to really get depressed.

Yes, you can shoot Friday Night football without flash, but unless you're willing to invest in a $3000-5000 camera body like the Nikon D3, D700 or Canon MkIII you are going to be hard-pressed to get crisp, in-focus, low-noise images with the usual stadium lighting, at least images that look good at 5x7 on up.  I know, I've got good equipment and would shoot without flash if I could, just watch me during that magic hour from 6-7PM before the game. The golden lighting is awesome as the players are warming up.

I'll admit I still struggle with shooting football with a strobe light, but if you want sharp, in focus photos you have to have light and strobes are less expensive than the above. ;-)  The downside of using flash is the unevenness of the light, the ongoing battle with red-eye and the need to wait for the flash to recharge for the second shot.  A bit of trivia, but did you know that it's the strobe that stops the action and not the shutter speed?  All this probably explains why I may shoot 400-500 images in a game, but feel lucky to publish 200-300 for consideration...and spend at least four-six hours editing and color correcting the selects.

While the purpose of my business is to provide you with the best sports photos I can there are a couple of things you can do if you are interested in shooting a low-light  game yourself, be it football, soccer or volleyball.  While a good photographer can create great images with most anything, low-light shooting comes with a price tag.

A medium quality non-SLR with a f2.8 lens can do a pretty decent job, particularly with an external flash. If you don't have a flash, try and shoot for peak moments of action, e.g., at the top of the jump when spiking. When I say flash I'm talking external strobe units, not the little on-camera pop-ups that throw the light 12 feet if you are lucky.

If you can't or don't want to use flash and are willing to move into the $1000-1500 price range something like the new Nikon D90 ($1000) and 70-300VR ($600) lens is a great combo.  The new D90 body uses a light sensor giving performance similar to the D300 I shoot.  Camera bodies are becoming like computers, buy what you need now because in a year you'll get more for less.  A quality lens is a bit different, you'll upgrade you body long before your lens. A pro level Canon or Nikon 70-200/f2.8 is a staple of the profession and sells for around $1600-2000, but will last for decades and makes really pretty pictures. ;-)

What's next? I really need to get into the new gym and see how the lighting is for volleyball and basketball.  I wonder if there's any interest?   ;-)

If you have any questions about how I shoot or anything I've discussed feel free to drop me an email, post a comment or check out the sportsshooter links on the right and I'll do my best to help you out.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Alamo Dressage

From cowboy rodeo to english dressage....well, they both involve horses.

The Alamo Dressage Association hosted event at the San Antonio Rose Palace arena was a lot of fun. While the lighting was right up there with high school football(that's not a good thing), I did find a spot at the edge of the arena that resulted in at least one or two really nice shots.  I was a oriental martial arts student for ten years and while we talked about 'focus' a lot, the above rider is a text book example of what we meant, and being extremely photogenic, he made for a great series of images.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I don't get a chance to shoot much rodeo action so I really look forward to the Kendall County Fair & Rodeo each year.  Arena lighting is pretty abysmal so action shots are difficult, but getting there early gives me a chance to shoot all the prep work that goes on, everything from cowboys putting rosin on their ropes to famous bull-fighters (rodeo clowns to some of you) like Leon Coffee preparing his 'mildly' modified Model T. Mr. Coffee has a stellar biography as a world-famous bull-fighter/rodeo clown and puts on a great show in between the various rides. If you want to learn more about bull-fighting and Leon Coffee, this Texas Monthly article is well worth your time.

Finally, as I learn more about rodeo and watch the action, the riders called Pick-up Men are clearly the unsung heros of the arena. I watched these guys save downed riders from ticked off broncs, lasso and haul off a runaway bull that got out during barrel racing (now THAT was exciting) and do it as if they were welded to their horse.  Next time you're at a rodeo watch these guys work, they're amazing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

David Griffin, National Geographic

Most people have never heard of TED, but if you are a photographer or just appreciate fine photojournalism you should take some time to browse their site, particularly for the many speaker videos and the annual prize presentations.

"The TED Prize is designed to leverage the TED Community's exceptional array of talent and resources. It is awarded annually to three exceptional individuals who each receive $100,000 and, much more important, the granting of "One Wish to Change the World." After several months of preparation, they unveil their wish at an award ceremony held during the TED Conference. These wishes have led to collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact."

If you have a few minutes this presentation by David Griffin, photo editor for National Geographic, about the power of photography is worth your time.  The segment on the leopard seal at the end might remind you of your house cat, if she was twelve feet long and ate penguins for lunch.  Use the hi-res video link for the best multi-media experience.

2007 winner James Nachtwey's presentation is another gem in this diamond mine of communicators and innovators.

Enjoy your visit...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

High School Football is hard

Boerne-Champion High School scrimmaged San Antonio South San today so I figured it was good time for me to practice my technique before the regular season starts.  In case anyone is wondering, high school football is hard to shoot...at least shoot and get good images. Luckily the teams were already at work when I got there around 5PM so the light was still good, but once the Varsity started to play and the sun began to disappear things got a bit more difficult.  Given that all the regular season games are at night, it actually was perfect for working on my strobe technique.
So lighting aside, ever try to get make a meaningful picture with 22 guys running into each other at high speed? I did find that the fake handoffs worked great on me while my eye was in the viewfinder. 
Lots of fun for sure and reminded me of when I was fit and fearless...a long time ago.  
Probably the most memorable experience was being down on the field in the midst of the teams and realizing how hard working and motivated all the coaches were. Supportive, reinforcing, personable...you name it, these guys care.  (OK, maybe there was a bit of tough love also going on.) They clearly love what they are doing and manage to remember everyone's name while they were at it.  Way cool....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Moonlight Fund Needs Your Help

I had the opportunity to shoot The Moonlight Fund Airshow last year. This is an outstanding local organization that provides support for burn victims and their families, both military and civilian.

Please take a moment and read Celia's letter and visit their website. With your personal support and any support you may be able to champion from your company they will be able to continue their critical efforts.  Good descriptive video here.

I'm afraid it's too late to fund this year's airshow, but with continued support for burn victims and 2009 corporate budgets being committed now, we hope it will return next year as a principal fund raiser.

You may contact Celia or make an online tax deductible donations
here via PayPal.

Checks may be sent to:  The Moonlight fund, 405 Johns Rd. Boerne, TX 78006.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

Did I mention its been hot? Football will be kicking off soon (ouch) and I'm looking forward to covering the Boerne-Champion High School games this year.  In addition to providing game coverage on my website I'll also be providing images to MaxPreps.com, a CBS Sports affiliate that provides nationwide coverage of high school varsity sports.

 A couple of other minor blog updates:
  • For Sale list at the bottom of stuff collecting dust and looking for a better home.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hill Country Cypress

Saturday was a nice day, if you waited for the sun to get closer to Japan than San Antonio and the temperature to get below 100F. Once that happened I took my bike and made a run up to Waring to catch the afternoon sun on the Guadalupe River and the gorgeous Cypress trees....along with the residents of a neighboring horse farm.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Power(less) Lunch?

A few weeks ago I dropped by my favorite sushi place, Godai Sushi, for lunch and since everyone was sitting outside I figured something interesting was going on.  More frustrating than interesting it turned out as they had lost power.

San Antonio CPS responded and after three fuses and a new transformer Goro was back in business around 2PM...so much for the lunch rush.  While a lunch without power would stress most restaurant owners Goro knows how to go with the flow.  Me?  I ended up with a nice picture story...and a tuna fish sandwich back at work.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Leon Springs Traffic & Pizza?

A couple of weeks ago an optimistic driver towing a huge propeller blade, soon to be attached to a West Texas wind farm motor, tried to fit under the Fair Oaks overpass at I-10W. Apparently the load was taller than the driver of the lead car was aware of (you gotta think someone is measuring this stuff, right?) and physics pretty much took over. End result...overpass closed for a couple of months and all traffic to Boerne Stage now essentially travels through downtown Leon Springs.

Well, I regularly eat pizza at a little place called Fralo's (in preparation for the Leon Springs sumo competition). Fralo's is located right after the west bound exit to Leon Springs, so we pass the time admiring the long line of cars sitting in the 100F Texas weather waiting for the infamous two-light/two intersection shuffle to get to the other side of I-10.

Now most Fralo regulars know Frank Hakspiel, co-owner of Fralo's with wife Lori, is the original entrepreneur, but when we saw him send one of his employees, George Garcia, out to provide water to hot drivers we knew it was going to get a bit more interesting. In a grand effort to share the limelight, and upstage George, Frank walked out and started handing out watermelon cups!
I figured if they had survived this long in traffic, it was up to me to document the event for posterity. James Nachtwey I'm not, but it was fun.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Inks Lake on the 4th

Went up to Inks Lake for the 4th with some friends, just us and the usual horde.

Each night at dusk we had a Mockingbird go ballistic when four Eastern Screech Owls came cruising through our area, apparently there was a turf war going on that we were unaware of.

I also had a great time shooting all the folks jumping off the cliffs at Devil's Waterhole.

Kart Racing

With the sun setting later and late afternoon light improving I made time to get back out to the Hill Country Kart Club and shoot some great racing and pit action. If you've never been out there, you need to make time. Racing has everything from kids that look like they are too young to ride a bike to adults doing 60+mph down the straight. Location Info

BMX Racing

With baseball winding down I spent a couple of weekends shooting BMX racing at Lone Star BMX.  While I have a long history with bicycles, starting as a mechanic in and out of college, this was my first time to shoot a BMX competition and it was great, particularly since the bikes are easier to dodge than karts.

Spring Baseball Recap

Just to get caught up a bit I want to share some of my photo activities from this spring. I've been shooting Smithson Valley varsity baseball for a couple of years, but with my nephew, Dakota Mawyer, graduating and moving on to a football scholarship at Incarnate Word University and my ties to Boerne growing I started committing more time to shooting Boerne High School sports.  When Smithson Valley went down early in the 5A playoffs and Boerne moved on I found myself with more time to shoot some of their games on spec (that's photographer speak for "I hope someone buys some of these photos"). And was I rewarded with some great action.  The 4A playoff game against New Braunfels Canyon resulted in everything from a bench-clearing brawl to a long-shot grand slam to win the game.

Last, but hardly least, I was accepted by MaxPreps to shoot high school sports.  MaxPreps is a CBS Sports partner that provides complete team coverage for varsity sports across the US. With Texas high school participation on the rise I'm excited to be part of their growth.