Archive for March, 2011

Shooting Hoops

To many people, the term “shooting hoops” means grabbing the ball and heading down to the park for a game of pick-up basketball. To me, it’s another facet of my job. Here’s how I shoot hoops for the Miami Hurricanes.

I’m a bit of a equipment minimalist when it comes to photography. I don’t keep and cart around much more photo gear than I need on a daily basis. It is, after all, a business, and if gear isn’t working for me on a regular basis, then it’s not generating revenue. So the following is what I use while shooting men’s and women’s basketball for UM:
Camera #1 is hand-held with me on the corner of the floor. I use a Nikon D300s with a 70-200 f2.8 lens attached.

Camera #2 is a D300 with a 17-55 f2.8 lens attached, and I attach it to the basketball stanchion with a Manfrotto Magic Arm and clamp.

Camera #3 is usually a D300 with a 12-24 f4 in front of me on the floor looking up towards the paint.  However, I recently bought a Canon G12 (a point & shoot which many pros keep in their bag) and noticed it had a remote jack, so it served as Camera #3 last night, mounted on the catwalk above the scoreboard.

My strobes and remotes are fired using Pocket Wizard radios. The strobes are Speedotron 2401SX packs with quad lampheads, permanently installed on the catwalk, one in each corner with the fifth set for down court fill.

Here’s a result from position #1:

1/250 f6.3 @ 200 ASA

Here’s a result from position #2:

1/250 f7.1 @ 200 ASA

Here’s a result from position #3:

1/400 f7.1 @ 200 ASA

The overheads in the BankUnited Center are a challenge. Like I stated in my previous post, there is no catwalk directly above the baskets like there were in the Miami Arena. As you can see from this image from above the scoreboard, the view has many obstacles. This may prove to be such a low percentage shot that I may abandon it altogether at some point. If I had to dedicate a $4000 camera and lens in this position, I would have abandoned it already.

Something to remember: by using strobes, I have only one shot every two and a half seconds. That’s how long it takes the Speedos to recycle to full power – no high speed motor drive here. Timing is everything. Using strobes also allows me to use the G12. Its poor drive and focus speed are not a factor here, but how I make the G12 work is another topic for another day, as is my post-game editing workflow.


Here’s Looking at You, Reggie

Often we photographers will go to extremes to get a unique image. After recently acquiring a Canon G12 “point-and-shoot” consumer camera, I noticed it had a remote control port.

The bells went off in my head. Could I actually use a small consumer camera as a remote?

So for last night’s men’s basketball game vs. Maryland, I mounted the Canon G12 on the catwalk above the scoreboard at the BankUnited Center.

The Canon G12 is a 10mp consumer point and shoot camera with some pro features. Relevent to the image above, it has a 28-140mm f2.8-f4.5 lens, a hot shoe and the ability to manually expose and focus. But it’s main unpublicized feature is its ability to sync at a higher shutter speed than usual when using external flash due to its CCD sensor. With the right strobe and shutter speed, a photographer can overpower the sun on an outdoor shoot. That’s actually the reason I purchased one.

While mounting an overhead camera is nothing new, it’s the first time I’ve done it at the BUC. In the old Miami Arena, the catwalks were perfectly positioned above the rim on each end of the court. I often mounted a remote above one of the hoops there, as you can see from this shot of Darius Rice. In the BUC, the catwalks are farther out along the perimeter of the floor, with one climbing to a platform above the scoreboard. The view is at a slight angle, and through a hanging speaker assembly.

The next challenge was actually firing the camera. Using Pocket Wizard brand radios to trigger the shutter was easy, but the “shutter lag,” the time it takes for the camera to respond and fire the shutter, was my concern. Sure enough, it took an average of a second and a half between my pressing the button on my radio and the camera actually firing. While that may not seem like a long time to some, to me that’s the time between the ball leaving a shooter’s hands and it getting to the rim.

While I came up with six usable images, the “shutter lag” issue took some of my attention away from using my main camera. I just could not go from using my handheld setup to firing the radio in time to catch a rebound. So while this setup isn’t practical for every game use, it is workable for an occasional different look.

Image details: Canon G12, 140mm, 1/500 sec, f5.6 @ 200 ASA. Used with Speedotron 2401SX strobes, triggered via Pocket Wizard radios.