Category Archives: sports

Stadium Experiences – Be Ready When Opportunity Knocks –

The Phanatic Enjoying Some Popcorn With Friends
The Phanatic Enjoying Some Popcorn With Friends

Here’s is just a shot of some fun the Phillie Phanatic was having with some fans during the 8th inning of Sunday’s game vs the Miami marlins.  Generally he will get on the Phillies’ dugout, and play out a bit, or dance with some fans.  It had rained twice on the crowd that day so instead he opted to show up in the suites to dance to some Chuck Berry, and enjoy some popcorn.  Unfortunately for the people below he had a hard time holding on to his popcorn.

I had debated on even bringing my camera that day as rain was expected.  It did shower twice, but my seats were protected enough to stay dry.  Soon after the second rain shower he suddenly appeared, and I scrambled to dig my camera out of my bag.  Luckily I was still set on shutter priority, and snapped off a couple of hundred shots as he danced with popcorn flying everywhere.  I’m planning on trying to do a sequence in Premiere for fun.

Be prepared when you’re out shooting.  You never know when a photo is going to happen.

The Fan in the Stands – Shooting in a Stadium

The Phanatic at the Phillies Home Opener
The Phanatic at the Phillies Home Opener

One of my most favorite things to do is shoot baseball games.   I do it for fun, although I am often asked if I am a professional.   I get by with my little Canon 55-250 mm shooting from my seats, the concourse, or even the roof top bleachers at Citizen’s Bank Park.  The past few years have afforded me a ton of opportunities to get some great action shots.  Although sometimes I think my best shots are of the crowd.  The image above was one of my favorites  from this year’s home opener.   The little boy with his arms extended Continue reading The Fan in the Stands – Shooting in a Stadium

My Recipe For Good Photos – Part 1 – Composition and Knowledge of Your Subject

I know many people that like to take photos, but always lament the fact that they never end up getting the image that they pictured when they took the shot.   That’s happened to me too.  I wrote about this in another post. Many times I would get on location, set up my tripod or get ready for hand held shots, and begin firing away.  Sometimes I would get good shots, and other times I’d be very disappointed with how things turned out.  Over time I have learned a few things.

Composition is what I go for first.  You want to adjust the position of your subject so it draws the viewers eye into the image.    I usually go with the rule of thirds for placement of my subject first, or where it feels right.  If you are at a scenic location that has been shot to death you can try to inject some new life into the scene by taking the shot from a different view.  Looking at a mountain range – perhaps hike up that trail a bit to get a different perspective.

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Are you shooting flowers – then perhaps get low to shoot them head on or even at an upward angle to show them to your viewer differently.  You can even tinker with depth of field to isolate your subject.   An unexpected composition can take a ‘meh’ image and turn it into a wow image.  Depth of field will also allow you to clean up your background.  If you have a subject that is against a busy background it can get lost.  However if you change your vantage point or induce blur by shooting so the background gets a nice “bokeh” effect then you can really enhance your image.

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Perhaps you can add some depth to your image by placing objects in the foreground to complement your subject or provide a sense of space.

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You may also find that you have to adjust your position to get a composition you like.  I shoot a lot of baseball for fun, and have found that the best vantage point for getting a good composition is not from my seat.  I have taken more than my share of shots from my seats, but find that if I can get closer – perhaps standing on the concourse in the infield I can get a much more intimate shot than I would from the stands.    Being in the ballpark I find that there are endless subjects to photograph.  The grunting expression on the pitcher’s face as he fires the baseball in to the batter.  The expression on the batter’s face as he watches his fly ball, wondering if it is going out.  Then you have the expressions of the fans in the stands watching the fly ball, and the change in their expressions as they realize that “that ball is outta here.”  You can also capture the crowd as they are shown on the scoreboard, and watch the expressions of the kids in the crowd as they ask a player for an autograph or when the teams mascot gives them a hug.

Know your subject.  If you shoot sports try to know where the plays happen so you can anticipate the shot you want to capture.  If you shoot scenics then scout the location in advance so you know how the light will paint the scene, and where your best vantage point will be to shoot your subject.  Preparation is everything.

In part 2 of this series I will discuss getting the right exposure.

Lower ISO Plus EV Makes For Better Images, and Easier Noise Reduction

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I attended the Phillies-Braves game last night in Philadelphia, PA (Citizen’s Bank Park).  I have been shooting there for fun for the past couple of years. and have experienced a variety of shooting conditions.  Lighting comes in to play especially when you are shooting from a distance.  I don’t have the fortune to be shooting on the field so I tend to shoot from my seat or lurk on the concourse.   I try to shoot at 1/1600 shutter speed so I can freeze the action, but to do this during night games I need to shoot at a high ISO.  For professional use this would most likely be a non-starter as the digital noise would add too much “grain” to the image.

I generally shoot around ISO 800-1000 when the night games begin (around sunset), and can get some decent shots especially if the subject is relatively close (<200 feet).  As the sun sets I have to drastically increase my ISO;  usually to 3200, and then the custom settings of H1 and H2 on the 50D which work out to be 6400, and 12800 ISO respectively.  The problem I face is purely digital noise, and the ability to freeze action.  I shoot with a Canon 55-250mm EF-S  f/4-5.6 IS.  It’s pretty good for a consumer grade lens, and since I am not shooting professionally I have held off getting a nicer 70-300 f/4 or the beautiful 70-200 f/2.8…well I also have held off due to the cost as well.

When I started a few years back I found that after sunset I couldn’t get any decent shots because I would have to slow the shutter speed down to 1/1000 or slower which resulted in unappealing blur.  Of course I was shooting in program mode.  Then I decided to try using Tv (shutter priority) mode, and was able to get slightly better results, although when zoomed all the way in at f/5.6 I was still getting the exposure indicator flashing in my viewfinder – not such a big deal as I was able to sufficiently pull it up a bit in processing.  Of course I tried to be selective as to what shots I would choose to do this for as sometimes you could introduce more artifacts – color shifts, and more pronounced noise.

Over the past 6-8 months I have gotten better at reducing noise in Lightroom 3.  Although I will admit depending on the subject it has resulted in some soft looking photos with a slightly painterly look due to the NR smoothing details out.  So back to square one – how to overcome this?  Recently I started using the Nik Dfine 2.0 NR plug-in for Lightroom, and it has performed pretty well.  It analyzes the photo, and finds out where the most likely areas to contain noise are located.  It reads points on the image, and then applies a NR profile to the image which in most cases does a nice job.  Occasionally I have been required to apply some additional points for NR, but the time spent in this part of the workflow has been minimal.  It also seems to produce more pinpoint NR than Lightroom does.  I am able to reduce noise in the areas of grass and dirt on the field, but keep the NR to a minimum on the faces of the people in the stands.  This is key especially when shooting from a distance.  If you are heavy handed in your NR you can effectively render the facial features invisible.

Fast-forward to last night.  I started using exposure compensation over the past few months to expose to the right side of the histogram.  Sometimes this does result in some blown highlights, but it has also been easier to pull the exposure back down during processing, and retain detail than it would be to increase exposure to gain shadow details that had been lost.  The past few games I have attended I shot with +2/3 EV at ISO 12800.  I managed to get some shots, but for the most part details in faces were lacking.

Last night I decided to try something new.  I kept the ISO at 6400 shooting in HQ  jpeg mode, and applied +2 EV, and I think it made a difference.  You can see in the photo below the difference in noise between the 3200 and 6400.  ISO 12800 drastically increases the noise so I kept it at ISO 6400 since I was able to get a brighter image than at ISO 3200 with the same EV.

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I have decided to do some more experimentation with ISO and EV settings combined with a more robust NR process to see what I can come up with.  I may do some tinkering in RAW mode as well to see if I can more selectively boost exposure, and control noise manually.  I have found that the more intimate you are with how your camera responds to light the better your images will be.  Keep shooting!

A Night At Citizen’s Bank Park

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News began to ripple through the concourse at Citizen’s Bank Park around 930p ET that Osama Bin Laden was dead.  People were trying to get a good cell signal to check the news, Twitter, or make a call to see what was happening.   By 11pm there had been 4 waves of cheers of “USA USA” in the stadium.  A couple behind home plate was wearing USA shirts. When they were put on the big screen the crowd went nuts. Fitting that New York won the game. I will put my standard motto about the Mets on hold for tonight. We’re all New Yorkers again.