Happy New Year!

Hi everybody, I wish all of you a Happy New Year 2013!

Alsfeld, Hesse, Germany – 01/01/2013


Wow, suddenly they are using flash!

Hi and welcome to this short blog post about the current sports photography circumstances in Alsfeld.

When I opened the local newspaper’s sports section yesterday (and today) I was pretty surprised. A local sports photographer used flash for an indoor football game coverage! It’s interesting that after the publication of my strobed indoor sports photos other local sports photographers suddenly use flash, too.


This shot is a nice try in terms of using flash, but it’s still a simple straight on camera flash that – in all probability – disturbs the players, causes cast shadows, red eyes (see the goalkeeper), a flat 2D impression and no kind of dramatic. Of cause, this flash reveals the players and enables a faster shutter speed, but it’s just an unfavorable type of flash – it’s a straight flash. However, this photographer still made a good start to get better images in dark gyms. It’s really necessary to rise the level of the picture quality in our local newspaper – especially in the sports section.

Nevertheless let’s have a look at a shot that was made by using a professional off camera flash technique.


As you can see, this shot doesn’t show any cast shadows of the players. It’s kind of 3D because I was using two strobes that also helped to create a dramatic light. The visitors in the background are primarily lit by the available light and the players by the flash light. Because the flash light comes from the ceiling and is mixed with the ambient light, it doesn’t disturb the players.

Seems like my sports images and my way of lighting causes a new understanding of quality in local sports photography.  Would be nice to see more sports images of good quality in our local newspaper. 🙂

Bye!
Chris


Shooting Indoor Sports

Hi and welcome to this blog post!

Today’s topic is about how to shoot indoor sports to get high-quality photos.

Sometimes gyms do not offer the light quality that you need to create high-quality photos. So, you need to bring your own light.
It’s no secret that professional sports photographers use strobes to light gyms or arenas. Thanks to Dave Black I learned a lot about that and this weekend I did it the same way.

This weekend’s venue was the GSH Alsfeld, which is one of that dark venues with horrible light. It’s one of the darkest gyms that were ever built.  Here one has to shoot with ISO 10000 and f2.8 to get a shutter speed of 1/320s!
Every photographer gets nightmares when have to cover games that are hold in this gym. The results are mostly not that good – technically – because of the very lame light. And every Monday one can see the grainy, dull and blurry results in the sports section of the local newspapers. Not only bad for the reader but also not that good for the image of a newspaper.

Because I’m not satisfied with such lame photos, I did it the professional way.

While some photographers already brought their own light to dark gyms, they made a mistake by using on-camera flash. There is no worst idea like shooting indoor sports with an on-camera flash because on one hand it disturbs the athletes and on the other hand it offers no good light in terms of a natural look – as direct flash does mostly. That leads me to point #1: Don’t use on-camera flash but off-camera flash.

Professionals are using off-camera flash in terms of sport strobes that are mounted high above the court under the ceiling to illuminate it like lamps do to create a natural light look. Okay, that’s #2: Mount your flashguns/strobes under the ceiling.

It’s a pity that we don’t have such nice catwalks under the ceiling like they have in the USA. That makes it way more difficult to get the lights up there. If there are no catwalks and no ladders that would it make possible to reach the ceiling you have to find another way. Maybe you rent a long ladder from a hardware store or you rent a manlift etc.
But the very first step you should do is: Ask for permission! Ask the teams, ask the housekeeper and everyone else who is involved in decision making. Also make a contract to play it safe.
Apropos “safe”: Safety comes first! Secure your installations and make sure that if something brakes no one gets hit.

As you can see you have to arrange a lot in the first place before you are able to mount your lights. Maybe that’s the thing why in Germany there are just a few photographers using sport strobes. Effort is a big obstacle in an age where time is more money than ever.

Anyway, I made all that arrangements before and on Saturday I was ready to install the lights under the ceiling. I made all the installations early that day and went there at 10 o’clock in the morning. The first game was at 4.30 p. m.


As always I made a plan. Finally, I installed one flash in the upper left corner and another one in the lower middle. During the game I positioned myself in the lower left corner. That’s the typical light setup that causes a fill flash and a backlight.

I put the flash on the left (see the image above) to the left corner and used it as a backlight:

As strobes I used only two NIKON SB-800 Speedlights. The benefits are that they are light and portable and don’t need an external power supply. As Dave Black says in his workshop videos, the Speedlights have plenty of power and due to FP sync very short shutter speeds are possible. That means I can freeze all the action and can blend the available light with the flash light so that no ghosting appears like it would be with the typical sport strobes.

Because the SB-800 just sends the infrared signal up to 20 meters and a line of sight is needed, I used the RadioPopper wireless triggers. They allow me to trigger the Speedlights without a line of sight and from a distance of 400+ meters.

Finally, the difference between available light shots and flash light shots are amazing! Thank’s to the very clean high ISO of the D3, I can use ISO 5000 to realize a shutter speed of 1/640s which is okay for Basketball. The flash light cleans the high ISO and the result is a clean photo with a good contrast, saturation, more detail and frozen action.

Using available light:

Using flash:

As you can see, it’s worth the effort to make all these arrangements and installations. As for my part I use flash whenever it is possible.

Bye!
Chris


Ein Sommer-Shoot

Nach unzähligen Klausuren und einer Menge Lernstress habe ich mich heute nach der drittletzten Klausur endlich mal wieder der Fotografie widmen können. In den letzten Wochen kamen mir viele Ideen, die ich nach den Klausuren auch Stück für Stück umsetzen will.
Heute habe ich begonnen, eine der ersten Ideen zu realisieren: Ein Portrait in einem Getreidefeld während die Sonne untergeht. Dabei sollte es so realistisch wie möglich wirken, allerdings gingen mir die CTOs für die Blitze aus, so dass der beleuchtete Hintergrund von der Farbtemperatur her stark abweicht (5000 Kelvin). Dahingegen habe ich die Blitze für das Modell per CTO auf ca. 10.000 Kelvin modifiziert, um das warme Licht des Sonnenuntergangs zu imitieren. Naja,  es war mehr eine spontane Aktion, da der Himmel gerade so passend schien – das soll jetzt aber keine Entschuldigung sein. 😉
Nachdem das Equipment zusammengerafft war, haben wir uns ins Auto geschwungen und sind ins Feld gefahren. Dann musste alles ganz schnell gehen, bevor die Sonne hinter dem Wald verschwand und mit ihr das warme Licht. Der Aufbau war wie folgt:

Ich habe bei jedem Blitz die Leistung manuell geregelt, weil ich die volle Kontrolle wollte. Die zwei SB-800 fürs Modell habe ich Gruppe A und den SB-800 für den Hintergrund Gruppe B zugeordnet, um das Licht variabel steuern zu können. Die SB-800 fürs Modell habe ich außerdem mit den Bouncern bestückt – für ein weicheres Licht. Habe hier auf Softboxen oder Schirme verzichtet, weil schneller. Der SB-800 für den Hintergrund war auf 35mm gezoomt, um das Licht etwas zu streuen.
Kameraeinstellungen waren auch alle manuell. Als Objektiv habe ich ein Sigma 24-70/2.8 verwendet. Alles in Allem kein kompliziertes Setup, aber: weniger ist eben oftmals mehr – wie das Ergebnis beweist:

Bis demnächst.

Chris