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Low-light photography: Basketball (NYK vs. PHI)

Gameday: New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia  76ers by Michael Mariano

Gameday: New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers by Michael Mariano

Shooting fast-moving subjects under low-light conditions has always been a challenge for photographers. It takes a certain combination of timing, skill and equipment to capture your favorite sport. Basketball games as a photo opportunity are no exception. Don’t get me wrong, i like basketball games. I usually like watching within the comforts of home in front of a TV guided by the expert voices of the commentators. It was a long time ago during the early 2000’s when i got the chance to cover a basketball game. The opportunity presented itself again when my uncle got some good seats for the New York Knicks (NYK) vs. Philadelphia 76’ers (PHI) ‘home at home’ game in Madison Square Garden (MSG). NYK got beaten 100 to 98 by PHI two days before. So this was a good chance for me to watch a competitive game since NYK badly wanted to avenge their loss.

A few minutes before taking off for the game, i brought my Nikon DSLR with a 80-200 2.8 lens and a SB-800 flash just to be sure. I have been to MSG before and i noticed that the lights looks adequate, but my experience tells me that the light levels could be deceiving. When i got to the stadium i made a reflected light reading from my camera and it confirmed my intuition: the light levels were not enough to shoot it with low-ISO settings. Using flash won’t do much good since i’m probably 100 meters away from the court. So it was up to high-ISO and my fast (f/2.8) lens to do the job. I don’t usually go beyond ISO 800 to maintain the noise levels of my image down, but i don’t have much choice. I set it within the range of ISO 1000-1250 and an aperture setting of 2.8 to get an average shutter speed of 250 to 500, enough to stop motion even in low-light.

The ballgame went by really fast. The featured shot was of Raymond Felton trying get through a bunch of 76ers defenders with the help screen of Stoudamire. I usually try to enjoy watching the game in between takes, but it is kind of addictive taking photos of the game. New York Knicks won 117-103 which is a good thing considering that they are in the mix for the playoffs for the first time since the early 90’s era of Ewing and Starks.

For those who plan to shoot their favorite sports or events in low-lighted conditions, here are some tips to help you out:

  • Plan ahead: Just with any other photo opportunity, whether you are a professional or an amateur, it pays to do research or ask around about the lighting conditions of the event / sport venue that you will go to. It will make you photography experience more pleasant and less frustrating.
  • Essential equipment for hobbyists: If you have long lenses, it is important to have ample support. If a monopod or tripod is a no-go, try mounting your camera on top of your camera bag or find ample support on-location. A ‘fast’ lens (a lens that allows you to go to f/2.8 or lower) is a definite must.
  • High ISO or Flash?: For venue that disallows flash usage, high-iso is the way to go. Be cautious of your use with high-iso even if you have the latest digital camera. It is best still to keep your ISO as low as possible to maintain your image quality.
  • Know your event/sport: Just like planning ahead, it is key know your subject. Sometimes even if your high-tech camera can focus and operate really fast, it pays to anticipate the action so you get to capture that decisive moment.
  • Last but not the least – Area awareness: It may be enticing and at times addicting to get caught in the wave of emotions as the event/sport revs up. Sometimes things gets out of hand and you might find yourself blocking other people’s view. Be aware of your physical surroundings. This will come in handy, especially when you are close to the action. It won’t just help you with your photo etiquette, it  might even keep you out of harm’s way in the future.

So sports fans, whether you are indoors or outdoors, go out there enjoy your shooting and hopefully these tips will help you out and get that shot down.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, February 6th, 2011 at 10:03 pm and is filed under Photography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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