So, a coworker today asked me for advice on shooting her kid’s baseball games. I had just shot my ultimate team’s first game, so I thought I’d share out some advice here.
First the technical details:
I dual wielded my EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS on my EOS 5D MkII and a EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS on a EOS40D. Both cameras were set to aperture priority, f/5.6 on the 70-200 and f/8 on the 100-400. Both cameras were set to ISO400, AI Servo Focus, camera back button focus, and continuous shoot mode. In the case of the 40D, the faster of the 2 modes was selected, at 6.5fps. Local to Seattle, day rentals can be had from Glazers Rentals, located downtown near the Space Needle.
Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to break the ISO100 barrier.
Four years ago when I brought my first DSLR in the form of a previously loved Rebel XT, I kept the ISO setting strictly at ISO100, and if I’m adventurous, ISO200. Higher ISO noises were an issue, by the time ISO800 came around, the image was pretty noisy. Today’s modern DSLR sensors fair much better at higher ISOs; ISO 1600 is perfectly usable from my 5D2 and a properly lit ISO400 shot is pretty clean, even on my 40D.
Higher ISO allows for a much faster shutter speed, for freezing action. This is especially useful for consumer-level lenses, which often don’t have the same max aperture as a professional telephoto prime.
The shot above was shot at F/5.6 on my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS; at ISO400, the exposure time was 1/2000 of a second. If I were shooting at ISO100, this would have been a 1/500 second exposure; there would be motion blur given how fast the players are moving.
Tip #2: Situation awareness – and keep shooting
Once, while shooting skateboarders, a skateboarder lost control and sent the skateboard flying 6″ past my head. I could hear the whizzing of the ball bearings as I ducked, but kept shooting anyway. I got some kick-ass angles. .
Here, one of my teammates almost tripped and fell. I just kept backing up and held the trigger finger down. Miraculously, this shot came out focused; pretty much straight out of camera too. It’s nice not being the “fat kid with the camera that someone took out” on my first game .
Tip #3: It’s a digital camera. The “film” gets cheaper the more you shoot.
It’s pretty much a probability game with skills tossed into the equation. Bring a large capacity memory card or two, and don’t be afraid to rapid fire. My 40D was set to 6 frames per second continuous mode; and I shot about 500 shots in the hour that we were playing. Don’t bother checking the shots at the field; that’s what a computer and a good cup of beverage is for afterwards.
Paying attention to where the action is, and conditioning myself to just fire short, controlled bursts, netted me these shots:
Tip #4: Tell a story – include foreground subjects
Every picture should tell a story, right? People’s reactions to what’s going on in the field is often priceless.
Tyler and Brandon staring at just how much air some people can get, in disbelief.
An opposing team’s player looking at an affectionate couple on our team.
Tip #5: Capture the moment “2 heartbeats before”
I have an autobiography of Shunsaku Tamiya, president of Tamiya Models. In it, he talked about a discussion with a master sculptor responsible for the clay figures used to model the Tamiya miltary model line’s soldiers. The old master said that he always pictures a moment he wants to convey, then imagine what the soldier is doing 2 heartbeats before that moment, and model that. By doing so, a great sense of motion and flow is captured, with the audience’s imagination filling in the rest.
Well, having that camera on 6fps rapid fire, really helps with that
Jessica and Julie charges in, determined, as an opposing team player prepares to “alligator” the frisbee.
Tip #6: Don’t forget the losing team
I should point out that with the exception of maybe 3 people, almost all of us on Team Young Grasshoppers are complete newbies at team sports. A few of us had never touched a frisbee. Therefore, it was considered quite a feat not coming home with a big goose egg going up against an experienced team with 4 seasons under their belt.
The following picture was taken after my team scored our very first point. The team members were slightly out of reach of my 70-200 on my 5D2, but the opposing team’s expression as they “walked the walk” was quite a camera worthy moment:
Looking at their expressions, you’d almost think that we gave them a solid butt-kicking
Tip #7: Capture the team spirit
Good sportsmanship and team spirits is why we play to have fun, right?
Tip #8: Get the individual player shots
I got some great portraits of our teammates when they were getting “in the zone” before the game while lined up:
And in case anyone wonders what I look like trying to catch a frisbee, it’s probably something along these lines: