Thursday, February 19, 2009

Basketball Photography

18-200 mm lens set to 18 mm, 1/80 sec at f/3.5, ISO 250

It's basketball season so I've spent the last couple of months attending my son's basketball games and trying to figure out how those amazing Sports Illustrated photogs ply their craft. Taking photos of fast-moving action in poorly lit gyms is a definite challenge and does require some specialized equipment. Here's how I did it on a shoestring budget. First of all, I'm a huge fan of David Hobby and his Strobist site. His site is my number one source of information for "off camera" lighting. Over the past year I've purchased two used Nikon speedlights (SB-24 & SB-28) from eBay and a Cactus V2 wireless transmitter and two receivers. I also use lots of gaffers tape and bongo ties. The biggest challenge that I've found is getting enough light on the subject so that I can use a reasonably low ISO with a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action.

The setup:
I like to use my 50 mm f/1.4 lens as it allows me to get close to the action while still using a large enough aperture to blur the background. I've also experimented with my 18-200 mm VR lens, but with less success. In order to provide adequate light I attached the radio trigger receivers to each flash and then used bongo ties to attach one speedlight to the railing of the bleachers, pointing towards the top of the key. The second flash was set up on the opposite side of the
gym in a similar position, but without a railing to fasten it to, I had to use gaffer's tape to fasten it to the wall. Not ideal but it worked. I did get some pretty funny looks from some of the parents in the crowd. Using this setup, and the radio transmitter attached to the camera I was able to get both flashes to fire simultaneously and stop the action on the floor. Even though I had the lighting pretty much sorted out didn't mean it was easy to get great shots. To get really great action shots you need to take lots of photos and spend lots of time practicing in order to get to the point where you can anticipate the action. My respect for the SI guys is huge.


mbale 8-41 said...

Great shots of the game. Thanks for the tip. Your set up reminds me of the Buffalo Wild Wings adds on tv. Where the fans want overtime and the photog has a big flash and the player misses the layup.

Continued success.

Chris Harbeck

Mr. H said...

Sorry last comment had one of my students email address . This is mine. Great post

Jamie M. said...

Good shots! I really wouldn't mind getting back to a basketball game, but with lights in tow. I helped a teacher shoot a game with strobes once years ago, but it was the first time I had ever heard of using remotes to fire lights. Now that I know how, I need to look into doing that again ... Good post! I found you while Strobist comment surfing for blogs. :)

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