The trouble with the kitchen sink0
neil posted in Photos, Neil, Sports on February 19th, 2009
I contacted Edinburgh University Ladies Basketball team with a view to photographing one of their upcoming games. Basketball has always been one of my favourite sports to shoot and the one that has benefitted most from getting familiar with remote flash techniques. The last time I shot basketball I had a single flash and had to make compromises accordingly. I thought that now I had a bigger aresenal, it would be fun to go back and shoot it the way I’d always wanted to.
This meant hauling the “kitchen sink” loadout of four strobes, stands, batteries and two cameras to the game, setting them up and deciding how I would shoot the game. As I had four strobes and two cameras, I decided to try to shoot both ends of the game. I set up two strobes in a left right front lit combination to create dependable lighting at the other end of the arena. I would shoot that end with the 70-200mm and extender from under the key. On the near end I wanted to get a bit more artistic and had one side light and one long throw backlight from the halfwayline. This would let me shape they players without popping flashes in their faces and I would use the ambient as fill.
This did’nt work. The 5D’s autofocus struggled in the dimly lit gym through the teleconverter and long lens and a 16-35mm was too wide to cover the basket effectively. I eventually swapped to using the 1D on the 70-200mm and forgetting about the other end of the court. A spectator approached me in a timeout and informed me that one of my flashes had been knocked over in the warm-up and had lost its batteries and with all the equipment faff… I was missing pictures. If I had been shooting with a single flash and camera, there would have been no fiddling and I could have diagnosed problems faster. This just goes to show that the more equipment you have, the harder you have to work.
After halftime I decided to nail the near end of the arena with good reliable light and use the 1D’s splendiferous autofocus to pull out peak action shots. I used the same side light and long throw back light, but with another strobe high in the balcony above the camera for fill. This let me get away from the horrid hall lights altogether, immediately producing good images and letting me concentrate on capturing moments. The problem was, with the side and backlight, I had to be very careful of what angles I used to shoot the game, for every flash on the side line there is a cone you can’t shoot into without flare. Next time I’ll think a little flexibility into my setup but keep it simple. Lesson learned.