Monday, September 5, 2011

LAHAINALUNA BOWLING - A Sports Photographer's Challenge: September 3, 2011

Lahainaluna's sole male participant on this day - Michael - tries to get the remaining 4 pins

My final self-assignment of this weekend was to try my hand at shooting a bowling match for Lahainaluna. Last year, I ambitiously set out to try to photograph almost all of the sports in which Lahainaluna participated. I ended up almost accomplishing that lofty goal - the only sports I could not / did not cover were cross-country, bowling, golf and paddling. Oh yeah, and the Math League - that's a sport, right? After having gotten shots at a cross-country meet this morning, I eagerly drove myself to the Maui Bowling Center to capture the bowling team in action and, in essence, cross that off my bucket list of things-to-do.

What I discovered was that shooting a bowling match at the Maui Bowling "Center" is a sports photographer's nightmare! The "center", located on Vineyard Street in old Wailuku town, appeared to have been built back when David Malo was on  the bowling team - or, more likely, Fred Flintstone. It had been raining in Wailuku town so the greeting that I got the second I walked through the door was "Eh! No forget wipe yo' feet before you come in!" I knew then it was going to be a LONG afternoon.

The match was scheduled for 2:00pm. Aside from the rain, it was otherwise overcast but bright. The moment you go through the glass door into the center, you step into darkness. Literally. The interior of the center is pitch black except for the bowling lanes, which is illuminated by a bank of 40 watt bulbs. After my eyes adjust from the bright white of outside to the pitch black of the inside, I scan the area to see where I could possibly set up for pictures. I realized there was none. First thought in my head - how the heck did Matthew Thayer manage to get bowling photos for the Maui News? Then I realized - he probably took the liberty to use flash! I quickly eliminated that option, because 1) I am not the Maui News and 2) flashing the athletes in these dark conditions would likely blind, if not distract, them while they bowled. So to avoid the risk of getting yelled at and kicked out, I eliminated the flash as an option.

I like to take sports photos where I can at least see faces. Unless I disguised myself as a bowling pin, there was no way I could get a shot of the athletes straight on. It would have to be from the side. Unfortunately, Lahainaluna and St. Anthony were assigned the 4 lanes at the far end. It was so dark there that it was impossible for my camera to autofocus. What made things worse - the glass door exit on that end of the center was bringing in harsh light from the outside. So on top of try to shoot people in the dark, there was a harsh backlighting issue. @#&^*%~!

I made my way through the darkened gallery/seating area to the area where Lahainaluna was bowling. I was looking for a group with Red shirts, but could hardly find any. As I got closer, I saw that Lahainaluna's contingent consisted of 3 people - 2 girls and 1 guy (Sabrina Armijo, Kailiann Tuipulotu and Michael, last name unknown). I overhead the Coach say that they were missing 3 people. (One of them apparently went to the Big Island for a family funciton) "That's okay," I thought to myself. "Easier to take photos of each player since only get 3 players." Nothing's easy.

According to the Maui News, St. Anthony won the girls match 3-0, dropping Lahainaluna girls to 0-6. Sabrina Armijo bowled a team high 146. The boys lost by forfeit, although Michael did an admirable job of bowling.

For this particular sport, I knew there were going to be lighting challenges, but I never realized how bad it was. I had brought with me my Nikon D90, along with a 70-200mm f/2.8, 85mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8 - the fastest lens I have. Unfortunately, the quarters were too tight for either the 70-200 or the 85mm. So I was down to my trusty 50mm. I was fine with it - it's such a short stubby lens that I could take pictures from the gallery and not feel too obtrusive or obvious with my camera gear.

I tried shooting near the exit door, using the light coming from the door as a source of lighting to illuminate my subjects and help my camera get accurate readings and focus. It was fine when taking pictures of the lone male that was bowling today - Michael. But when I tried to shoot the girls on the adjacent lane, it was difficult because participants in the near lane kept crossing in front of my shot and messing with the focus and exposure readings.

Lunas' Kailiann Tuipulotu
Lunas' Sabrina Armijo
Lahainaluna's lone male - Michael

Finally, a seat opened up right in between the boys and girls lanes. It was perfect because I could shoot both boys and girls. The angle/perspective was not ideal - the player's backs and butts - no face, no emotion, no action. I decided to concentrate on getting unobstructed "reaction" shots - shots of the bowlers as they walked back after rolling the ball.

I did the best I could. I had to do some extreme editing on post-production (using the free Picasaweb program) to pull out the pictures, but I think I got some okay shots.  Nothing worthy of blowing up as a poster or putting in the graduation slide show, but at least I got something for the bowling team.  Not sure I will have time to make it to any other bowlling matches. Unfortunately, I was not able to take action photos of the players that were not able to make it to this match. I may try to get to another bowling match to at least get the other members of the team. Unfortunately, it is getting really busy at the law office (has been for the past few months as well). We'll see how it goes.


Kailiann Tuipulotu

Michael shows good form
Sabrina Armijos finished with a team high 146.

Kailiann looking back at a near Strike

My Two Cents

Hats off to the student-athletes who are participating on the bowling team. The other teams are over 10 strong and they likely can practice more often than the Lunas. Since there are no bowling alleys in Lahaina, I understand they have to drive over to Wailuku to practice. Once a week. Talk about a competitive disadvantage. But they still try. And for now, that's what counts.

Too bad more students don't try out for this sport. Looks like a lot of fun.

Sabrina Armijo's score of 146 was one of the high individual scores for for day, which included participants from Maui High, King Kekaulike and St. Anthony. Good job, Sabrina!

Schedule  (and wife) permitting, I hope to make it to one or more bowling matches to get some of the players that were missing today. We shall see.

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