Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shooting Hoops in Lahainaluna's Gym

Shooting basketball at Lahainaluna Gym is a photographer’s nightmare! Horrible lighting. Everything red/orange tone. When playing during the day, harsh sunlight coming through the windows. At night, it seems like we’re playing in a dim lit morgue! I feel like their playing with those dull, brown glowing energy saver fluorescents you get from Costco. They should invest in higher wattage bulbs! What about halogen? That would be nuts! Luckily my D7000 can crank up the ISO’s and my 2.8 lenses can compensate for the lack of light, but too much work in post-production to come up with usable shots!

What I don’t like is the lack of space on the baselines – my preferred shooting area. I love sitting right under the basket and pointing up with my 24-70mm lens. The 70-200 is too long for this short area and I end up with hands, feet, legs, ball all cropped out of the pictures on action under or close to the hoop. My stubby Nikon 50mm f/1.8 can capture all the action, but it’s a prime and the lack of a zoom means a lot of cropping afterward. The 24-70mm is perfect as it captures the entire action under the hoop with just a hint of fish eye-like distortion.

Unfortunately, the 24-70mm that I have, a Sigma that I bought used on Craigslist, isn’t quite doing it for me in terms of sharpness. Plus, on focusing, it tends to focus on the background and or background players, rather than the player in the foreground with the ball. While this is to be expected when shooting a fast moving sport like basketball, it has happened way too often for my liking. At some point, I will either buy a brand new Sigma 24-70 (about $899) or make a splurge and get the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 (about $1889). I really should get the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 for $2,399 if I’m going to spend that kind of money, but my workhorse Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 is still getting it done and I really want to get a better performing 24-70mm lens for the rest of the basketball season. We’ll see. So expensive. I’ll need to sell some of my lenses.

Shooting directly under the hoop has its advantages because (1) the players tend to be going to that point, so you’ll most always get faces, (2) rebounding and shot blocking action are most active in the paint, (3) the camera has an easier time focusing because the background is more solid (as opposed to shooting at an angle or from the side, you get the stands in the background and sometimes the autofocus puts the focus on the people in the seats rather than the player on the floor!), and MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, (4) the referees never plant their fat asses directly under the basket. They usually position themselves to either corner. So shooting directly under the basket is great because rarely do you have to contend with a referee blocking your line of sight!

Unfortunately, because of the small area between the baseline and the wall, sitting on the floor directly under the basket is dangerous – for both the photographer and the players who often come crashing down there on fast breaks. Secondly, the refs don’t want you there because they don’t want to trip over you while they run the baseline. And for tonight’s game, that’s what happened. Ref AJ Roloos asked me to move to the corners. The junk thing about that is that now you have to deal with all the foot traffic of people coming into the game to get to their seats or people walking from their seats to get to the concessions or restrooms.

After a minute of trying to shoot around the tall haole ref (I swear he purposely positioned himself to block my view) I realized I was going to spend the next 75 minutes irritated and frustrated. So I decided to perch myself in the corner bleachers, against the wall so I was not blocking any spectators above me and about 3-4 rows up, so that I could shoot down onto the gym floor and above any people walking below me. Given the situation, that was the best that I could do. At least I could still get faces of players driving in for right-handed layups.

Bottom line is, hopefully no more games up here after this tournament!

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