Shooting Indoor Sports

Hi and welcome to this blog post!

Today’s topic is about how to shoot indoor sports to get high-quality photos.

Sometimes gyms do not offer the light quality that you need to create high-quality photos. So, you need to bring your own light.
It’s no secret that professional sports photographers use strobes to light gyms or arenas. Thanks to Dave Black I learned a lot about that and this weekend I did it the same way.

This weekend’s venue was the GSH Alsfeld, which is one of that dark venues with horrible light. It’s one of the darkest gyms that were ever built.  Here one has to shoot with ISO 10000 and f2.8 to get a shutter speed of 1/320s!
Every photographer gets nightmares when have to cover games that are hold in this gym. The results are mostly not that good – technically – because of the very lame light. And every Monday one can see the grainy, dull and blurry results in the sports section of the local newspapers. Not only bad for the reader but also not that good for the image of a newspaper.

Because I’m not satisfied with such lame photos, I did it the professional way.

While some photographers already brought their own light to dark gyms, they made a mistake by using on-camera flash. There is no worst idea like shooting indoor sports with an on-camera flash because on one hand it disturbs the athletes and on the other hand it offers no good light in terms of a natural look – as direct flash does mostly. That leads me to point #1: Don’t use on-camera flash but off-camera flash.

Professionals are using off-camera flash in terms of sport strobes that are mounted high above the court under the ceiling to illuminate it like lamps do to create a natural light look. Okay, that’s #2: Mount your flashguns/strobes under the ceiling.

It’s a pity that we don’t have such nice catwalks under the ceiling like they have in the USA. That makes it way more difficult to get the lights up there. If there are no catwalks and no ladders that would it make possible to reach the ceiling you have to find another way. Maybe you rent a long ladder from a hardware store or you rent a manlift etc.
But the very first step you should do is: Ask for permission! Ask the teams, ask the housekeeper and everyone else who is involved in decision making. Also make a contract to play it safe.
Apropos “safe”: Safety comes first! Secure your installations and make sure that if something brakes no one gets hit.

As you can see you have to arrange a lot in the first place before you are able to mount your lights. Maybe that’s the thing why in Germany there are just a few photographers using sport strobes. Effort is a big obstacle in an age where time is more money than ever.

Anyway, I made all that arrangements before and on Saturday I was ready to install the lights under the ceiling. I made all the installations early that day and went there at 10 o’clock in the morning. The first game was at 4.30 p. m.


As always I made a plan. Finally, I installed one flash in the upper left corner and another one in the lower middle. During the game I positioned myself in the lower left corner. That’s the typical light setup that causes a fill flash and a backlight.

I put the flash on the left (see the image above) to the left corner and used it as a backlight:

As strobes I used only two NIKON SB-800 Speedlights. The benefits are that they are light and portable and don’t need an external power supply. As Dave Black says in his workshop videos, the Speedlights have plenty of power and due to FP sync very short shutter speeds are possible. That means I can freeze all the action and can blend the available light with the flash light so that no ghosting appears like it would be with the typical sport strobes.

Because the SB-800 just sends the infrared signal up to 20 meters and a line of sight is needed, I used the RadioPopper wireless triggers. They allow me to trigger the Speedlights without a line of sight and from a distance of 400+ meters.

Finally, the difference between available light shots and flash light shots are amazing! Thank’s to the very clean high ISO of the D3, I can use ISO 5000 to realize a shutter speed of 1/640s which is okay for Basketball. The flash light cleans the high ISO and the result is a clean photo with a good contrast, saturation, more detail and frozen action.

Using available light:

Using flash:

As you can see, it’s worth the effort to make all these arrangements and installations. As for my part I use flash whenever it is possible.

Bye!
Chris

Shooting Motocross

Hi and welcome to this post about shooting Motocross in a professional way.

As you know, I’m working on a sports project this year. I started with swimming in March and proceeded to motocross in April, then to track and field in May and in fall/winter I will shoot volleyball and other indoor sports.

Today I want to show you a professional way to shoot motocross scenes.

Mostly the problem of shooting motocross is a blown out sky and black faces caused by long shutter speeds to reveal the rider from shadow caused by backlight. Also if you shoot with the light you have often these problems.

Available light shots often don’t offer the possibility to shoot with high shutter speeds to freeze the action so that especially the wheels of the motorcycle show motion blur. You will need at least a shutter speed around 1/2500s to freeze the motion. But when there is not enough available light you have to reduce the shutter speed and that results in a blown out sky and motion blur.
Finally, the typical available motocross image looks like the following.

Image 1: (Photo: GOGO Visual (Creative Commons: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)))

As a perfectionist I have a professional approach. That means that I want great images that contrast from competitors. So, I have to think about a solution to get better images than the other photographers. In the case of motocross images I have to solve the blown out sky problem, the contrast problem and the dark face problem plus the motion blur problem.
All these problems have one basis: LIGHT. If light causes these problems, it will also solve them. The point is that I just have to use it for my purposes.
I cannot adjust the sun and I cannot blind the riders by using a reflector – so, I need my own adjustable light – FLASHLIGHT.

I know that there are photographers out there who are using flash for sports coverage  no more because they got more kicks than half-pence when they used flash. Just because they weren’t able to use it in the right way. Maybe they shot straight away with an on camera flash at full power, disturbing and blinding athletes don’t knowing that there is the ability to use iTTL and off-camera flash. What a pity! Maybe they blew down athletes and therefore got beef. Finally, it’s no surprise that indoor sports are shot with ultra high ISO that causes grainy sports images and bad contrast and color. So, it’s also important to know technical details about photography.
But using flash at daytime – outdoors?! Is that possible? It is, indeed. You just need a vision, knowledge about current solutions and technology. 😉

As a “Nikonian” I’m using the NIKON SB-800 flashgun. Here I can use FP-Sync to get shutter speeds up to 1/8000s. That enables me to blend available light and flash light also at daytime. A fast sync speed takes more power so I need much more flashes. I tried four NIKON SB-800 Speedlights. Another advantage is that because I can effectively blend available light and flash light I don’t disturb or blind the athletes. That’s because I don’t need that giant flash that makes the flash light the primary light. Typical flash solutions have a maximum sync speed of 1/250s so they must be brighter than the ambient light to prevent blurring. But with FP-Sync I don’t have that requirement. Of course, it’s that easy!

Because motocross is not static I need a portable solution. So, let’s see what’s possible.
Building a portable flash solution that offers enough flash power isn’t a problem. There are already solutions on the market.
As I already said, I’m using the NIKON SB-800 Speedlight. The great thing about it is that they have plenty of power plus the NIKON Creative Lighting System (CLS). It allows you to combine as many flashes as you want and adjust their power output separately and control and trigger them wirelessly.
I trigger the Speedlights via the NIKON SU-800 Commander wirelessly over a distance of 20 meters. To get a greater distance I’m using the RadioPopper PX System. With this solution I can trigger the Speedlights from more than 400 meters away. The RadioPopper transmitter converts the infrared signal from the SU-800 to a radio signal and the RadioPopper receiver converts this radio signal back to an infrared signal for the SB-800.
For my portable flash solution I’m using  four Speedlights and put them on SuperClamps which I mounted on a Monopod. To trigger all SB-800s I’m using one RadioPopper receiver. It’s connectet with the Speedlights via a black box and optic fibre cable.

Image 3: DIY Quadlight with RadioPopper solution

On location my assistant controls the light by adjusting the DIY Quadlight into the right direction and following the motorcycle.

Image 4: DIY Quadlight in action

Using flash solves all the problems named above. Thanks to FP-Sync I can use 1/2500s to freeze the action. I also have enough light to reveal the rider from backlight and shadow. And my images are rich in contrast without post processing.

Image 5: The high-quality result

Finally, I can create high-quality images without time-consuming post processing, plus: I contrast from my competitors that just have the typical motocross images that maybe need some time-consuming post processing. While they are sitting in front of the computer editing their images, I have already sent my images of the motocross race to the newspapers and sold some images to the riders and fans on location. The early bird gets the worm. 😉

Bye!
Chris

Shooting Car Interiors – In An Improvised Studio

Hi and welcome to this blog post about how to shoot a commercial-like car interior photo in an improvised studio.

! Before I will come to the topic, I want to note that I will publish blog posts in a regular basis from now on – every 1st and 3rd Sunday of a month.

Okay, lets start.

A few month ago, I made my first try on car photography in a more professional and commercial-like way.
Except that I love to drive cars and think that tuning them discreetly is necessary I’m not a real car fan. However, my interest on this field of photography grew because of my ambition to shoot portraits of people in a context to their interests. I started with my grandpa and his 1956 BMW motorcycle and when my cousin Anna-Lena will get her drivers license I also want to take a photo of her and her first car etc. I don’t just want to take an usual photo but something special. To me that “something special” is a commercial-like looking image – shot with professional techniques and camera systems to get high-quality. That’s my approach in all fields of photography that I’m active in. I just love that commercial look and the high-quality.

After I shot an Audi A4 from outside a few months ago, I wanted to take an interior shot this time. Therefor I used a 5er BMW.

At the Audi shoot I recognized that I would need a much bigger white surface to bounce off the flash to flood the car with 5000K warm light.
For the interior shot I built an improvised studio in the garage. The garage was renovated a few years ago and is shiny white now. Because I only wanted to shoot the cockpit of the BMW I would only need three white walls that surround it. I hung up a white plastic blanket to hide the work bench and to have also a plain white surface in front of the car.


Finally, I had three white walls to bounce off the flash to illuminate the car interior with diffuse light.
The wrinkles on the blanket don’t matter because the flash will lighten it up so strong that you won’t see any of the wrinkles in the final image.
Then I drove in the car and began to mount the Nikon Speedlights. I mounted one Speedlight on every roof rail and adjusted it so that its light would bounce off the ceiling and wall. A third Speedlight I just set in the middle of the car roof – it would illuminate the ceiling and blanket in front of the car. Finally, the cockpit would be illuminated from all three sides by a diffuse light.


In the next step, I set up the camera inside the car on the back seat. To have more working space I expanded the trunk by turning down the back seats.
I used a small tripod and arranged it in the right position – in the middle of the car.
To control the Speedlights I used the Nikon SB-800 Commander and set them to manual power. The Speedlights on the left and right were set to group A and the one in the middle to group B – all with an power output of 1/1 and zoomed to 14mm to spread the light as much as possible to flood the cockpit with soft 5000K warm light.
My Nikon D3 was also set to manual mode and I used a Tamron 10-24mm/4.5-5.6 lens.


I thought it would take a bit more of lighting arrangement but right after the second shot the whole shoot was done. Here’s the result:


Very commercial-like.
The white windows an mirrors are easy to select with the Photoshop “Magic Wand Tool” to insert a scenery or whatever.

I gave it a try and inserted the Skyline of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


However, the next time I will create a 100% realistic car interior image without photoshopping the windows and mirrors …
So, maybe you want to turn your garage into a car studio now, too … Have fun!

Bye!
Chris

Portable Solutions

Hi there!

I really like the opportunities of modern photography. There are a lot high-tech and great mounting solutions available for photographers nowadays.

An example:
Today I was looking for a portable flash solution for such as sports coverage. To shoot high-quality sports images in gyms it needs good light. And what provides good light in dark gyms with little available light? You said it! Strobes.  These strobes have to be mounted up high under the ceiling to create a good illumination. Here one needs a small portable solution because there’s often not that much time (especially here in Germany) and opportunities to make an extensive installation with wires all over the place. So I assembled a flash thing which can be mounted easily and nearly everywhere. The mounting basis is a SuperClamp. I equipped it with two Spigots, two Novoflex P19, two SB-800s, a Black-Box and a RadioPopper receiver. Finally, it needs just a few turns to mount the SuperClamp and a few turns to adjust the SB-800s in the right angle. Really easy to use and effective for sports coverage in small halls.

It’s just an application example. There are tons of other possible applications – I’d say it’s like Fisher Price. Built this or that with one and the same parts.
I love it!

Bye!
Chris

Ein Sommer-Shoot

Nach unzähligen Klausuren und einer Menge Lernstress habe ich mich heute nach der drittletzten Klausur endlich mal wieder der Fotografie widmen können. In den letzten Wochen kamen mir viele Ideen, die ich nach den Klausuren auch Stück für Stück umsetzen will.
Heute habe ich begonnen, eine der ersten Ideen zu realisieren: Ein Portrait in einem Getreidefeld während die Sonne untergeht. Dabei sollte es so realistisch wie möglich wirken, allerdings gingen mir die CTOs für die Blitze aus, so dass der beleuchtete Hintergrund von der Farbtemperatur her stark abweicht (5000 Kelvin). Dahingegen habe ich die Blitze für das Model per CTO auf ca. 10.000 Kelvin modifiziert, um das warme Licht des Sonnenuntergangs zu imitieren. Naja,  es war mehr eine spontane Aktion, da der Himmel gerade so passend schien – das soll jetzt aber keine Entschuldigung sein. 😉
Nachdem das Equipment zusammengerafft war, haben wir uns ins Auto geschwungen und sind ins Feld gefahren. Dann musste alles ganz schnell gehen, bevor die Sonne hinter dem Wald verschwand und mit ihr das warme Licht. Der Aufbau war wie folgt:

Ich habe bei jedem Blitz die Leistung manuell geregelt, weil ich die volle Kontrolle wollte. Die zwei SB-800 fürs Model habe ich Gruppe A und den SB-800 für den Hintergrund Gruppe B zugeordnet, um das Licht variabel steuern zu können. Die SB-800 fürs Model habe ich außerdem mit den Bouncern bestückt – für ein weicheres Licht. Habe hier auf Softboxen oder Schirme verzichtet, weil schneller. Der SB-800 für den Hintergrund war auf 35mm gezoomt, um das Licht etwas zu streuen.
Kameraeinstellungen waren auch alle manuell. Als Objektiv habe ich ein Sigma 24-70/2.8 verwendet. Alles in Allem kein kompliziertes Setup, aber: weniger ist eben oftmals mehr – wie das Ergebnis beweist:

Bis demnächst.

Chris