Painting the Night with Disc Golf

The #2 son's glowing putt approaches the basket. f/3.5, 1/60th of a second, ISO 250

The #2 son's glowing putt approaches the basket. Flashed: f/3.5, 1/60th of a second, ISO 250

I have a confession to make: I’m a woeful flash photographer. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t like how flashed photos look, plus I don’t like fiddling with my external Nikon SB-600, trying to avoid the washed-out look that too much flash often yields. So usually I evade potential flash-photography situations.

Jessica and Eric

Jessica and Eric. Flashed: f/8, 1/60th, ISO 200

But then last Friday night, Jessica, one-half of one of our favorite disc golf couples, decided to throw a surprise birthday party for her fiancé Eric. And it involved night disc golf. As in very little light. As in have to use a flash. As in not a happy camper photographer.

Now Jessica didn’t ask me to take photos. But Eric just happens to be a mentor to the #2 son. Not only is he a fine disc golf player who we happened to meet at the first tournament that #2 played in a year and a half ago, but he’s a wonderful role model. Our whole family (yes, even the #1 son) likes Eric a lot. So how could I not shoot some pix at his party? And the clincher? I figured it would make for great blog material!

Billy, Kelly, and the Mister smile before teeing off.

Billy, Kelly, and the Mister smile before teeing off. Flashed: f/6.3, 1/60th, ISO 320

I decided the best photographic path would be to try to mix up nonflash and flash photos. I put my Nikon 17-55mm lens on my Nikon D300 at the start to take group photos, as well as to document the sky.

The sky before dark. f/4, 1/320th, ISO 400

The sky before dark. Nonflashed: f/4, 1/320th, ISO 400

As it got darker , I switched to my Nikon 50mm lens. With its maximum aperture of f/1.4, it would allow in the most light when I wasn’t using flash.

Discs with glow sticks taped on

Discs with glow sticks taped on. Flashed: f/4, 1/60th, ISO 320

Every disc golf basket had a small light attached to it so the players could see it. Most of the players used discs that had small glow sticks taped on them.

#2 glows Kelly's disc. f/1.4, 1/50th, ISO 800 (The light in the background is from a softball field.)

#2 glows Kelly's disc. Nonflashed: f/1.4, 1/50th, ISO 800 (The light in the background is from a softball field.)

Some of the discs glowed in the dark, but they had to be recharged with a light source. The #2 son had brought a flashlight for that very purpose.

#2 son with his red glow disc

#2 son with his red glow disc. Nonflashed: f/1.4, 1/5th, ISO 250

#2 just had to be a bit different . . . some of his discs actually lit up!

#2 and Sam keep score by the glow of #2's green putter. f/1.4, 1/20th, ISO 640

#2 and Sam keep score by the glow of #2's green putter. Nonflashed: f/1.4, 1/20th, ISO 640

It’s impossible to handhold a heavy camera like the D300 for 1/20th of a second without some blurring, as you can see.

The flashed #2 and Sam. f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 640

The flashed #2 and Sam. Flashed: f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 640

The flash did a better job of making everything look crisp, but I think it looks kinda fake. And definitely not as fun.

The flash captures Patrick's upshot. f/4, 1/60th, ISO 500

The flash captures Patrick's upshot. Flashed: f/4, 1/60th, ISO 500

I experimented with using the flash to stop the action and sometimes was successful. I increased the ISO to throw the flash further.

Sidebar: Disc golf players do not like when the flash goes off near their face. I did not make that mistake twice!

#2's putt towards a darkened basket. f/3.5, 1/60th, iSO 250

#2's putt towards a darkened basket. Flashed: f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 250

Here I didn’t up the ISO enough to allow the flash to illuminate the basket. I did lighten the disc a bit in Photoshop to make it easier to see.

Field of dreams ghost players. f/1.6, 1.6 seconds, ISO 800

Field of dreams ghost players. Nonflashed: f/1.6, 1.6 seconds, ISO 800

After awhile I became intrigued with how the photos looked with handheld, longer shutter speeds. Above, are those ghosts in the park playing disc golf? I really like how the glowing discs paint the night.

Disc golf artistry! f/4, 13 seconds, ISO 640

Disc golf artistry! Nonflashed: f/4, 13 seconds, ISO 640

At the end of the evening, which was around 10:30 p.m., I opened the shutter for long periods of time. Above was the result after 13 seconds, which included moving the camera around. Who knew I could be such an artist?!?

Can you tell this is the #2 son? f/5.6, 30 seconds, ISO 400

Can you tell this is the #2 son? Nonflashed: f/5.6, 30 seconds, ISO 400

You can barely make out the ghostlike #2 son in the middle of this photo. Wearing a blue glow necklace, he was twirling two blue glow necklaces in his hands as I moved the camera. Now this is just wild—it’s disc golf at its prettiest! I ended up having a great time taking photos.

It definitely was fun to paint the night with nonflashed disc golf!!

11 responses to “Painting the Night with Disc Golf

  1. Susan, we can’t thank you enough. Reading your blog entry was a lot of fun too! Kind regards, Jessica

  2. Susan, thanks for documenting the really cool event and for the kind words. Nice camera work. 🙂

  3. Love, love love the photo with the glowing neckware and the softball field lights at the top of the frame.

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