Category Archives: sports

Safe!

All eyes are on the pitch, which looks a little high.

All eyes are on the pitch, which looks a little high.

Just like with high school baseball, I found myself last Friday with a chance for photographic softball redemption. Our battling Bulldogs were in the first round of the playoffs and needed to win two back-to-back home games after dropping the first one the previous night at the opponent’s home field.

This bunt will lead to speedy Maya being on first base with an infield hit.

This bunt will lead to speedy Maya being on first base with an infield hit.

Because there was a chance of a doubleheader, the first contest started at 5 p.m. Yes, when it actually was light out, and I could use that lovely, wonderful ISO 200. I wasn’t totally disappointed in my previous night-game photos; however, I hoped my quality would improve. Plus I wanted to make sure I captured good shots of our numerous left-handed hitters (like Maya above).

Alyssia slides into third base. Note that the ball is in the fielder’s glove.

Alyssia slides into third base. Note that the yellow softball is in the fielder’s glove.

When you’re behind the fence trying to keep everything in focus through a small hole, you never know what action might be in front of you. You’ve got to be prepared for anything and everything. In this game, which we won 9-5 to force the tiebreaker, there were plenty of slides.

The tag is applied.

The tag is applied.

This is why burst mode was invented. Just got to hold down the shutter button and let the Nikon D610 click away.

Safe!

Safe!

It helps to get the umpire’s call in the photo—it’s the perfect ending to a short photo story.

Callie bears down on the plate as the catcher awaits the throw.

Callie bears down on the plate as the catcher awaits the throw.

Snapping away on the right side of the plate allowed me to get a couple decent action shots. But I was really glad that I had moved to the third-base fence when this sliding series took place.

The tag has yet to be applied.

Looks like she reached it.

With the catcher blocking the plate, our baserunner had to slip in under her to score before the tag.

Score it!

Score it!

Once again, the ump lets us know the final result.

It’s always fun to document a victory for our team. Even better? Getting to watch our girls notch a nail-biting 3-2 win to advance to the next round. Good luck, Bulldogs!

The Photographer’s Psyche

What in the world?!?

What in the world?!?

It’s nice finally being a popular gal in high school . . . even if it is 42 years late. And even if it is a different school.

Of course, I realize that my likability status rises only when I’m toting Nikon equipment. But, hey, I’ll take what I can get!

When I sat down on the hard, wooden bleachers in my sons’ former high school gym last Friday night to shoot volleyball, I saw smiles on friends’ faces and cameras being put down. Then I started snapping away and chimping to check my results.

See the above photo? Those grins would’ve disappeared quickly if anyone else would’ve looked at my Nikon D700’s LCD. Yep, I did capture the ball, but where’s the action? What kind of pathetic excuse for a sports photographer am I?

Carly can dig it.

Carly can dig it.

At first I inwardly groaned and considered a quick exit. But then I remembered why I was at the gym that I had successfully avoided for two years (opting to only shoot the varsity at the better-lit Wheeler Fieldhouse): I wanted to capture good memories for Carly, who is a freshman.

Hannah-Grace spikes.

Hannah-Grace spikes.

As well as a couple other girls who I’ve watched grow up over the years.

Dani K slams the ball over the net.

Dani K slams the ball over the net.

Hard to believe that they’re in high school! Plus they’re so talented!!

The solution to my poor-shooting woes was obvious: I also needed to get my game face on and do a better job.

After the thrilling win, I put my camera down and just watched the junior varsity match, because I didn’t know any of the girls on the team.

Paige passes.

Paige passes.

But then it was time for the varsity to take center stage. I’ve been shooting our high school volleyball for about six years, and we’ve always had good teams.

Erica serves.

Erica serves.

We also have a great fan base that fills the gym and inspires the girls to aspire higher.

An in-your-face block by Erin, Madison, and Erica

Love this in-your-face block!

Which is a good message for action photographers with fragile psyches, too!

The Backlit Photo Challenge

This is a big place.

This is a big place.

When my younger son’s adult bestie Glen gave him a TopGolf gift certificate for his graduation, I knew two things: One, they’d have a blast together, and, two, I wanted to go along. Toting my Nikon D700, of course.

Last Sunday was their last chance to use the gift card for awhile, because Kelly was due to bless Little Glen with a baby brother the next day (welcome, baby Jonas Henry!). It was now or wait a looooong time.

The outside part of TopGolf

The outside part of TopGolf

TopGolf is a deluxe, three-story driving range . . . plus more. The golf bays are outside, with the golfers protected by an overhang. Food and drinks can be served at the bay or inside at the bar or in areas that feature pool, indoor shuffleboard, and big-screen TVs. And it’s fun for all ages.

You can see the available targets on the board.

You can see the available targets on the board.

Golfers can use the facility as a typical driving range or they can compete against friends and/or family in point-scoring games, like hitting targets (the balls are microchipped).

We watched the Canadian Open final round as well as the scoring monitor.

We watched the Canadian Open final round as well as the scoring monitor.

It came as absolutely no surprise that Glen and the kid were up for some friendly competition. Just like when they play disc golf. However, my son had an advantage over his pal: He competed in junior golf, and he still possesses a nice, natural swing. Glen, not so much. Good thing he’s so athletic.

Nice silhouette effect

Nice silhouette effect

When I got to the bay and looked at the 240-yard bright, green space, I knew I’d have a problem with strong backlighting. Sure enough, my first snap of my son with my Nikon 24-70mm lens (great for wide angle and telephoto photo ops) showed that capturing the TopGolf action was going to be a test of my skills.

That stronger light causes the camera’s sensor to expose for the background, severely underexposing the foreground. As in the golfers. Great if you like silhouettes, not so good if you like to see faces. Which I do.

Spot meter with -1 exposure compensation

Spot meter with +1 exposure compensation = meh

So I switched my meter to the spot setting and fiddled with the exposure compensation to add light to the foreground.

Glen with spot metering and +2 EC = still meh

Glen with spot metering and +2 EC = still meh

Fortunately, I had about an hour to try to get decent photos. And I needed just about every tick of the clock.

Honing in on the right setting: Spot meter plus flash and -.67 EC

Honing in on the right setting: Spot meter plus flash and -.67 EC

Finally, I figured out that I had to use the D700’s onboard flash to illuminate the kid and Glen. I rarely use it for action shots, but, then again, I rarely have this kind of a lighting problem. Fortunately, neither of them seemed bothered by the added light. I decreased the exposure compensation to try not to blow out the background so much.

Got it!

Got it!

I also changed my photographic approach. I stopped looking at this as an action assignment, because it was almost impossible to get the club on the ball or follow the ball in the air due to the lighting. Instead, I chose to shoot portraits of the two, which cut out the too-light sky.

The kid got very sweaty.

The kid got very sweaty.

So our TopGolf adventure turned out to be a win-win experience. Glen and the kid had a great time trying to best each other, while I learned to be a more-flexible photographer.

I’d definitely need to clean the windshield.

I’d definitely need to clean the windshield.

Still, I’d much rather shoot facing the players. Maybe next time I can ride in the ball picker-upper!

One-Word Wednesday

Golf balls are gathered from a vending machine.

Range balls are gathered from a vending machine. (Nikon 1 V1 photos)

Golf!

My younger son, the Mister, and I went to a driving range last Monday.

My younger son, the Mister, and I went to a local driving range last Monday.

The kid played junior golf before he switched the ball to a disc.

The kid played junior golf before he switched the ball to a disc.

Thar she goes!

Thar she goes!

March Madness or Gladness?

It’s that time of year!

It’s that time of year!

What a wonderful, long weekend of NCAA basketball upsets we just had! March Madness once again lives up to its name.

With the Mister and our younger son out of town at a disc golf tournament, I didn’t have to share the big-screen Samsung with anyone. Which meant I could work the remote (switching among all four TV stations the games were on) and, especially, the mute button (hate those AT&T commercials with suit guy and the little kids!) as much as I pleased.

It was sheer bliss!

Well, except when my alma mater Illinois failed to knock off Miami last night. Not that I had the Illini winning in my bracket, but I would’ve loved if they had busted it.

Hate all those green X’s.

Hate all those green X’s.

Speaking of brackets, here’s mine so far. Woeful prognostication! Despite that, though, I’m looking very good in the competition against the Mister, the kid, and eight others, mostly because I’m the only one with my Final Four still playing.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’ll live to see Atlanta. But I remain hopeful.

Meanwhile, the Mister is practically out of the competition, because he went with his heart instead of his head and picked Gonzaga to win the title. I didn’t think they’d even make the Final Four.

The real excitement for the three of us, though, is how well Florida Gulf Coast is playing. A relatively new school, this no-name has won two games and is the first 15th seed to make the Sweet 16! Why do we care?

We’ve dropped a few bucks in a random tournament squares pool. Three of our teams—Virginia Commonwealth, Creighton, and South Dakota State—have returned to their studies. But our fourth team is FGCU! I had never heard of them and figured that VCU might be our best shot. But so far FGCU is giving us points.

Maybe we’ll break even for a change!

Football Fun

My younger son launches a throw.

The kid launches the football.

There are few things in life that my younger son likes better than football . . . well, except sitting and watching it on TV. When a game is on, he’ll be running around the family room, football in hand (he got a new one from the Mister for Christmas), quarterbacking his imaginary team.

It always makes me smile . . . except when he won’t pass me the ball (put me in, coach!).

Ricky about to make the catch.

Ricky about to make the catch.

One of the kid’s favorite activities is to play football with his pals. Usually he meets a group of fellow high school seniors on the Club field near our house. However, a few weeks ago, he and his buddy Ricky decided to throw the faux pigskin around in our cul-de-sac as they waited for their friend Jared to come over and play a videogame.

What goes up, must come down!

What goes up, must come down!

I really enjoyed watching them burn off some energy. Plus they didn’t mind showing off for my Nikon dSLR (always a plus!).

Ricky finds his inner lefty.

Ricky finds his inner lefty.

Despite being a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, Ricky is one of my favorites among my younger son’s friends. He’s well-spoken and polite and is never afraid to speak his mind . . . especially when it comes to trashing (good-naturedly, of course) my beloved Cubbies. I forgive him his trespasses.

Jared finally arrives!

Jared finally arrives!

Our association with Jared goes back about five years to the kid’s Little League baseball days. Little did we know way back then that the two would become such good pals in high school. Hopefully, Jared will join my son at Sam Houston State this fall.

Jared hauls in a pass from my son.

Jared hauls in a pass from my son.

Speaking of which, I know that every time I snap pics of the kid and his friends that before long they’ll be off to college. Many, many miles away from my Nikon dSLR and my oft-full tear ducts.

The kid actually hung on to the ball!

The kid actually hung on to the ball!

Which makes me appreciate all the more these little athletic sessions in front of our house among the parked cars. I’m sure I’ll miss them almost as much as I’ll miss my beloved baby boy.

One-Word Wednesday

Faux dunk: My younger son hangs on the rim at his former elementary school, where everything is shorter.

F-unk!

Even my “third son,” Chase, can fake dunk with a short basketball goal!

Which Olympic Sport Would You Choose to Watch?

Let the Games begin!

The Mister posed an interesting, thought-provoking question at dinner last night:

If you could choose only one sport to watch at the summer Olympics, which one would it be?

This led to a lively, very-timely discussion between us, seeing as how the opening ceremonies for the 2012 London Games are tonight, and soccer and archery already have begun play.

The Mister and I have watched the summer and winter Olympics together since 1988. We’ve ooohed and aaaahed over so many special athletic moments and have loved when our sons also have gotten caught up in the excitement. We truly are Olympic fanatics.

So many sports to choose from!

Which brings us back to the Mister’s query. Which athletic event do I prefer above all the rest?

Three quickly come to mind: Gymnastics, swimming, and track and field. Although it’s tempting to pick taekwondo, because the talented Lopez siblings hail from our town of Sugar Land.

Will Ryan Lochte usurp Michael Phelps as the U.S. swimming king?

All three sports share elements of team and individual competition. All fascinate and intrique me due to their talent levels and interesting stories.

The men’s marathon team—Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, and Abdi Abdirahman

But if my feet are held to the fire, and I can only select one, then it would have to be track and field (aka athletics). Our Olympic marathon runners fought for their places here in Houston. The disciplines—from the 100-meter dash to the decathlon—are compelling. I’ve been a so-called runner since 1979—the athletes remind me of what I’m trying to strive for . . . and how short I continue to fall. My younger son enjoyed a brief track career.

Plus I’m allowing myself to include the triathlon as part of the whole kit and caboodle just because I can.

And how about the Mister? Which summer Olympics sport is his one and only?

It really didn’t take him long to decide.

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh will go for the beach volleyball gold again.

Women’s beach volleyball. No surprise there, given that the “uniforms” are bikinis.

Good thing we have multiple TVs!

Air Hockey

My younger son smiles in anticipation of the puck coming his way.

Getting to the movie theater early to see “Contraband” (which I wish we had missed altogether) meant that my sons could check out the arcade and play a game with the lonely dollar that their tightwad mom let escape from her wallet.

My casual older son prepares to pounce on the puck.

They opted for a spirited game of air hockey.

#2 is reflected in the table

It was fun for the Mister and I to watch our competitive guys thwack the floating disc back and forth along the table.

The puck is about to go in the slot.

The action was fast and furious . . . until suddenly there was that ominous “clunk,” signifying that one of them had scored.

Point!

Both of them had almost as much fun celebrating goals as making them. When all was said and done, the elder beat the younger, mostly because little bro knocked several pucks into his own slot. That pre-movie action provided so much laughter for all of us.

You just can’t beat fun at the old air hockey table!

Like Father, Like Son

The Mister shows his muster.

As you well know, my younger son excels at disc golf.

And the Mister plays, too.

They both started learning the sport at the end of 2007. Since then they’ve both improved, of course. It’s just that our little guy got bigger and stronger, while his dad got, well, older. That’s not to say that they don’t enjoy competing in doubles or practicing together. It’s just that our #2 son plays a long, power game, while his shorter-distance-throwing father has to be craftier. Kind of sneak up on the basket.

Keeping an eye on the ball

But now the tables literally have turned. Our little big guy suddenly has become obsessed with table tennis for some reason.

Father awaits the son’s hit.

Guess who’s a prime ping pong player? Yep, the Mister! He started competing years ago, and his skills still are sharp enough to beat most recreational competitors, even though he’s rarely played or practiced.

Returning a shot from Pops

Lately, father and son have been practicing ping pong at the Jewish Community Center in Houston. I tagged along last weekend to document the occasion and photographically battle the atrocious overhead lights that turned everything yellow (especially the top of the Mister’s bald head!).

It was my first time shooting table tennis (I opted for my Nikon D700 and Nikon 85mm lens), and I found it to be a difficult task.

Much like it’s been for my son to beat his father in ping pong . . . so far.