Tag Archives: high ISO

A Long-Pass Pictorial

James corrals the football deep in the end zone.

It’s . . .

He secures the ball and hopes to land in bounds.

a . . .

Check out that right foot—it’s barely in bounds . . . six points for our team!


(Technical information: Nikon D700; Nikon 70-200mm lens; ISO a whopping 3200; shot from the stands of our high school’s football game last Saturday)

The 4 x 400-Meter Relay . . . the Fat Lady Sings!

#2 warms up for the 4 x 400-meter relay by getting some air.

When the #2 son told me how well he had run a 400-meter time trial, finishing as the second-fastest freshman, I really tried to be happy for him. Really.

I slapped on my best fake smile and told him how proud I was of him. Then I turned away and rolled my eyes. Because I knew what breaking a minute in the open 400 meant: The boy would be put on the 4 x 400-meter relay team. As in the final event of the high school track meet. As in the Mister and I would have to freeze until that fat lady sings. Well, if opera was a track event, of course.

Last night was another cold, blustery junior varsity track meet. For a change, there wasn’t any security keeping the momarazzi away. Which meant I could be next to the track for the 4 x 400 relay. Hey, if I’m stuck at a meet until the bitter end, I at least should be able to get some good photos. Of course, by this time it was 7 p.m. and dark. I had switched from my Nikon 70-200mm lens to the 85mm to let in as much light as possible. Still, my ISO was set at 2000 in order to keep a fast-enough shutter speed to avoid blur.

My strategy was to snap pics of the #2 son in and out of the blocks and then hustle my considerable bustle to the exchange zone to try to capture the handoff to his teammate Nick. In less than a minute. Here’s the result:

#2 is in the blocks and eyes the starter.

The gun is up, and the runners are ready.

Out of the blocks and ready to rumble down the track!

Leg #1 is underway!

#2 stretches out and gets the baton to Nick.

Is that singing I hear?!?

Basketball Jones, Part II

Pearl finds the way to the basket is blocked.

Four days later, I went back to that same fieldhouse where I had taken photos of our high school’s boys’ varsity basketball team. This time the girls’ varsity took center stage. I still was equipped with my Nikon D700 and 85mm lens. But I also had some different shooting angles I wanted to try.

Brooklyn looks for a teammate to pass to as she's closely guarded.

As I was driving away from the facility the first time, I was bummed that I hadn’t tried to take any photos from the seats close to the court. I remedied that with the girls. As you can see from the first photo, that was a great vantage point . . . for some of the pix. But too often spectator heads would be in my way.

Natalie attempts a jump shot.

So after the first quarter, I climbed the steps and went to the walkway above the court. From there I could shoot uninhibited.

Auty tries to snag a rebound.

My camera was set for an ISO of 1250-1600 so that I could have a fast shutter speed. As I’ve noted before, I shoot on aperture-preferred mode—I set the aperture (how much light is let in), while the D700 changes the shutter speed. But I make sure that the speed is at least 1/250th of a second (too slow means blurry photos; no one thinks you’re a good photographer with those).

Brooklyn defends her team’s goal.

Back in my previous life, I was a sportswriter in Chicago. My specialty was girls’ high school sports. In the mid-1970s to early 1980s, the girls’ game was starting to take off, but it had a long way to go. I remember sitting through one suburban high school game during the second quarter and thinking, “If there’s one more jump ball, I’m leaving.” Back then, two players tying up the ball meant a jump, unlike now when they just change possession.

Sure enough, the 24th or so tied ball happened, and I just had to walk out. It was so boring!

Lauren goes in for a layup.

That was then. I’m happy to report that our girls’ team and its opponent, which is ranked as one of the best in the area, played just as hard and as physically as the boys did.

Auty and Pearl make a sandwich of the opponent.

The girls don’t work above the rim like the guys, but they’ve got great skills and never quit.

Nicole cans a three-point shot.

My varsity high school basketball shooting jones has been quelled, for now. Next time? I’m going to sit, watch, and be thoroughly entertained!

Basketball Jones, Part I

Ryan leans in for a shot.

The main reason I bought the Nikon D700 was for indoor sports photography. The D700 has a well-deserved (so I’ve found) reputation for being a low-light (nonflash) champ. That capability is important when the ISOs are high, and the court action is fast and furious.

I put the D700 and its low-light action-shooting companion, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens, to the test at two basketball games last week—our high school’s boys’ and girls’ varsity teams both played at the same indoor facility where I shot these volleyball pix (with my Nikon D300 and the 85mm).

Mike is ready to make his move.

What’s great about this facility is that there’s a walkway above the court that brings the play at the basket right below you up close and personal.

Richard takes the ball to the basket.

My ISO was mostly set at 1000–1250, so my shutter speed was fast enough to stop the action.

Austin makes a free throw.

And there was plenty of action to shoot!

Colin tries a close-in jump shot.

The boys play a very quick, physical game.

Mehdi looks for room under the basket.

The defense doesn’t like to budge an inch!

Our defense surrounds the shooter under the basket.

I mostly shot from one end of the court up above.

Ry tries to block the shot.

But the 85mm also did a fine job when the action was at the opposite basket. Thanks to some judicious cropping, I snagged some good close-ups at both ends.

Frank (#15) and Austin try to stop the shot.

I even moved into the stands near the end of the game to get a photo of the coach’s huddle.

Coach Wilson talks strategy with his players.

Yes, the D700 performed admirably!

A 64-63 victory!

And so did our team!

The Non-Delightful Light Battle; Warning: Eyes May Glaze Over


Back in May I wrote about my trials and tribulations with shooting our high school’s dance show in the school’s auditorium. Saturday night found me back in that same location trying to take decent photos of our high school’s play, “Laughing Stock.”

The #1 son and my “third” son Chase wanted to see the play (#1 was determined not to laugh during it), and I decided to tag along (because really what high school senior doesn’t want his mom hanging around with him?). I knew several of the actors, which meant I knew that their moms would like good photos that are impossible to take with a point and shoot.


I tried my best to sit as far away from other people in the audience, because, well, my camera’s shutter is very loud. Especially in a quiet auditorium. Plus I knew I would need to chimp (e.g., check my LCD) periodically to make sure my settings were correct. Those lighted cell phone screens that are annoying in the dark? Well, my LCD monitor looks like a torch in comparison!

I remembered from taking pix of the dance show that the lighting is funky on stage. That’s where exposure compensation comes into play. Exposure compensation (the +/- button) lets you add or subtract light without changing your aperture; it allows you to adjust for the bright lights that are on stage, as well as backlighting outdoors.

Eyes glazing over? Sorry!

I was using my Nikon D700 (which does a wonderful job with high ISOs with Noise Ninja’s help, of course) and beloved Nikon f/1.4 85mm lens to let in as much light as possible (no flash photography necessary). My ISOs ran from 1000 to 2500 when it was pretty dark. At first I tried a mild exposure compensation of –.33 but quickly went to –.7 and –1 to try to darken the effect of the overwhelming overhead stage lights.

Too much light despite an exposure compensation of -1.33.

Too much light despite an exposure compensation of –1.33.

An exposure compensation of –1.33 worked pretty well, but as you can see above, sometimes the photo still was blown out. In this case I quickly chimped and reset the e-c to –1.67.

Alec at -1.67

Alec at –1.67

Wow, what a difference!

The cast works on a scene from "Charley's Aunt."

The cast works on a scene from "Charley's Aunt."

Once I finally got the e-c set to either –1.33 or –1.67, the photos looked pretty good, and I could just snap away.

Christin is somewhere within the smoke.

Christin is somewhere within the smoke.

The negative exposure compensation even worked well when there was smoke on stage.

Trey "kills" Dracul (Cameron) in a coffin as Jonathan (left) and Alec watch.

Trey "kills" Dracul (Cameron) in a coffin as Jonathan (left) and Alec watch.

Photoshop did play a role in getting the best quality out of these photos. Sometimes I had to add more light, while other times I had to darken a little using Levels. Photoshop wins the award for best supporting actor!

Brian is silhouetted by the actors taking their "Hamlet" bows behind him.

Brian is silhouetted by the actors taking their "Hamlet" bows behind him.

“Laughing Stock” is a comedic play about actors who rehearse/perform three summer stock plays (“Dracul,” “Charley’s Aunt,” and “Hamlet”) in a barn in New Hampshire. During the play, the cast performed “Hamlet” in the background behind a mesh screen. It made for interesting photos!

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

All of the actors were extremely talented and put on a very funny performance.

The cast applauds the audience.

The cast applauds the audience.

I’m sure I would’ve really enjoyed the play . . . if I hadn’t been busy compensating for my photographic exposure!

Photo Friday: Meeting the High ISO Challenge

Kaityln tries to spike past Ashley B.

Kaityln M. tries to spike past Ashley B.

When photographers talk about the toughest sport to shoot, one activity in particular gets our Nikons and Canons a-quaking: Volleyball.

Ah, I could wax rhapsodically about volleyball as a sport to play or watch until the Chick-Fil-A cows come home. Believe it or not, I actually played on the volleyball team my freshman year at the venerable University of Illinois (pre-NCAA days) until I realized that I was a much better writer than player. After that, I opted to be the varsity team’s manager, so I could travel with the squad and write about them for the school newspaper (“The Daily Illini” was award-winning back then, but probably not because of my contributions).

Kaitlyn B. jump sets Mary Ellen.

Kaitlyn B. jump sets Mary Ellen.

And watching volleyball? A good match, like the one pictured here featuring our high school versus a fierce rival this past Tuesday night, is like watching poetry in motion. Looks like its choreographed even though it isn’t.

Breezy gets her fingertips on one of the mighty Ashley B.'s spikes, as Kaitlyn M. tries to help.

Breezy gets her fingertips on one of the mighty Ashley B.'s spikes, as Kaitlyn M. tries to help.

But shooting volleyball? Ugh times 150! Hmmm . . . where to start with the reasons why volleyball is so tough to photograph well?

Savannah is ready to pound the ball past the defense.

Savannah is ready to pound the ball past the defense.

First of all, it’s a fast-moving, indoor sport where you often don’t know where the ball is going. PWCs (Parents With Cameras) using a point and shoot? Take a seat on the bench; you’re never going to stop the action. I use my Nikon D300 and the Nikon f/1.4 85mm lens (the f/1.8 model works well, too).

Second, the lighting usually is terrible plus it’s the bulb type that cycles through the color spectrum. It’s hard to get a consistent white balance—some photos look great, others have a little too much magenta, while still others are too yellow. That leads to some frustrating post-processing in Photoshop.

Our team celebrates a good block.

Is it a tribal dance or is our team summoning some voodoo magic?

You need to use high ISOs (almost all these photos are at IS0 1600 and cleaned up with, what else?, Noise Ninja) to help stop the action. Flash isn’t allowed.

Our coach takes a timeout to talk strategy.

Our coach takes a timeout to talk strategy.

Of course, I love a photographic challenge, plus I’ve been shooting volleyball for several years now . . . not that that makes it any easier. This particular match was played at a local fieldhouse with high bleachers and a walkway above the court, not in our dimly lit, small gym (thank goodness!). The view from up top and the side made it easier to get compelling photos.

Our cheerleaders try to motivate our team.

Our cheerleaders try to motivate our team.

My strategy was to shoot from above in basically the same spot for the first two games. That enabled me to get good photos of both teams. Then I roamed around for the final game.

Kelsey W. serves.

Kelsey W. serves.

Normally, I don’t like a lot of shots from behind; I prefer seeing faces. But some of the volleyball action is more interesting from that backside view.

Kaitlyn M. and Mary Ellen signal their teammates.

Kaitlyn M. and Mary Ellen signal their teammates.

Kelsey M. digs the opponent's serve.

Kelsey M. digs the opponent's serve.

Even though volleyball is a photographic challenge, it’s a great sport to watch with wonderful action to try to capture. It may be high-ISO, wacky-lighting action, but it’s still delightful to see!

Friday Night Lights for the Bogus Pro Photographer

My view of the field with my sideline pass

My view of the field with my sideline pass

Guess who got to pretend to be a big-time, fancy-schmancy sideline photographer Friday night? Yep, little ol’ me! In fact, the above photo shows what my view looked like at the boys’ high school’s football game at one of our district stadiums.

Friday night's lights

Friday night's lights

My friend Heather had asked if I would shoot photos for the high school’s booster club’s website. As much as I hate the high ISOs that shooting under the lights at 7 p.m. and later necessitate, I could hardly say no. Not when I have a blog that needs fresh photo fodder five days a week!

Sidebar: Look at the different colors in the lights. It’s little wonder that sports photographers have so much trouble dealing with a consistent white balance. And it’s even worse indoors.

Quarterback Matt rolls out and start his pitch.

Quarterback Taylor rolls out and starts his pitch to his imaginary tailback.

For most of the first quarter before Heather caught up with me to give me the necessary sideline pass, I shot from above the action with my Nikon D300 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. This gave me a great opportunity to eventually contrast the difference between shooting above and at ground level. I captured a good series of photos (at ISO 1600 and f/2.8) in which our quarterback Taylor (Heather’s son) pitched the ball to our tailback Brelynn. It starts above where you have to imagine where Brelynn is (oops!).

Here's Brelynn!

Here's Brelynn!

Welcome to the photo show, Brelynn! Now get going!!

Anthony (28) and Matt are ready to block for Brelynn.

Anthony (28) and Taylor are ready to block for Brelynn.

I really liked the angle from above on these photos. It allows you to see a lot of the action on every play. Now let’s move to the sideline, shall we?

Brelynn tries to escape the defense.

Brelynn tries to escape the defense.

Here’s our buddy Brelynn at ground level trying desperately to avoid being tackled. This was taken at ISO 2000 and, of course, f/2.8, cleaned up by the ever-lovin’ Noise Ninja. As you can see, I could get photographically closer to the action while on the sideline.

Brandon takes a dive, helped by the defense.

Brandon dives forward.

It was easier to isolate on players while shooting along the sideline, but I did have to make sure to stay out of everyone’s way, especially the coaches. Didn’t want to get yelled at by one of them! Oh, and I didn’t want to get run over by any of the players. I only had one close encounter, but it did have me backpedaling the rest of the game!

Tyler tackles the runner.

Tyler tackles the runner.

See number 5? That’s Tyler, a defensive back. The #1 son played Little League baseball with him way back when. He was a good baseball player, too.

Tyler knocks away the pass.

Tyler knocks away the pass.

This was my favorite photo of the evening. Our opponents were getting close to scoring, but Tyler jumped up and knocked the pass away from the receiver. He really played well all night!

Cale smiles.

Cale smiles.

The best part of shooting on the sideline? Getting photos up close and personal of the players, like Cale. As long as they’re not knocking you over when they barrel into where you’re standing!