Tag Archives: Nikon 1.4x teleconverter

An Action-Packed Disc Golf Season Ends

Sam flies a putt towards the basket.

Normally when I shoot disc golf, I’m all about the action. Well, that and any nature that happens to pop up along the way for my Nikon 105mm macro lens.

But with the six-month Southwest Handicap Mini disc golf series finally coming to a close last week, I made two key decisions: First, I opted to use my Nikon 70-200mm lens (while later lamenting that I hadn’t added my Nikon 1.4x teleconverter to it for more length, darn it) on my Nikon D700.

Marcus, Steve, the kid, and Randall

That gave me the flexibility I needed for that second decision: To take group shots during this final 18-hole round at Tom Bass Park.

Ace series director Eric, Sam, Ryan, Billy, and Cory

I rarely stop the guys to gather for my lens, because, well, I pride myself on being a sports photographer. It’s fairly easy for any point-and-shoot camera to snap decent smile-and-say-horseradish (guaranteed to make people laugh) pics. So me using the big equipment for those kinds of photos seems silly.

Adam, Daniel, and Hiral

Plus I hate breaking the players’ momentum during the round. After all, they’re shooting for money and pride.

Christian, Evan, Mike, and Casey

But I really wanted to fully document the season finale, and that meant stopping all those handsome guys (including my beloved baby boy) and asking them to smile for me. Only 19 players qualified for the finale out of 79 who threw round plastic at metal baskets during the series’ 28 weekly tournaments (a minimum of 12 showings was necessary).

Of those 19, 16 battled the wind, their nerves, and the setting sun to earn cash and the title of champion. That turned out to be . . .

Daniel putts from behind a tree.

. . . the vastly improved Daniel!

Glad I was able to capture it all!

The Non-Disc Golf Side of Texas States

An ibis ignores a disc golf basket.

Having photography A.D.D. means that when I shoot something like the Texas State Disc Golf Championship, my focus always is wandering. Literally.

These huge weeds were very distracting.

It certainly doesn’t help that disc golf courses are in parks.

Love this gorgeous color!

All that beautiful nature competes with the disc throwers for my photographic attention.

A skipper poses for a few seconds.

It’s not as easy to get up close and personal with nature without my Nikon 105mm macro lens, but my Nikon 70-200mm plus 1.4x teleconverter usually was up to the task.

Standing tall and alone

It was a good thing that there weren’t bluebonnets and Indian blankets among all that flora.

The yellow and purple make a pleasant contrast.

Otherwise, I might have snapped very few disc golf photos!

Achieving Disc Golf Photography Goals

My #2 son lasers in a putt.

When I shoot a big disc golf tournament like last weekend’s Texas State Championship, I keep several goals in mind. The first? Always get a few good pics of my younger son. You never know when colleges will start doling out disc golf scholarships, asking for visual proof of expertise.

That probably will happen right after I win the Mrs. America title.

Eric shows off his perfect putting balance.

Next, I try to snap good photos of our friends.

Glen’s cap is so stylish!

Could be they’ll need pix for their scrapbooks.

Will Casey’s jump putt be successful?

After that, I look for compelling shots that will help tell the story of the tournament, which was held at Tom Bass Park in Houston.

Jimmy keeps his eyes on the prize.

I used my Nikon 70-200mm lens with a Nikon 1.4x teleconverter so I could really zoom in on the action.

Open women’s winner Valarie tees off.

Finally, I wanted to snag some strong shots of the pros for “Disc Golfer” magazine. In the women’s competition, Valarie Jenkins had a huge lead, so it was easy to concentrate on her.

Catrina putts.

I did need to take photos of Catrina Allen, too, because the Mister thinks she’s cute.

My favorite photo: Paul putting

The open men’s competition was nip and tuck, with the lead changing constantly. I’ll admit I was rooting for Paul Ulibarri, because this pic of him would look sweet on a magazine cover.

Cale tees off.

But in the end it came down to Cale Leiviska canning a putt on the final hole to win by one stroke over Will Schusterick. It was so exciting!

After the tourney, I felt I had achieved all my goals. And Cale?

The champ!

He walked away happy, too!

The Birdarazzo Strikes Again!

Four Roseate spoonbills eat breakfast.

Earlier this week as I was enjoying my morning walk on our community’s bike path, I kept looking into the bayou near by. More like a long creek, the bayou often is abuzz with activity from its inhabitants, which mostly are turtles, snakes (ugh!), and birds. Usually those water-type birds are egrets, and I did see a couple of those long-legged beauties.

I love the spoonbills’ reflections!

Then I looked up ahead and suddenly spotted a wing in the air. A pink wing! I quickened my stride until I came upon four pinkish birds enjoying their early-morning meal contained within the murky waters. At first glance, they looked like flamingos. But then I saw their rounded bills. These were Roseate spoonbills!

Where does one spoonbill start and one end?

Spoonbills inhabit the Gulf coast region, but we don’t see them very often in our bayou. The times I had seen them, of course I didn’t have a camera with me. This time I was fairly close to my house, so I ran home to get my Nikon D700 and Nikon 70-200mm lens with the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter for extra reach. And I also grabbed my monopod to help keep everything steady.

When I returned, the spoonbills hadn’t moved very much, so I set up on the bike path and started shooting. I especially liked the great reflections from the pinkish birds.

Oh, oh! I’m busted!

I was having a great time snapping away, when suddenly one of the birds looked back at me.

Then a couple more spoonbills stared me down.

Okay, okay! I get the message. The birdarazzo isn’t welcome here. It was time to walk away from the spoonbills.

A reflective white egret

Strolling along the path back to my house, I saw an egret quietly enjoying the bayou water. I once again set up my equipment and started snapping away, enjoying the reflections.

Oh, oh! Busted yet again!!

Until the bird turned and stared straight at me. Oh, if looks could kill!

I quickly realized that the bayou fauna prefers to eat in peace.

I think I’ll go back to shooting flowers . . . at least they don’t complain!

Pomp, Circumstance, and the Photographic Graduation Challenge

My #1 son walks to his seat accompanied by “Pomp and Circumstance.”

As the venerable “Pomp and Circumstance” starts filling the huge cavern known as Houston’s Toyota Center, I feel myself starting to get misty-eyed. Afraid that the awful ugly cry is on my personal horizon, I quietly admonish myself. “Grow a pair!” I think; now isn’t the time to make it hard to focus on taking photos.

#1 stands out for having four years of perfect attendance.

Last Friday was a date that I really hadn’t thought about over the past 18 years . . . until my #1 son and I started looking at colleges his junior year. High school graduation just doesn’t seem real, as you’re working on moving from velcro to learning to tie shoelaces, reading chapter books, learning equations, discovering where the Amazon River is, and understanding chemical reactions.

And then, out of the blue, you’re in the venue where the Houston Rockets play basketball watching your son being honored among only several others of the 520 graduates who had four to six years of perfect attendance (aka, the Mom award). It almost was surreal.

Jessika spots her mom Sue and me in the stands.

As you might expect, I was as worried about meeting the photographic challenge of shooting in a large building after 6 p.m. as I was getting my #1 son to the ceremony on time. I was able to scout out a diagram of the Toyota Center and, knowing that the graduates would walk across the stage from right to left, I pinpointed two sections (119 and 120) that might be best for shooting. The Mister, our #2 son, and I were able to snag seats in 119 next to my good friend Sue, and it proved to be a great angle for snapping pix of the grads.

My “third son” Chase chats up our school district’s superintendent.

Both sections looked fairly far from the stage, though, so I decided to use my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens with the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter. Because I would be losing a stop of light (from f/2.8 to f/4), I opted for that low-light champ, the Nikon D700, instead of the D300, which has a crop factor that lets you zoom in even closer.

My #1 son is congratulated by our principal.

The D700 turned out to be an excellent choice, because my ISO started at 1600 in order to not blur the action and ended up at 2500. What was disappointing for me was that I failed to account for the keylights shining down on the graduates; it wasn’t until after #1 walked across the stage that I figured out that I needed to use negative exposure compensation to tone them down. Photoshop helped, but too many of my photos were a bit overexposed. Live and learn!

#1 warmly greets our associate principal where the lighting is more even.

I was so busy snapping and chimping that I didn’t have time to get emotional. Which was a good thing given that ever-looming possibility of the ugly cry.

#1’s tassel has moved to the left: It’s official!

The ceremony moved along at a decent-enough clip, given the 500-plus graduates to acknowledge. It was fun watching kids we had known from elementary school looking so grown up as they walked across the stage to fulfill their destiny as high school graduates. Kindergarten graduation was cute and fun, but this was so much more meaningful.

Texas A&M-bound Karan and my #1 son

Speaking of kindergarten, it was great capturing photos of my #1 son after the ceremony with a couple friends he’s had since the beginning of school. One was Karan, who has always been one of our favorites.

Best friends forever! #1 and Chase

The other one, of course, was my “third son,” Chase. What a proud moment for me to see my two “sons” standing side by side with their robes on, looking so darned handsome. Regular readers know that Chase is practically a member of our family; at times he seems to live with us. So it seemed that the right thing to do when my brother-in-law snapped a family photo of us . . .

Our family!

. . . was to include him, too!

Congrats to both of my high school graduates! May the big dreams you hope to accomplish come true. We’re so proud of both of you!!

Disc Golf Drives Home a Photographic Point

Shane lets the disc fly!

Location, location, location! As I’ve written before, where you stand with your camera can influence the quality of your photos.

Ryan is about to throw off the hill.

Of course, sometimes you’re just stuck in a certain place and can’t improve your photographic point of view. But when you can, it pays big dividends.

Patrick’s drive is on its way to the land below.

Recently I took photos at the Texas State Disc Golf Championship at Tom Bass Park near Pearland. After awhile, all disc golf photos look the same . . . yes, even the ones of my beloved #2 son. So on the second day of play, I looked for a unique location that hopefully would yield more-interesting pix.

A long drive is what Justin is hoping for.

I found one at the highest part of the course, a hill that included a basket for one hole, tee boxes for two more, and a great spot to snap the action on Texas States’ hallmark Texas hole (look for photos tomorrow!).

Mike looks like he’s about to take flight, too!

Trying to get good drives off the hill required decent burst-mode timing by me and lots of climbing by my old legs. I would shoot the putts at the basket on the hill and then hustle to the next hole and billy goat down the mound to a spot where the disc golfers were overhead. I was using my Nikon 70-200mm lens with the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter to give me more reach.

Des puts her all into her drive.

After awhile, I experimented with moving to various spots on the hill.

Darrell lets the disc rip.

I liked the overhead shots the best, but snapping from different angles also yielded some good pix.

Reggie watches his disc fly.

I prefer seeing faces in my photos, but I just had to shoot from behind the players to try to catch the disc flying through the air. This caused an exposure problem, with the brightness of the sky contrasting with the dark clothes of the players. But I do like the result.

The next day I must admit that my legs were killing me! All that up and down just to try to get better photos?

Ta-da!

It was well worth it! But please pass the Bengay!

Timing Is Everything

Bo is about to field the catcher’s throw too late to tag the runner, who has stolen third base.

Timing is everything in life. And photography! Especially action photography.

Recently I took my Nikon dSLR to our high school to knock the rust off my baseball-shooting skills, which have been dormant since I shot Little League last summer. Our sophomore team, consisting of freshmen and second-year players, was facing our rival high school. I opted to add my Nikon 1.4x teleconverter to my Nikon 70-200mm lens to give me more reach. Necessary because the field is so big, and I was shooting behind the fence.

Sidebar: If you have the chain-link fence in your photos, that’s a big, old bulls-eye that you’re an amateur. Here’s the trick to making that metal disappear: Put your lens on or close to the fence so that you’re shooting through one of the holes. It helps to have the lens hood on for protection. Do that, and you can take 10 steps up on everyone’s photog respect ladder! Just be sure to keep your focus point on the action and don’t let it stray back to the fence.

Nate rears back.

Fortunately, the opposing team’s pitcher, Nate, was left-handed. So he was facing where I was standing.

Nate at the top of his motion.

It’s makes for a more-compelling photo if you can see the pitcher’s face and full motion.

Nate delivers the pitch toward the plate.

As always, burst mode is your BFF for getting the pitched ball in the final photo.

First baseman Eric is ready for a pickoff play.

Our pitcher, Pablo, tried to keep the runners close to first base by making several pickoff attempts. I had seen him throw over before this photo was taken, and I wanted to be ready if he did it again.

Here comes the pickoff attempt!

I manually prefocused my lens on the base to keep the action in focus.

The tag is too late.

The runner was safe, and I was able to capture all of the dirt-in-the-face action, because of that prefocusing.

Chris slides into third base.

My favorite photos of the day were burst-mode series, like the pickoff attempt and this one involving our leftfielder, Chris. Would he beat Justin’s tag at third?

Justin is lost in Chris’ cloud of dust!

I love how the photo captures the amount of dirt and dust Chris kicked up! But we can’t tell yet if Chris was safe or out.

Justin shows that he has the ball.

The catcher seems to be signaling that Chris is out.

The ump makes the final decision.

But the ump has the final say-so: Chris is safe!

You can see in the photo that Chris has his head down and doesn’t see the call being made.

Yes, you're safe!

Yes, Chris, you were safe. Great timing!

The Many Facets of a High School Homecoming Football Game

NEW-#8538-(break-from-dawg)

Our football players stream out of the mouth of a huge, inflatable bulldog (our school mascot).

When I think back to my high school’s Homecoming football games, I must admit I kind of draw a blank. Oh, I remember the pregame parade down Waukegan’s main street, and I seem to recall the downtown businesses’ windows being decorated. But as for the games? I got nothing. Could be because we had a bad football team!

Homecoming for my sons’ high school was last Saturday. Because we don’t live in a small town with only one high school, there aren’t any pregame parades. But we do have our share of traditions, which, like a diamond, has many facets.

#8471-(audrey-alex)

Homecoming queen and king: Audrey and Alex

Our pregame activity featured the crowning of the Homecoming queen and king who would reign at that evening’s dance. They were Audrey, who is currently ranked #3 in my #1 son’s class and the band’s drum major, and Alex, who is an orchestra kid. Both seem like great role models.

#8571-(seniors)

Some of the seniors stand together.

The seniors had to be contemplating this penultimate football contest. There would only be two chances left to win a game this season.

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Instruments up at kickoff!

The band was ready to cheer on the football team musically.

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The Angels' pom poms are waving.

Our dance team, the Angels, had their pom poms in the air.

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Flipping for our team!

#8372-(cheer-flip-2)

Still flipping!

The cheerleaders were head over heels about leading cheers.

#8732-(michael,-reid,-cody,-hunter)

Michael, Reid, Cody, and Hunter

The freshman fans (who did not include the #2 son, who was disc golfing) were all smiles. Well, except for tough guy Hunter. Could that be because he knew I was cutting off part of his head?

#8682-(lynch-flying-tackle)

Kevin makes a flying tackle.

And then there was the action on the field. Even though we were playing an opponent that already had qualified for our district and the state playoffs, our team kept the game close.

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Victor hauls in a pass for a big gain.

At one point we even were ahead, thanks to great catches like this one by Victor.

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Taylor W. gets the pass off before getting clobbered.

Our sophomore quarterback, Taylor W., had the offense on the move.

#9036-(lazarou-hayward-celeb)

Coach L high-fives Zak after a fumble recovery.

The defense also was playing mighty tough.

#8861-(cl_chase_tubarefl)

Both bands combine for an electric halftime show.

Some of the highlights photographically for me included, first, the halftime show when I was able to capture my “third son,” Chase, playing his bass clarinet. Our band joined with our opponents’ to put on an electric performance that featured a tribute to Michael Jackson.

#9052-(taylor-j-tackle)

Taylor J. puts the hurt on the opposing ballcarrier.

Second, I had set my goal to take lots of photos of a couple seniors whose moms are my friends. Taylor J. had an outstanding game! I was able to capture a series of shots of him tackling a ballcarrier.

NEW-#9067-(eric-blocks)

Eric is ready to block.

I especially wanted to get some great shots of Eric, because he helped the #1 son get a 97 on his catapult in Physics. Photographic payback time!

#9143-(banjo-skies-for-pass)

Victor tries to outjump the defender for a potential winning touchdown pass.

Like that diamond, our high school Homecoming football game had a mixture of glimmering and flawed features. There were thrills and chills galore. But late in the game with our team behind 17-13 and less than a minute left, we discovered the final facet of that gem.

#9144-(missed-pass)

The ball tumbles away out of bounds.

There has to be one winner and one loser. But even though our team had the smaller number on the scoreboard, we still walked away with our heads held high. Our last chance to win a game? Saturday night! Go, Dawgs!

Sinking or Swimming Photographically

Please lift your head so I can identify you!

Please lift your head so I can identify you!

Action photographers often opine that volleyball is the toughest sport to shoot, and I wouldn’t argue with that. Poor lighting and fast action with the ball going every which way but where your focus is. Yep, volleyball is a photographic toughie.

Please breathe on the OTHER side!

Please breathe on the OTHER side!

But then where does that leave swimming? Heads in and out of the water, breathing on the side you’re not shooting from, arms blocking faces, impossible angles, can hardly identify any of the swimmers. Oh, and don’t forget the humidity! Shooting swimming definitely can be a tough, sweaty proposition, too.

Luisa dives in to start her butterfly race.

Luisa dives in to start her butterfly race.

But if you get lucky like I did and photograph an outdoor meet, as I did recently for our high school’s swim team, you’re bound to get clear faces captured at the peak of action. Well, until the light starts to fade during the meet-ending relays.

Emily powers through the backstroke during the individual medley.

Emily powers through the backstroke during the individual medley.

I also was fortunate that the venue had a balcony to shoot from. I used my Nikon D700 (the better to capture those high ISOs as the sun was setting), along with my beloved and much-used Nikon 70-200mm lens. I added the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter for much of the meet to give me more reach. Where’s that 400mm lens when you need it?!?

Allie heads for the end of the pool in the freestyle.

Allie heads for the end of the pool in the freestyle.

Here’s a tip for parents who want to make sure that photographers know which swimmer is their child: Have your kid wear distinctive goggles. I always could tell which swimmer was Allie (shown above) by her pinkish eyewear.

Johnny flies through the water during a relay.

Johnny flies through the water.

A swim meet is kind of like a three-ring aquatic circus. There might be one or two swimmers from your high school in one heat, one in another, and none in a third. Athletes are hurtling through the air from the blocks, powering through the water, and there’s little down time from one event to another. Snap city all the time.

Amanda

Amanda stays ahead of her competitor in the free.

As long as all the water in that aquatic circus stays away from me and my photo equipment, I’m glad to document it!

Zach is on his way to an easy victory in the 100 free.

Zach is on his way to an easy victory in the 100 free.

While I was snapping away, hoping the swimmers would breathe on my side and trying to time my shutter so I could capture their faces, I couldn’t help but think how much easier it is to shoot cross-country on a nice fall day. And so much easier to identify the athletes!

Jessica splashes towards the end of her freestyle race.

Jessica splashes towards the end of her freestyle race.

But, as always, it was fun trying to meet the photographic challenge before the darkness and dim pool lighting made it impossible to get good pix. Even though I did sink at times with my shots, I found that it all went swimmingly in the end.

High School Football: A Touchdown and Lightning

Brelynn protects the football, as he runs for a short gain.

Brelynn protects the football, as he runs for a short gain.

Looks like it’s high school sports week at the old blog corral! So far I’ve posted photos of high school cross-country and volleyball; today it’s football’s turn.

Here in Texas, football reigns supreme. Especially the high school variety. It’s a Friday night under the lights (Saturday, too!) kind of religion that’s played out in stadiums all across this huge state I live in.

Harold (number 14) and Tyler (5) are ready to defend.

Harold (14) and Tyler (5) are ready to defend.

Last Saturday night the Mister, the #2 son, and I joined #2’s friend Cody and his dad and went to the boys’ high school’s football game. We weren’t expecting our team to do well, because it had been picked to finish dead last in the district. But we go to watch the marching band (especially our “third son” Chase) and dance team as much as we do the football action, so we were psyched about this opening-season contest.

Quarterback Taylor rolls out, looking for a receiver.

Quarterback Taylor rolls out, looking for a receiver.

I brought my Nikon D300 and Nikon 70-200mm lens to document the action. With the game starting at 7 p.m., I hoped it would be light enough to use my Nikon 1.4x teleconverter to give me extra reach from the stands. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, because it was overcast. I needed every bit of the 70-200’s f/2.8 aperture to get my shutter speed up high enough at ISO 1600 to stop the action. (Noise Ninja did a great job cleaning up the high-ISO noise, as usual.)

I was lucky enough that I was sitting on the right side in the bleachers when our team scored a touchdown near the end of the first quarter.

Anthony skies to corral the ball.

Anthony skies to corral the ball.

Our quarterback, Taylor, rifled the ball to Anthony, who leaped to corral it in the end zone.

Anthony secures his treasured touchdown.

Anthony secures his treasured touchdown.

Anthony then secured the ball for the first touchdown of the game.

Our team is winning so far!

Our team is winning so far!

What a great start to our high school football season! We’re actually winning!!

Oh, oh! Here comes the blurry lightning. (f/2.8, 1/60th, ISO 1600)

Oh, oh! Here comes the blurry lightning. (f/2.8, 1/60th, ISO 1600)

But then moments later that overcast sky was filled with lightning, as thunder boomed around us. I thought I might be able to snag a great lightning shot, but not having a tripod doomed me to mere blurs. A shutter speed of 1/60th of a second would not get me decent results. Very disappointing!

Plus the game was cancelled, because the storm continued, complete with rain. We didn’t even get to see a rousing halftime show. After the boys got ice cream at a nearby favorite place (Maggie Moo’s—great name!), we went home to our mundane lives.

How friendly!

How friendly!

When I looked through my photos that night, I was struck by something unusual: Our opponents (Katy Taylor High School) were wearing our quarterback Taylor’s name on their jerseys! Now we’re friendly folks here in south Texas, but to see that kind of support on the opposition’s shirts? Priceless! But I think that welcome for Taylor was just a one-time thing this season.

I doubt that lightning will strike twice!