Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Photographing the 2011 Women's U.S. Open of Water Polo 2011

Yesterday was the final day of the Women's U.S. Open of Water Polo 2011 and I was there to capture the Bronze medal match and the Gold/Silver medal match for USA Water Polo. The tournament was held in Lafayette, CA on a beautiful sunny afternoon (but not too hot).

I got to the venue about an hour before the bronze medal match to meet my contact from USA Water Polo and to check out the pool, the light and get the lay of the land. I shot half of the preceding game, to check camera settings and prepare for the medal rounds.

I had a couple of different options for shooting this event. I could either put the camera in Aperture Priority and determine the optimum aperture for the event, or I could put the camera in Shutter Priority and dial in something like 1/1000 sec to freeze the action (letting the camera determine the aperture). I actually shot in both modes depending on my mood. Since the event was outside and it was a bright day with an abundance of light, I had a lot of choices. Of course, this also meant that I was dealing with harsh shadows on the athletes. (Photographers note: Whenever you shoot outdoor sports, make sure that you are sitting on the same side of the game as the sun so that you have more light on your subject's face.)
When shooting water polo matches, you need to be ready at any given moment, since the action is almost nonstop. And like any good photography, focus is key. I made sure to focus on both the offensive players and defensive players depending on what was happening in front of me. In the above image, you will notice that I focused on the eyes of the goalie to draw you into her concentration.

Most of the images that I captured during the day were tight shots using the Canon 100-400mm L Series lens mounted on a Canon 1d Mark IV. But, there were times when I would pull back and show a wider view of the action. In this case, it worked out perfectly with the shooter, defender and goalie actively involved in the play while the others watch on.

Having a camera that can burst at 10 frames per second really helps for shooting a fast sport like this. This allows me to frame the shot and burst images at the peak of action, freezing the action at that perfect moment.

These girls are amazingly powerful athletes, often lifting half of their bodies out of the water to take that blazing shot at the cage.

In the shots above and below, you will notice that the focus is on the eyes of the athletes.This is critical in sports photography. (Photographer's note: I find that it is best to use the center dot or a cluster close to the center and set the camera to servo focus for these types of events. Since I did not want every image to have the subject dead center, I would periodically move the focus point to the right or left of center. This is true for both of these images.)

This was one of my favorite shots of the day, highlighting the goal keeper, Emily Feher, who was also the MVP of the tournament. It captures her at the height of the action as she lunges to her left to stop this shot by the Santa Barbara team.

And then it was time for the medals to be given out. USA Water Polo wanted images of each of the winning teams, but the lighting was harsh and I had just a short amount of time to figure out where we would shoot the team photos. Since there was no shady area, I decided to set them up in front of the pool, with their backs to the sun and fill flash them. (Photographer's note: Never have your group facing directly into the sun, since they will end of squinting and you will have harsh shadows on their faces. Instead, turn them away from the sun, meter the background and use your flash in TTL mode to light them. I even had one of the girl's fathers come up to me and say "Uhhhh...don't you want them facing the sun?" and I politely said, "Don't worry - I am a photographer. I got this." That cracked me up.)

The Bronze medal team from Stanford.

The Silver medal team from Santa Barbara.

The Gold medal team from New York (NYAC).

And...today's home page of the USA Water Polo web site features my shot of the Gold medal team.

1 comment:

offset printing said...

The photos are great. You can really see the action behind. It really captured the moments, you can really see how serious they are with their game. Nice shots.