Monday, July 26, 2021

Photographing Basketball (USA vs France) for the first time ever!

Last night I made my way to the Saitama Super Arena to watch the men from USA Basketball play against the French team. I was not sure if I was going to watch the game or shoot the game, because when I went to shoot basketball at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, I was told that only up-credentialed photographers could be court side. it turned out, this time I was able to walk down to the court and I set up behind the net.

I was just about to shoot from the US side (for the first half) and was told by the venue manager that the area was full. I was about to give up and just enjoy the game from the stands when he said "you can shoot from behind the net on the opposing side." I thought that this would be a good challenge, so I walked over to the other side and got a decent shooting position. 

I need to confess to all of you that I have never photographed basketball before. And for someone that teaches that knowing the sport helps you shoot the sport, this was a bit of a challenge for me, since I don't watch a ton of hoops. 

My other challenge was that I did not bring my Canon RF70-200mm lens (which would have been optimal) and only had my Canon 200-400mm lens (which would be too much lens for down on the floor). I did have my Canon RF100-500mm lens (which I ended up using) and a Canon RF24-105mm lens (which I also used sparingly). Which camera was I using? A really good one!

The good news was that the Canon RF100-500mm lens let me zoom in nice and close to the players, like Jrue Holiday.

I set the camera to its fastest frame rate and an ISO of 3200. This let let me blast off a bunch of photos at a shutter speed of approximately 1/1000 sec to freeze the action.

Having never photographed basketball from the floor before, it took some practice to get the players in focus as they jumped high off the floor.

It was easier to photograph across to the other side of the court, and to keep everyone in focus, but I prefer the action coming straight at me.

Being low in my seat allowed me to shoot up into their faces to get these reactions. Of course, these guys are all close to 7 feet tall, so looking up at them is not much of an issue for me. 

I wanted the big dunk shot, and this is the best that I got.

The French team put on a great performance last night and stunned the Americans with their first loss in any Olympic game since 2004. 

I used the subject tracking on the camera which did an amazing job of locking focus on the athletes.

I took this shot right before the end of the first half of the game. And then the big question was "Would I be able to stay on this side or would I be moved to the opposing side again?" 

As it turned out, I was allowed to stay where I was, thus getting photos of the US athletes coming towards me.

I like the way that this photo has Bam Adebayo shooting with the Tokyo 2020 banner right over him. When I retouched this photo, I kept the exposure low but used the adjustment brush in Photoshop to brighten the banner just a little.

Someone needed to get the ball. Heck, I even got one in the fourth quarter! :)

Some more action on the far side of the court.

The photos above and below really show off the advantage of shooting at a super fast frame rate. I was able to capture numerous photos of Jason Tatum in the peak of his action.

This sure looks like a foul to me.

Here is a shot of Kevin Durant against the NBA's defensive player of the year, Rudy Gobert. (Thanks to my buddy@GregMescall for all the player info)

And that folks was my first foray into basketball photography. It was a lot of fun and a good learning experience at the same time. At this point, you might be thinking "Hey Jeff, stick to water polo!" :)

Now I am heading back to the water polo venue to capture the second game for the women of Team USA. 


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Jimmy Deraime said...

Great photos as always. Very well balanced in colors, in contrast, when we know raw are flat. What is the secret of a stunning raw edit ?. Sorry for team USA but they will do better at next round for sure. " Allez la France !"

Chandra P said...

So fun to see your basketball photos, Jeff! They are stellar, as always. No one would know this was your first time.

Riko said...

"Photography captures the intensity, agility, and camaraderie of basketball. freezing moments of athleticism, emotion, and strategy into timeless images that convey the essence of the game."

Wisher said...

Bascketball photography is more than just freezing moments; it's about capturing the intensity, emotion, and athleticism of the game.