Friday, July 30, 2021

Photographing Beach Volleyball in Tokyo

Last night I made a visit to Shiokaze Park to photograph women's and men's beach volleyball. The event started at 8pm here, which made for a really pleasant photo experience. The sun was down and the temperature was a mild 80 degrees. I have not photographed beach volleyball since the Rio Olympics 5 years ago and needed to warm up to start getting any useable shots. 

I started photographing from behind the court, but found that I was having trouble getting any decent photos. I tried both the Canon 200-400mm lens and even the shorter Canon RF70-200mm lens, but was not happy with the results.

I then moved to a side position and had better luck shooting with the shorter Canon RF70-200mm lens. I set my ISO to 1000, had an aperture of f/3.5, which gave me the desired shutter speed of 1/1000 sec.

Using the "Subject detection" mode of the camera really helped me to lock focus on their faces.

The hard part of photographing this sport, is that you almost have to predict the play and key on one athlete, as the action happens very fast. 

Look at the TV cameraman in the background. They were sitting on inflatable balloons on the sand.

One of the great thing about volleyball players is that they are emotional after almost every play, win or lose.

After getting warmed up at the side position, I figured it was time to try again at the far end of the court again.

This time I was able to figure out the play and get some keepers. I even switched to the longer zoom lens at this point.

Even though there are no spectators, the non-verbal communications are important between the players. Here she is signaling her partner as to what serve she wants.

I found it easier to capture the action on the far side of the court with the Canon 200-400mm lens. I would key in on one woman and hope that action would happen there.

After shooting on the sand for a while, I decided to head up into the stands. Even though there are no spectators, they are enforcing the photo positions. This meant that I had to stay in two rows that were designated for us. Strange, but true.

Once again, I focused on the team at the far end of the court. I was really happy that the camera was able to lock in on the athletes, even through the net.

It was definitely easier to follow the action from a farther position.

I took hundreds of photos in the mid level photo position and then decided to climb to the very top of the stadium where they had another photo position. 

I saw this Brazilian woman dive for the ball and fired off a bunch of shots. As I looked into the viewfinder (one of the things I love about shooting with the new mirrorless cameras) and saw this frame, I was really excited. Look how her outstretched body is perfectly framed by the net (with the Tokyo 2020 clearly visible). I could not have planned a better shot! This photo is one of my favorites from these Olympics.

I knew I was not going to top the outstretched shot, but stayed up there a little longer to see what else I could capture. This one turned out nice as well.

During the break between the second and third match, I went back down to the Field of Play position (FOP). 

I had 15 minutes to shoot the men's match before running for my press bus.

I captured some more action, but I knew I was not going to get a better shot than I already had in the camera.

I took some photos of the Brazilian men serving and really liked this shot with the sand flying off the ball. And yes, this is a crop of a wider shot that I took.

All in all, it was a really fun night, with mild temperatures, fresh air and knowing that I got a money shot.


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Bill Ferris said...

The photo of the athlete in full extension, digging the kill attempt, and framed by the net with the Olympic rings & mark on the net is a beauty. I've heard you talk about the work the organizers do in identifying photo positions where the rings and/or mark will be well-positioned. I wonder if they actually anticipated this as a potential shot? It would be interesting if you were able to get a few minutes with someone who helped ID the photo positions for a venue to hear the thought process they go know, with all that spare time you have ;)

Saul Lieberman said...

Wondering if you've had a chance to shoot anything with the RF 100-500 ($2700 new) I'm looking for a lens to cover my children's high school sports this upcoming year: Track, Friday Night Football daylight and under lights, soccer, and Ultimate Frisbee. The Canon 200-400mm lens is out of reach $$. Also, considering a used EF 100-400 with EF to RF adaptor plus an extender or maybe even the Sigma 150-600mm. This would be for a Canon R6. What do you think the best way to go would be? Should I just stick with the RF lenses?

Joe R said...

The hand signals behind the bum are usually for the blocker's strategy (e.g. one finger for blocking line, two for cross) against the two opposing players during the next point.

Unknown said...

Your photo of the athlete in full extension is great and I love the last one of the server. Would love to the the before see just how much crop you did.

Tina Freelance Photography said...

I love looking at these. My Niece is going to play middle school volleyball this year. Gonna get some practice. 😊

Jon Golden said...

Jeff, Love the insights and images.. The Volleyball TV guy is a friend.. Mike "Shifty" Schaffel.. @neverpan. A Canadian TV guy.. He and I worked together on an expedition in the Arctic. He has shot winter/summer OL's for many years, he works for a Canadian production team that handles all the pool TV feeds for the OL..

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Saul - yes, I have used the Canon 100-500mm lens and it is awesome. I will be using it a ton in Africa (coming up soon).

Bob R. said...

Jeff, I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying your blog and the behind the scenes look at shooting the Olympics. It’s got to be a ton of work editing and posting after shooting all day, and I can’t imagine you’re getting much sleep, but the photos and stories are great. Thanks for doing it!

Jodemart said...

I love your blog and the behind the scenes commentary!