2011 NCAA Volleyball Championship

My daughters and I can’t wait for NCAA volleyball to start…

At most sporting events I’m in attendance because I want to *watch* the event.  I’m always tempted to carry my camera with me but I generally leave it at home so I’m not distracted.  When I attended the semi-finals of the NCAA volleyball championship this past December I left my camera behind.  However, when I saw that fans were allowed to carry in any camera/lens combo they wanted, I decided to take my camera and 70-200mm f/2.8L IS to the championship match and at least take a few pictures.

While warm ups were going on I experimented a bit with settings.  When shooting any fast-action sport one is generally trying to freeze the action (there are exceptions to this of course).  If you don’t use a relatively fast shutter speed you have no chance of getting a decent photo of a hard kill for instance — unless your goal is to turn the ball into a blur that you can hardly see in the frame.  Manual mode is pretty much a given in a venue like the Alamodome as the light never changes and being very well-lit a fast shutter speed is possible (the gym where my daughters play is not so well-lit and a really fast shutter speed isn’t possible) .  For shots of the action on the court I settled on using manual mode with 1/750s to 1/1000s shutter, f/2.8 aperture, and ISO 2000.  Generally the only time you vary your exposure is if you are taking shots of the crowd as opposed to the court (the crowd near the court was lit a stop or so less than the court).

I was able to convince the elevator operator to allow me and my son upstairs to the skybox area so we could take some pictures from a different perspective.  While there, a pro photog plopped down two seats away from us and we got to chatting a bit.  I asked him what settings he typically used in the stadium and they were 1/1250s, f/2.8, ISO 2500 — not far off what I was shooting.  He said my settings were fine for the lens I was using (70-200mm) but he wanted that slightly faster shutter because he was using a 400mm lens and needed some help compensating for lens movement.  We talked about depth of field (DOF) a bit too.  Up in the balcony we were maybe 200 feet from the net which gave him a DOF of approximately 10-12 feet (depends on the camera body…he had one of the Canon 1D bodies I’m sure).  That really required accurate focus — if he accidentally focused on a back row the action *at* the net would be out of focus.  When I shot at 200mm, I had a great DOF of about 52 feet to work with.

My 5D mkii has great high ISO performance which is nice for these sporting events but one huge deficiency is its (relatively) low frame rate — not so great for sports.  I was kind of jealous of the pro as he machine-gunned frames when a kill was imminent.  Of course, the slow frame rate cuts down on the number of images I need to go through in post 🙂

The Kiddos…

5 responses

  1. Cool photos and a good story to go with it!

    May 4, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    • Thanks, Karl. It was a lot of watching the match, taking photos, and chatting with the pro photogs.

      May 8, 2012 at 9:40 am

  2. I thought UCLA-Illinois was one of the more unlikely championship matchups in recent years. The whole tournament was interesting. Nebraska had always been the class of the Big 12, but they left for the Big 10+1+1. Then they go lose in the second round to Kansas State, an old Big 12 foe.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    • At the championship there was a huge section full of Nebraska fans cheering hard for Illinois — classy fans for sure in supporting their (new) conference team.

      May 17, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      • A few years ago Nebraska played Arizona in the Holiday Bowl here. I always go to the game, so I took the San Diego Trolley from my place to the stadium. The trolleys are always full on game days. Rarely does anyone who has a seat get up to let the elderly or a woman sit down. With Nebraska fans, even the Nebraska women were getting up to let other women and elderly sit down. Although I have to dislike Nebraska because we (Texas A&M) were rivals in the Big 12, they do have the classiest fans I have ever been around. Don’t tell any Aggies I said that, though.

        May 17, 2012 at 9:33 pm

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