Creating ‘movement’ in a still image

Generally my ‘how to’ articles have concentrated on obtaining the sharpest images possible. That’s great, up-to-a-point, as the majority of my published images need to fit exactly that criteria. But, after you have captured all the usual images of your subject showing it in all it’s pin sharp glory, it’s time to look beyond the norm and start getting more creative.

In a follow-on from my previous blog where I started to look at the similarities between sports and wildlife photography, the techniques used for movement blurs in both subjects are identical.

Movement blur is simply allowing your camera shutter to remain open long enough to allow movement of your subject (or of the camera) to register on the sensor.

Track cycling
Milton International Challenge, Cisco PanAm Velodrome, Track Cycling International – Mens Omnium Points event

Nikon D3s, 16mm f2.8 fisheye lens hand held, 1/6oth @ f8 ISO 640 Note that by keeping the nearest cyclist centred in frame he remains quite sharp while all the other competitors are blurred

Let’s look at some of the methods to induce that sense of movement into your still images.

Creative blurs using long exposure with subject moving

There are effectively two methods you can use with a long exposure technique, keeping the camera still while the subject moves, or moving the camera (panning) whilst keeping the subject centred in the frame – or you can combine the two.

Pantaneiro cowboys working cattl
Pantaneiro cowboys working cattle, The Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil

Nikon D3 with 80-200mm f 2.8 lens @ 80mm hand held, 1/30th sec @ f22 ISO 200 – Here I have used both a slow shutter speed and a panning action. The slow shutter produced the movement in the subject, the panning the movement in the background

This is perhaps the most common technique to induce deliberate blur where the photographer choses a shutter speed sufficient to render a recognizable subject but, at the same time, the shutter is open long enough for movement to register on the image. The trick is in choosing what stutter speed to use and for this you need first to assess how quickly your subject is moving. Obviously a formula one race car move quicker than a galloping horse which in turn is quicker than grass stems being blown in the wind.

 

Pronghorn Antelope
Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana), Sand Wash Basin, Colorado, USA

Nikon D3, 200-400mm f4 lens @ 360mm, 1/125th sec @ f16, ISO 200 In this image I have used a relatively fast shutter speed but the foreground blur imparts a great sense of movement. This was shot through a vehicle window whilst travelling at around 50 mph (80 kph)! The Pronghorn is renowned as the fastest land animal in the Americas.

If you are using a long shutter speed to capture movement, for example moving water, it is absolutely essential to lock the camera down on a solid tripod. The long exposure will exacerbate any camera movement. To ensure there is no camera shake it is best to either use a cable release or to lock the mirror up and use the camera’s self timer to trigger the shot.

Waterfall, Brazil
Waterfall, Chapada National Park, , Mato Grosso, Brazil

Nikon D3, 20-35mm f2.8 @ 35mm, 1/15 sec @ f22 ISO 100. Gitzo carbon fibre tripod, Arca Swiss ball head

What shutter speed?

So, what shutter speed do you need to create motion blur – the answer is ‘it depends’. If the speed is too short you still end up freezing the subject or it has minimal blur which just doesn’t work well. If too long then the subject itself becomes too blurry to be recognizable for what it is. Other factors will also come into play such as the angle your subject is moving. Is it toward you , diagonal, away etc. each of which causes a different apparent speed of motion. Are you, the photographer standing still or are you moving i.e. in a vehicle?

Note that, the further away you are from your subject, the easier it is to pan and follow, keeping the subject in the same location in the viewfinder.  The plain fact is you need to experiment a little for each subject you shoot – exactly what that little screen on the back of the camera is for!

However here are some starting points:

  • Birds in flight to create some wing blur – 1/125 sec
  • Panned action for cars, cyclists, and animals at full gallop – 1/30 sec
  • Sports action featuring people, basketball, athletes etc. 1/60 sec

Remember that these are just indicators, you will still need to experiment for yourself.

I am not including star trails etc as this is a whole other subject. Similarly I am not going into rear curtain flash – I will again write about this in a separate article.

Long exposure while moving the camera

The second common method of creating movement blur is when the subject is still (or relatively so) but you deliberately move the camera during the exposure.

Koi carp
Koi carp in pond, Nan Lian Garden, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Nikon D3, 105mm f2.8 Micro lens, 1/8sec @ f32, ISO 100. Here I have used a twisting motion to rotate the camera and lens whilst taking the photo. Note how the fish near the centre are rendered relatively still whilst the further you look to the outside of the frame there is increased blur.

There is a huge range of movement you can introduce, rotation, up and down , side-to-side each of which will introduce a different blur effect. Also experiment with the same movement and different shutter speeds to find which works best.

Exposure

As creative blurs require longer exposures than normal you need to take care with not to overexpose your photos. In general keep the ISO settings as low as possible and use small aperture to allow for longer shutter speeds without over-exposing. On bright sunny days even then you may not be able to set a long enough shutter speed to achieve the desired effect. This is where the use of a neutral density filter comes into it’s own. Neutral density filters cut the amount of light coming through the lens without altering the colours. These are available in a range of density settings but I recommend owning having one of the darkest, perhaps a -6 stop. This way you can always open the aperture or raise the ISO if you need a slightly faster shutter speed. If you don’t have a dark enough ND filter you have fewer options to slow the shutter down.

Long-track speed skating
World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships, Richmond Olympic Oval BC, Canada, Mens 10,000m, Hiroki Hirako (JAP)

Nikon D3s, 20-35mm f2.8 lens @20mm hand held, 1/30 sec @ f4, ISO 200. Here due to the light levels it was not necessary to use a small aperture to achieve the desired slow shutter speed.

Sensor dust

Here, a word of warning. Your sensor must be scrupulously clean when taking long exposures. Almost invariably you will be using small apertures which have the effect of sharply focussing every tiny scrap of dust on the sensor. If I know I am going to be taking long exposure shots I will always clean ny camera sensors before going out.

To see more creative blurs search the online archive by entering keywords in the search box below.




Ashgabat 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games

I returned a couple of weeks ago from the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan where I worked as Photo Manager for the Equestrian Events and as part of the Official Photographer team for other sports. An ‘interesting’ experience for sure as I got to photograph a few sports that I had never seen before, even after 35 years+ as a sports photographer. In fact, when I found out I was going to the Games I actually had to look up several of the martial arts as I had never actually heard of them.

After an incredibly long  journey of almost 40 hours I arrived in Ashgabat – pity my baggage did not also arrive! (It would be three days before it was found at JFK and another day before it arrived in Ashgabat). Fortunately my essential photo equipment was all carried as hand baggage.  The first thing one notices on arrival, apart from the heat, is the incredible whiteness of the city. Ashgabat was entirely destroyed in an earthquake in 1948, one of the most powerful ever recorded,  with reports varying between 110,000 and 176,000 deaths. This resulted in a rebuilding programme that has seen every single building clad in white marble. More marble here than any other city on earth. What is remarkable is that this tragic event was not reported to the world until after Turkmenistan gained independence from the USSR in 1991.

Typical marble clad buildings, Ashgabat – Nikon 1 V3, 1/4000th at f5.6, ISO 400

The sports facilities constructed in the centre of Ashgabat are truly remarkable – worthy of any world class event, and again completely clad in white marble. Spent the first few days getting to know my way around before the Games actually started. 

Opening ceremonies were of the highest order featuring a wide range of Turkmen culture and ending in a spectacular firework display.

5th Asian Indoor & Martial Arts Opening Ceremonies – Nikon D3s, 200-400 f4 lens at 340mm, 1/125th @f4, IOS 3200

Unfortunately the following day I came down with a bad bout of ‘Turkman Tummy’, a condition shared at some point with just about every person working at the games, and which, unfortunately lasted to some degree throughout the two weeks of competitions and even after I got home.

However, I continued to be able to work and covered a range of interesting competitions, including weightlifting, belt wrestling, kick boxing, sambo and even snooker.

Beltwrestling -Mens +100Kg division – Nikon D3s, 70-200mm f2.8 lens at 116mm, 1/1250th @ f3.5
Kickboxing – Mens LK 51Kg division – Nikon D3s, 200-400mm f4 lens at 380mm, 1/1250th @ f4, ISO 4000
Weightlifting mens 105kg – Nikon D3s, 200-400mm f4 lens at 270mm, 1/1250th @f4, ISO 3200
Mens snooker final – Nikon D3s, 200-400mm f4 lens at 270mm, 1/160th @f4, ISO 2500

A few sample images are seen here, but a wider selection are available by visiting the Latest Images gallery and the Martial Arts Gallery.

The final day allowed myself and a colleague to venture out with the aid of a local taxi driver (read Government minder) to see some of the local colour and architecture. One must be extremely careful photographing in this country, no images with police or military personnel, and great care when photographing certain monuments – if in doubt ask and if told no accept this without question. 

Ashgabat – Ruhy Mosque – Nikon 1V3 10-30mm lens, 1/1600 @ f8 ISO 400

A little background

Turkmenistan is bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran, very much a desert country mostly dominated by the Karakum Desert. It is certainly subject to an authoritarian regime, ruled closely by current president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (a self avowed sports fanatic), who’s photo appears in just about every room of every building, bus, taxi, and sports facility. I’s an Islamic state, although fairly moderate, and was once an important stop on the silk road. It declared itself a state of permanent neutrality in 1995, a state recognized by the UN.

Ashgabat 2017 – Old Nisa – Dynastic sanctuary of the Parthian Kings from late III century BC to early III century AD – Nikon 1V3, 10-30mm lens, 1/200th @f10, ISO 200

 

Image stabilization or fast shutter speed?

Recently while covering the World Junior Taekwondo Championships I was approached by someone asking what my ‘camera settings’ were. I quickly rattled off what I was using “1/1250sec, f2.8. at 4000ISO set manually”. The gentleman replied I must be using old lenses as he did not need to set his ISO nearly this high as all his lenses had ‘stabilization’ so he could shoot at much lower settings and get higher quality pictures, 2-3 stops lower and still handhold “no problem at all” so he was only using 640 ISO.

Now, I am always happy to engage in discussions about photo technique and equipment, just not in the middle of an important competition where I am working, so told this person I needed to concentrate on what I was doing but would be happy to chat if I had the time after competition had finished. Unfortunately I never saw him again so was unable to point out the errors in his thinking.

First would have been – why was I choosing to use 4000 ISO. Of course, had I thought it prudent I would have loved to use a lower setting. The choice of 4000 ISO was to give me a shutter speed high enough to freeze the action when the athletes engaged in their fast kicking movements. This required a minimum shutter speed of 1/1000sec. If I had lowered my ISO to the same 640 that this person was using and assuming I still wanted to make a correct exposure at f2.8 (the maximum aperture of the lens I was using) my shutter speed would have dropped to around 1/250th sec – not nearly fast enough to freeze the action. 

Burnaby, Canada. 16 November, 2016. WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Alan Arcal Alcazar (ESP) in blue and Ilyas Hussain (GBR) in red compete in 48kg class. ALAMY LIVE NEWS/PETER LLEWELLYN
Burnaby, Canada. 16 November, 2016. WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Alan Arcal Alcazar (ESP) in blue and Ilyas Hussain (GBR) in red compete in 48kg class. 

Nikon D4s, AF-S 70-200 f2.8G ED VRII lens, 1/1000 @f2.8 6400ISO – This was on an outer mat where the light was even worse than the main mat hence 6400ISO

Now comes the misconception that I have heard many times since Nikon and Canon brought out their stabilized lenses – I can shoot at much lower shutter speeds and still freeze the image. NOT SO!! What VR (Nikon’s Vibration Reduction) and IS (Canon’s Image Stabilization) actually allow you to do is to avoid camera shake at slow shutter speeds – this has nothing to do with freezing the action.

If you need 1/1000th sec shutter speed to freeze the action and have no movement blur you need 1/1000 sec, period. No amount of vibration reduction or image stabilization will affect this in any way.

Burnaby, Canada. 16 November, 2016. WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Maria Calderon (CRC) blue and Thi Kim Ngan Ho (VIE) red, compete in female 44kg class gold medal match. Ho took the gold medal
Burnaby, Canada. 16 November, 2016. WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Maria Calderon (CRC) blue and Thi Kim Ngan Ho (VIE) red, compete in female 44kg class gold medal match. Ho took the gold medal

Nikon D4s, AF-S 70-200 f2.8G ED VRII lens, 1/1250 @f2.8 4000ISO

Finally I would have pointed out that using 4000ISO ( and higher) is well within the capabilities of my cameras and can produce image files that can be used easily up to a full poster output. 

Shooting raw files and a bit of prudent noise reduction in Photoshop produces remarkably clean images, even in deep shadow areas.

Burnaby, Canada. 20 November, 2016. WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships Georgii Tandelov (RUS) blue, and Aleksandr Keselj (GER) red compete in the male +78kg. final won by Tandelov.
Burnaby, Canada. 20 November, 2016. WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships Georgii Tandelov (RUS) blue, and Aleksandr Keselj (GER) red compete in the male +78kg. final won by Tandelov.

Nikon D4s, AF-S 70-200 f2.8G ED VRII lens, 1/1250 @f2.8 4000ISO

By the way – pretty much every lens I own has VR, including the Nikon AF-S 70-200 f2.8G ED VRII lens I was using that day. And the VR was turned OFF. I find my images are actually sharper with it turned off when using fast shutter speeds. I only ever turn VR on if hand holding at slow shutter speeds (who said better to get a decent tripod?) or if I am working from a moving platform such as a boat, helicopter or vehicle.

Burnaby, Canada. 17 November, 2016. WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Chan-Ho Jung (KOR) blue and Houssam El Amrani (MAR) red, compete in the semi-final of male 55kg won by Jung  Photo: Peter Llewellyn
Burnaby, Canada. 17 November, 2016. WTF World Taekwondo Junior Championships, Chan-Ho Jung (KOR) blue and Houssam El Amrani (MAR) red, compete in the semi-final of male 55kg won by Jung 

Nikon D4s, AF-S 70-200 f2.8G ED VRII lens, 1/1250 @f2.8 4000ISO

 

Great sports photographs

As the 2016 Olympics in Rio draws to a close I have been following with great interest images made by my colleagues- Facebook, Instagram, web sites and the press are full of great shots. This is the first Olympics since 1992 when I have not been in attendance, either as a photographer or a member of the photo  management team.

With the huge advances in technology over this time period it has become in many ways easier to get amazing photos. I was therefore very interested to see an article on today’s BBC website about a new book by photo historian Gail Buckland titled Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present. The book is accompanied by an exhibition now on at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

It makes you realise that great sports shots do not necessarily rely on the latest technology. Getting in the right position, the exposure right, and anticipating the decisive moment are still the same talents honed by taking countless thousands of photos that photographers have used right back to the early days of photography.

Take a look at the two images below, one from the Olympics of 1924 and one from Olympics 2012.
p.s. I didn’t take the one from 1924!

Olympic Games Paris 1924 Alphonse Gemuseus (SUI) riding Lucette, the gold medallist
Olympic Games Paris 1924 Alphonse Gemuseus (SUI) riding Lucette, the gold medallist – Photo Col. Poudret
Olympic Games 2008, Hong Kong (Beijing Games) August 2008, Ludger Beerbaum (GER) riding All Inclusive, Individual jumping final
Olympic Games 2008, (Beijing Games), Ludger Beerbaum (GER) riding All Inclusive, Individual jumping final –  Photo: Peter Llewellyn

Looking at the 1924 image I am in awe of the photographer who managed to capture the height of the action and an incredible degree of sharpness in his image. I had a much easier time at the 2008 Games with high speed camera, autofocus and the ability  to instantly see my image on the LCD on the back of the camera.

 

Baseball – a story

Many years ago, long before we ever came to live in North America, my wife Jean and I were sitting in a restaurant in Houston Texas having a meal while en-route to cover another major sports event. A nearby TV was showing the baseball play-offs games and it was evident that tour waiter was more intent on the game than on serving us. To get his attention we decided that the best course of action was to engage him  in a conversation about the game as frankly, we had no idea what was going on. There followed a series of questions around the rules of the game, distance from pitcher to batter, how far it was around the bases, how many players in a team which, if achieving little else, did get us our meal served.

Fast forward to 2014 and I found myself in Toronto working as the Photo Chief for the 2015 PanAm Games. So, I started to pick up some photo assignments, mostly for USA Today, covering major pro-sports event in and around the city. Inevitably, I therefore picked up my first assignment to shoot baseball, and quickly realized that little I had learned all those years ago had stayed with me.

My first ever game was Canada Day, July 1st 2014, a national holiday here in Canada.

PL_2014-07-01_0797557

I had tried to study other photographers photos, including the work f some famous baseball photographers including Brad Mangin and Robert Beck to try and figure out the shooting angles and chatted to friends here in Toronto to get the names of the teams leading photographers. So far all well and good!

I have always believed that a good sports photographer can go to any new sport and quickly figure out the best ways to shoot it, and found that baseball is easily learned – up to a point. Sure there are the photos of the pitcher throwing the ball, and the batter hitting the ball but much of the best action photos come from other plays, sliding to a base, fielders catching and I soon found that my lens was pointing one way while all the others were in an entirely different direction as they were anticipating plays – still a lot to learn. And one other thing, I realized that, although I thought my reflexes were pretty good, not one of my batting pictures had the ball in.

Jul 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Brewers Left Field Khris Davis dives to make first base watched by Blue Jays First Baseman Edwin Encarcion Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
My first ever photo of a player diving to the plate. Jul 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Brewers Left Field Khris Davis dives to make first base watched by Blue Jays First Baseman  Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D3s, Nikon 200-400mm f4 lens at 250mm 1250th @f4, ISO 800, set manually, Gitzo carbon fibre monopod

Now, shooting for a major wire service like USA Today Sports Images means that you are constantly having to decide when it is a suitable break in play to race in to the photo area, select some images, caption them, transmit them and get back out again hoping you didn’t miss any major play. And thereby came the next problem.  In most sports I was used to very simple captioning – i.e. Seve Ballesteros (ESP) putts on the 18th green to win the British open golf, or Rafael Nadal plays a forehand in round two at Wimbledon, and so, adopted the same principal for captioning my baseball photos. Big mistake!

May 10, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox second base Dustin Pedroia (15) turns a double play as Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Jose Bautista (19) slides to seconds base in eighth inning at Rogers Centre. Red Sox beat Blue Jays 6 - 3 Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
May 10, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox second base Dustin Pedroia (15) turns a double play as Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Jose Bautista (19) slides to seconds base in eighth inning at Rogers Centre. Red Sox beat Blue Jays 6 – 3 Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D3, Nikon 200-400mm f4 lens at 360mm 1000th @f4, ISO 3200, set manually, Gitzo carbon fibre monopod

Phone starts ringing from the editors desk asking me what the play was – i.e. was that the RBI single from the pinch hitter in the 7th inning? Of course I had no idea what he was talking about, and what’s a pinch hitter anyway? Fortunately I had colleagues in the TO2015 office who were baseball fans, and the other photographers at the game soon started to educate me in the finer points of the game and before long my images started to improve, and the caption errors got less.

September 2 2015: Toronto Blue Jays Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) [4352] batting against Cleveland Indians in the second inning at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada.
September 2 2015: Toronto Blue Jays Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) [4352] batting against Cleveland Indians in the second inning at Rogers Centre in Toronto, ON, Canada. – Photo Peter Llewellyn Nikon D3, 300 f2.8 lens, 1/1600th @ f2.8, ISO 2000
So, fast forward again to October 2015, and now having covered around 50 games I find that this is a game that has really grown on me and I look forward to covering each one. And what a season it has been for the Toronto Blue Jays, they are in the post-season play-offs for the first time since 1993, when they were World Series Champions. Unfortunately things are not looking so good, having just lost the first two games of the play-off series to the Texas Rangers, hopefully they will pull it back with two way wins so I can continue my new fond love affair with the game.

Oh, and every caption for the play-off games I have covered was absolutely perfect, mainly because we were hard-wiring (plugging an ethernet cable directly into the port on a Nikon D4s and transmitting straight from the camera to the picture editor) the camera to send images and all the post-processing work and captioning was done by the editor. Yes, baseball play-offs are a really big deal. USA Today Sports Images had three photographers at the games, one shooting from an elevated position, one from the photo pit near first base, and yours truly from the photo pit near third base. You cannot afford to miss a big play at this level.

How to improve your baseball photography

These principals apply whether you are shooting your son or daughter at Little League or getting your first opportunity at shooting a big league game.

  1. Get close to the action – use a long lens and fill the frame as best you can. At least a 200mm even for those school diamonds. I rarely shoot with any less than a 300mm and often am right out to the 500 or 600mm if I want to get good facial expressions
  2. utista (19) against Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports Nikon D4s, 500mm f4 lens, 1/1600th @ f4, ISO 3200
    Jose Bautista (19) against Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports Nikon D4s, 500mm f4 lens, 1/1600th @ f4, ISO 3200

    Use a fast shutter speed to stop the action, especially if you are trying to get the ball in the picture. 1,000th second at an absolute minimum and even at that speed you will still probably get a slightly blurred ball. Remember, that with any modern DSLR you can push the limits by increasing the ISO setting. I often use the auto ISO setting on my Nikons where I can ensure that if the light drops to a level that would make the shutter speed less than 1,000th the ISO will automatically increase to compensate.

  3. If you see the ball in the viewfinder it is probably not going to be in the picture you take, especially as you get to the bigger league games with faster pitchers and harder hitting batters. By the time your brain tells your finger to press the shutter, and the mechanics of the camera operate to open the shutter the ball is either in the catchers glove or sailing over the outfield. At MLB games I keep both eyes open and try to watch the ball leaving the pitchers hand, press the shutter and fire a sequence of two or three and you are likely to get the ball in the frame – with a bit of luck actually connecting with the bat
  4. Aug 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays Melky Cabrera (53) slides in make second base while Tampa Bay Rays second base Logan Forsythe (10) catches in ninth innings at Rogers Centre - Blue Jays won 5-4 in tenth innings Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
    Aug 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays Melky Cabrera (53) slides in make second base while Tampa Bay Rays second base Logan Forsythe (10) catches in ninth innings at Rogers Centre – Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports. Nikon D3s, 200-400 f4 lens at 260mm, 1/2500th @f4, ISO 1000

    Anticipate the action – not all good action shots are pitchers or batters at the plate. Watch when players are on the bases, stolen bases or the batter diving to home plate make some of the greatest action shots. Concentrate, focus on the player and follow focus the action if your camera focusses fast enough or pre-focus on the point where you expect the action be if your camera is a little slow. Almost any modern DSLR will allow you to follow the action. However, even with he fastest cameras, make sure you have your focussing set up properly. My cameras allow 51 points of focus but for any sport where you are essentially focussing on a single player cut this number down in your menu settings and your success rate will improve dramatically. I always use 9 focus points on my Nikons for this type of sport.

  5. If you have a favourite player (your son or daughter!) make sure you shoot from the right side of the field. A right handed pitcher should be shot from
    May 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees opening pitcher Chase Whitley (39) pitches in first inning against Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports Nikon D3, 500mm f4 lens, 1/100th @ f4, ISO 2500
    May 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees opening pitcher Chase Whitley (39) pitches in first inning against Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports Nikon D3, 500mm f4 lens, 1/100th @ f4, ISO 2500

    third base, a leftie from first. A right handed batter, go to first and a leftie from third.

I hope you find the tips will help you improve your baseball photography.

UPDATE: Yesterday, 14th October, Toronto Blue Jays won the divisional championships. Take a look at the latest images gallery to see a small selection of some of my favourites or go to http://www.usatodaysportsimages.com to see the full selection

Time to re-activate

Ok, I know, this blog has been pretty stagnant over the past 12 months. A little thing called the PanAm Games and my role in making it the best PanAm’s for photographers kind of got in the way.

Well, I am officially no longer the Photo Chief for the Games, the Parapan’s finished a week ago and I am back, for the time being, to just a sports photographer. What does the future hold? I really have no idea. For the immediate future I am shooting Blue Jays (here’s hoping they make the playoffs and extend the season) Baseball and other sports for some major national and international clients and will be doing some other shooting work in the coming weeks. I am also currently working on a new range of workshops – more on that soon.

14 August 2015: TO2015 Parapanam Games, Wheelchair Rugby Gold medal match Canada v USA, Mississauga Sports Centre. Mike Whitehead (8) (CAN) with the ball takes a fall as he is tackled by Josh Wheeler (10) (USA): Photo Peter Llewellyn
14 August 2015: TO2015 Parapanam Games, Wheelchair Rugby Gold medal match Canada v USA, Mississauga Sports Centre. Mike Whitehead (8) (CAN) with the ball takes a fall as he is tackled by Josh Wheeler (10) (USA): Photo Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D4s, 300mm f2.8 IF-ED lens, 1/2500th @ f3.5, ISO 6400 – hand held

As for the Games – from the press perspective it was a great success. I had an amazing team of venue photo managers who worked ridiculously long hours, under sometimes trying circumstances, to provide the photographers with the best possible photographic opportunities – a task that they pulled off with spectacular success.

Parapan Am closing ceremony fireworks, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games: Photo Peter Llewellyn
Parapan Am closing ceremony fireworks, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games: Photo Peter Llewellyn

Nikon 1 V3, 10-30mm zoom, lens at 10mm, 1/25th at f3.5 @ISO 1600, hand held

Coming soon to this blog:

  • Shooting with the Nikon 1 V3 – This spectacular little camera was my constant companion during the PanAm Games. See my review of it’s performance.
  • Review of the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR for the start of the NHL (Ice Hockey for non North Americans) season
  • Details of a new range of workshops to start in fall 2015

Please also check out the main web site at https://peterllewellyn.com where many new images will be filed over the next week.

As you might gather from the above it is my intention to stay in Toronto, at least for a while. There are a number of things I am working on that might dictate where and what I will be doing next, all will be revealed in due course.

Sandisk Imagemate card reader

 

imagemateToday’s post was supposed to be about photographing the World Women’s Team Squash Championships at Niagara on the Lake, about 130k from Toronto. I had gone there specifically to see the all glass show court which is the same one that will be used  in next years PanAm Games in Toronto and also made a side trip to the Welland Canoe course where the canoe sprints would take place.

So this evening I popped a brand new 32GB Sandisk Extreme Pro card into my also brand new Sandisk Imagemate USB3 card reader. The card reader flashed for a few seconds but no card appeared on the computer desktop. Tried again – same result. Tried my Lexard card reader, nothing, not even a flicker of life from the card. I put the card back in the camera – it’s unreadable. After a quick Google Search I discovered a potential problem, bent pins in the Sandisk Imagemate reader and there it was, one of the end pins bent in.

This is a common problem with this reader as evidenced by the number of pages dedicated to this on the internet. The design of this card reader is, quite frankly, appalling. The card only goes into the slot a very short way, therefore it encounters the pins almost immediately and it is almost impossible to insert the card squarely, result, bent pins. What’s worse is that the bent pins corrupt the card rendering it totally useless. It now won’t mount onto the desktop so I can’t even run any data recovery software to try and save the images. What a wasted day!

The card now can’t be read or formatted by the camera so it’s going to have to be replaced – I’ll let you know how that goes. As for the card reader itself, I have only one piece of advise – DON’T BUY THE SANDISK IMAGEMATE ALL-IN-ONE USB 3.0 CARD READER

If you need a new card reader I highly recommend the Lexar Professional USB 3.0 dual slot reader, a much better reader all around.

Who says sports photography is glamorous?

The last week has been really busy in Toronto, covering three Major League Baseball games and one Major League soccer. Tuesday and Wednesday saw me at back to back baseball games with the Toronto Blue Jays hosting the Boston Redsox. The Blue Jays are desperate for wins to stand any chance of extending their season into the playoffs. Unfortunately on Tuesday the were given a lesson by Boston who came out 11-7 winners, although the game went into an 11th inning, the fourth time in a row that extras have been necessary to get a result. Wednesday saw Toronto get their revenge with a 5-2 win, but frankly time is running out for the Jays. Both of these were night games and I was once again able to put the Nikon D4s through it’s amazing high ISO paces.

Aug 26, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox designated hitter Mike Napoli (12) gets hit by pitcher to get to first basein the fifth innings at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox designated hitter Mike Napoli (12) gets hit by pitcher to get to first basein the fifth innings at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D4s, 500mm f4 lens on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, 1/1250 @ f4, ISO 3200, exposure set manually
I set the exposure manually for all night games. The D4s at 3200 ISO renders an image quality similar to the D3s at 800 ISO

Regrettably, I had to hand the D4s back to Nikon on Friday, but I hope to have one in my hands permanently before too much longer.

Aug 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays Melky Cabrera (53) slides in make second base while Tampa Bay Rays second base Logan Forsythe (10) catches in ninth innings at Rogers Centre - Blue Jays won 5-4 in tenth innings Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays Melky Cabrera (53) slides in make second base while Tampa Bay Rays second base Logan Forsythe (10) catches in ninth innings at Rogers Centre – Blue Jays won 5-4 in tenth innings Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D4s, 500mm f4 lens on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, 1/2500 @ f4, ISO 1000, exposure set manually

Aug 27, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Rogers Stadium with CN Tower behind before the Toronto Blue Jays vs Boston Red Sox Game at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 27, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Rogers Stadium with CN Tower behind before the Toronto Blue Jays vs Boston Red Sox Game at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D3s, 16mm f2.8 fisheye lens, 1/640th @f5.6, ISO 500, handheld
I wanted to take advantage of the amazing evening light falling onto the CN Tower before the game and decided this was an ideal opportunity to get out the fisheye – a lens I don’t use too often but this was a natural choice for this shot

Saturday was the start of a long weekend in Canada with Monday being Labour day. Today was back to major league soccer for me and frankly my worst experience of shooting sport in Toronto, although this had little to do with the game itself.

First it was a good job I left myself plenty of time to get to the game, I always like to arrive early to ensure the technology is all working correctly and to shoot any pre-game images. Paid my $3 token on the bus at for what is normally a 20 minute ride to BMO field for the game. 30 minutes and 400m later I got off again and decided to leg it. Traffic was at an absolute standstill and actually walked past 4 other  busses by the time I got to Exhibition where BMO field is located.

Now, imagine having a 20,000 seat soccer stadium with a premier league match and plonking it in the middle of the biggest fair you can imagine! I hadn’t realised that the event causing all the traffic chaos was the Canadian National Exhibition, one of the ten largest fairs in N. America, attracting 1.4 million visitors, most of which I think were there today! Then,to make matters worse, I discovered that because I didn’t have a ticket to the game, as I collect my accreditation at the ground, I had to pay $30 to get in to the exhibition grounds, one expense claim going to USA Today! So, instead of arriving 45 minutes before the game as planned I got in about 5 minutes before kick off so I didn’t get any pre-games photos. To cap it all it was the worst footie game I have ever seen, Toronto played like a bunch of schoolkids, giving away the first two goals in the first 5 minutes. Finally, as the second half began it started to rain. Who says sports photography is glamorous?

Aug 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund (17) avoids a sliding tackle from New England Revolution Defender Darrius Barnes (25) at BMO Field. New England won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund (17) avoids a sliding tackle from New England Revolution Defender Darrius Barnes (25) at BMO Field. New England won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D3s, 200-400  f4 lens at 240mm on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, 1/1600 @f4, ISO 1600, aperture priority automatic

The 200-400 is now my standard lens for soccer for daytime games, I switch to the 300 f2.8 for night games where I need the extra stop of speed

My final shoot of the week was today’s baseball game at Rogers arena which was important for a reason other than the game itself. This was the last game that all time baseball great Derek Jeter of The New York Yankees will play in Toronto. Jeter is estimated to be the richest player in Major League Baseball with a net worth of some $185,000,000. although the web is full of articles about his net worth, his many glamorous girlfriends and the fsct he built the largest house in Tampa Florida it his extraordinary exploits on the filed that will remain his major claim to fame.

Aug 31, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees designated hitter Derek Jeter (2) hits a single in first inning against Toronto Blue Jays Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 31, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees designated hitter Derek Jeter (2) hits a single in first inning against Toronto Blue Jays Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D3s, 500mm f4 lens on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, 1/1000 @f4, ISO 500, aperture priority automatic

This season is his 20th in Major League baseball for the New York Yankees and he is both their captain and a major figure in all the Yankees recent sucesses. Throughout the season each opposing team has provided a gift to Jeter, Toronto presenting a check for his foundation for young sports development.   Jeter did not score today and the Jays finished the series with a win.

Aug 31, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays pinch runner Kevin Pillar (11) dives back to first base as New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (25) catches in the seventh inning against New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. Blue Jays won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 31, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays pinch runner Kevin Pillar (11) dives back to first base as New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (25) catches in the seventh inning against New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. Blue Jays won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D3s, 200-400  f4 lens at 400mm on Gitzo carbon fibre monopod, 1/2000 @f4, ISO 1000, aperture priority automatic

Post match I was sitting sorting images and transmitting to USA Today when news came in of the firing of Toronto FC Manager and the whole coaching staff – what a surprise! It has subsequently become apparent that star British player, and the man who was supposed to bring glory to Toronto, Jermaine Defoe may be on his way back to Europe possibly to London club QPR.

While all this is going on in Toronto my wife Jean is in Normandy France covering the World Equestrian Games (WEG) or, as it’s become known, Worst Games Ever! To read of her exploits in Caen go to www.jeanllewellyn.com

Shooting Tennis with the Nikon D4s

Last week I worked the Men’s ATP 1000 Tennis Event in Toronto, The Rogers Cup, for USA Today sports Photos and Reuters. Featuring almost all the top male players in the world with the exception of Rafa Nadal who withdrew before the start with an injury, this is one of the leading events apart from the Grand Slam tennis tournaments. Nikon Canada provided me with one of the new Nikon D4s bodies to test during the event.

Aug 9, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) plays a forehand against Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) on day six of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre-Tsonga won 6-4 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) plays a forehand against Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) on day six of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre-Tsonga won 6-4 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D4s, 500mm f4 lens on Gitzo monopod, 1/5000th @ f4, ISO 500, aperture priority automatic

First let’s look at the D4s. This is not a camera to buy unless you have deep pockets as it’s currently listed at $6,999 on the Vistek.ca web site. For this you get a fully featured pro body, 16.2 megapixel, 11 frames per second (1 frame faster than the D4) and full 1920 x 1080 video recording, and is aimed squarely at sports wildlife and news photographers.

1Aug 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Roger Federer (SUI) plays a backhand against David Ferrer (ESP) on day five of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
1Aug 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Roger Federer (SUI) plays a backhand against David Ferrer (ESP) on day five of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D4s, 300mm f2.8 lens on Gitzo monopod, 1/1250th @ f2.8, ISO 5000, aperture priority automatic

The new processor, the Exspeed 4 processor gives faster performance than the previous version and allows shooting up to 200 JPEGs or 104 raw files before the buffer is filled, 30% faster than the previous D4. This processor is not only faster but has also brought huge improvements in quality, particularly at high ISO settings, ISO sensitivity now runs from ISO 100-25,600 instead of ISO 100-12,800 which can be extended as high as 409,600 (nope, not a typo) if you ever feel the need to take photos in near total darkness!

Autofocus is the same as used in the D4, the Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX, which has 51 AF points and ‘3D tracking’. More on this later.

Controls and menu settings are  similar to previous Nikons’ so any Nikon user will soon become very familiar with this camera. The first thing I did was head straight over to the autofocus settings and set things up for continuous AF, with 3D tracking on. The camera tracked more than capably shooting at 11fps and practically every frame was in focus. The coolest feature is that when shooting at 11fps while in 51-point AF with 3D tracking mode activated you can actually see the AF point changing in the viewfinder, enabling me to focus on a players face and the focus point would stay on that face as it moved around in the viewfinder. I also set up the camera to only operate the autofocus using the AF buttons. As soon as releae the AF button the autofocus sensor jumps back to the point you had previously selected.

Aug 7, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; David Ferrer (ESP) hits a backhand against Ivan Dodig (CRO) on day four of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre. . Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 7, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; David Ferrer (ESP) hits a backhand against Ivan Dodig (CRO) on day four of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre. . Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D4s, 200-400mm f4 lens set to 360mm on Gitzo monopod, 1/2000th @ f4, ISO 640, exposure set manually
(Note how s’quashed’ a tennis ball gets when these guys hit it – no wonder they need to change the balls regularly)

So, how does it all work in practice – well  let’s just say I don’t want to give this camera back to Nikon. In short, it is the most amazing camera I have ever laid hands on. The 16.2 megapixel captures gave plenty of room for some quite severe cropping and still have an image size with plenty of data. Now, in principal, I like to shoot my images as full frame as I possible can, and you may well ask why would this be any different for tennis? Well, it’s simply that there are so many background distractions around the court including, linesmen, ballboys, chairs, and water containers to name a few. While shooting a fast moving athlete it’s difficult (read impossible) to avoid all thee distractions. At the Rogers Cup the various officials are a real distraction as they all wear red, the one colour that always stand out above all others. Therefore, cropping images, became a big part of the editing process before sending each batch to the USA Today Sports Photos feed.
Aug 7, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Novak Djokovic (SRB) lines up a forehand against Jo-Willfried Tsonga (FRA) on day four of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre. Tsonga won 6-2 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 7, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Novak Djokovic (SRB) lines up a forehand against Jo-Willfried Tsonga (FRA) on day four of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Rexall Centre. Tsonga won 6-2 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
 Nikon D4s, 200-400mm f4 lens set to 400mm on Gitzo monopod, 1/2000th @ f5.6, ISO 640, exposure set manually
You can see the images that made the final cut at http://peterllewellyn.photoshelter.com/gallery/Tennis/G0000ixiJqYXvfZM/
Now, if I can just make those lottery numbers come up tonight perhaps I can afford a couple of these beasts!

Take me back to the ball game!

Today was Canada Day and a public holiday, however for me this was a return to my early roots of shooting sports for National Newspapers. I am now photographing major sports events in Toronto for USA Today Sports Images, starting with the Toronto Blue Jays hosting the Milwaukee Brewers at the Rogers Centre. It was a very hot sticky afternoon so I was happy to photographing a sport where one spent the majority of the time sat in one position. It’s always a challenge going to a new venue and photographing a sport I don’t know that well so the first order of the day was to ensure my internet connection was up and running, no worries there, wired connections from just inside the players tunnel and great speeds. After checking out the positions I decided to photograph the first few minutes from the ‘nose bleed’ seats as I had found out that a giant maple leaf flag would be unfurled just before the start of the game.

PL_2014-07-01_0797557

 

Immediately after the opening pitch I made my way back down to field level for the start of  the game as I needed to get my first few photos sent to USA Today by the end of the third innings. This meant concentrating on at least getting good photos of both teams starting pitchers.

Jul 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre - Blue Jays won 4 - 1. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre – Blue Jays won 4 – 1. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D3s, Nikon 200-400mm f4 lens, at 300mm, 1/5000th @ f4 ISO 640, Gitzo monopod

Baseball is a sport of rapid movements and to freeze the action it is necessary to keep a close eye on the shutter speed. Don’t let it get much below 1500th if you want to freeze the action n either the pitcher or the batter. As today’s cameras are so good at high ISO settings I am more than happy to push up to well over ISO 400 to ensure action stopping speeds, even with the bright sunshine conditions.

Once the first images were safely away I could relax a little and start to look for other types of shot. Although I say relax that’s not entirely true, relax too much and you miss the best moments so a high degree of concentration must be maintained. In fact there are long periods of time when the only action is pitchers throwing and batters swinging and it’s easy to get lulled and then miss the best and more unusual action shots.

Jul 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Brewers Left Field Khris Davis dives to make first base watched by Blue Jays First Baseman Edwin Encarcion Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Brewers Left Field Khris Davis dives to make first base watched by Blue Jays First Baseman Edwin Encarcion Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Nikon D3s, Nikon 200-400mm f4 lens, at 250mm, 1/1500th @ f4 ISO 800, Gitzo monopod

 The light for today’s game was very hard as it was a 1.07pm start so the sun was almost directly overhead with a lot of heat haze rising off the field, especially early in the game. This made it challenging to get much light on the faces.

Jul 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays Darin Mastroianni (33)  dives back to first base while Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay (24) attempts a tag at Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre - Blue Jays won 4 - 1. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 1, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays Darin Mastroianni (33) dives back to first base while Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay (24) attempts a tag at Milwaukee Brewers v Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre – Blue Jays won 4 – 1. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

 Nikon D3s, Nikon 500mm f4 lens,, 1/2000th @ f4 ISO 640, Gitzo monopod

 I will be covering many of the MLB Games in Toronto so watch for more games and photo advice coming soon.

Testing Times

The series of test events for the 2015 Pan Am Games is now well underway and will continue throughout the run up period to the Games. Unfortunately many of these events are not taking place at their Games time venues so unlike London I will not be attending all of them.

This last week has seen two tests taking place, first the World Racquetball Championships, took place at Burlington. Racquetball and squash are two Pan Am sports that are not in the Olympic Program so I went along for a quick look to help me with placing the photographers who will work thee sports next year. Racquetball is a notoriously difficult sport to photograph at the best of times and the courts at Burlington were not too media friendly. There was very little room and being only glass backed do not present a wealth of photo opportunities. At the Games the show court will be all glass which will hopefully ope up more flexibility and enable photographers to get better shots. The main problem with a court that is only glass backed is that for 90% of the time the players have their backs to you so you have to watch for the fleeting instances when one or both players turn to face the rear wall.

June 21, 2014; World Racquetball Championships, Burlington Ontario, Canada, Womens final, Paola Longoria (MEX) v Rhonda Rajsich (USA), won by Paolo Longoria. Photo Peter Llewellyn
June 21, 2014; World Racquetball Championships, Burlington Ontario, Canada, Womens final, Paola Longoria (MEX) v Rhonda Rajsich (USA), won by Paolo Longoria. Photo Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3s, Nikon 24 – 70 f2.8 lens at 60mm, 1/1000th @ f2.8 (set manually), ISO 2500

As you can tell from the relatively high ISO of 2500 the light was far from ideal, hoping for better than this next year!

All last week also saw another World Championship taking place, this time the World Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Championships at Ryerson University Sport Centre, which is home to the basketball for the Pan Am Games. Make no mistake about it, despite being in wheelchairs these girls are true athletes and great competitors in their own right. This time working conditions were great, plenty of room to work around the court, excellent lighting and, for those attending next year, a great catwalk to set up remotes. I didn’t have time to set up any overhead remotes ton this occasion but photographers should be able to make great shots here.

June 23, 2014; World Women's Wheelchair Basketball Championships, Mattamy Athletic Centre, Toronto Ontario, Canada, Brazil v Japan - Perla Dos Santos Assuncao (BRA) with ball  - Photo: Peter Llewellyn
June 23, 2014; World Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Championships, Mattamy Athletic Centre, Toronto Ontario, Canada, Brazil v Japan – Perla Dos Santos Assuncao (BRA) with ball – Photo: Peter Llewellyn

Nikon D3s, Nikon 200 – 400 f4 lens at 400mm, 1/640th @ f4 (set manually), ISO 1600

Wen shooting from the end of the court I consistently found myself using one of two lenses – when the attack was at the far end of the court I grabbed the 200 – 400 f4 zoom on a Gitzo Monopod and when the attack was closest to me the 70 – 200mm f2.8.  Other than a few wider shots with the 24- 70 f2.8 these  two lenses were used for 90% of everything I shot at courtside.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 23rd June, 2014. World Women's Wheelchair Basketball Championships, Mattamy Athletic Centre, Toronto Ontario, Canada, Great Britain v China - Helen Freeman (GBR) shoots between Haizhen Cheng and Yun Long (CHN) © Peter Llewellyn/Alamy Live News
Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 23rd June, 2014. World Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Championships, Mattamy Athletic Centre, Toronto Ontario, Canada, Great Britain v China – Helen Freeman (GBR) shoots between Haizhen Cheng and Yun Long (CHN) © Peter Llewellyn/Alamy Live News

Nikon D3s, Nikon 70 – 200 f2.8 lens at 140mm, 1/800th @ f3.2 (set manually), ISO 1600

Note how in this image I have elected to open the aperture a little more to push the shutter speed a little higher. This is because the 200-400 was supported on a monopod but I am hand holding the 70 – 200 so want to absolutely eliminate camera shake. Remember more images are ruined because you don’t select a high enough shutter speed when hand holding to eliminate camera shake that any other cause!

Watch out for some important news about my sports photography coming in the next few days.

 

 

Polo without a horse

As many of you will know for many years I specalised to a certain extent in equestrian photography, and covered both sport and general equestrian subjects in conjunction with my wife Jean, a well known equestrian journalist. I have covered many of the top polo competitions in the world but this time it is water polo that is the subject of this post. This is not a sport for faint hearted competitors as the referees only get a clear view of what is happening above the surface of the pool, with many of the fouls taking place surreptitiously below the water – the women being equally as tough as the men!

London, England, 05-05-12. Nicola ZAGAME (AUS) and Annika DRIES (USA) in the VIsa Water Polo Invitational. Part of the London Prepares Olympic preparations.
London, England, 05-05-12. Nicola ZAGAME (AUS) and Annika DRIES (USA) in the VIsa Water Polo Invitational. Part of the London Prepares Olympic preparations.

 

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II Lens at 400mm, 1/1000th at f4, ISO 1250,
Gitzo Carbon Fibre Monopod
Looking closely at this photo, done early in the first game, I realised I needed a bit faster shutter speed so upped the ISO to 1600 

Much of what was said in the last post about photographing synchronised swimming, also holds true for water polo. Fast shutter speeds to freeze both the action and the water droplets, and shooting a lot of frames to get a few usable ones.

London, England, 05-05-12. Fran LEIGHTON (GBR) takes a shot while Bianka POCSI (HUN) defends during the Great Britain v Hungary game in the VIsa Water Polo Invitational. Part of the London Prepares Olympic preparations.
London, England, 05-05-12. Fran LEIGHTON (GBR) takes a shot while Bianka POCSI (HUN) defends during the Great Britain v Hungary game in the VIsa Water Polo Invitational. Part of the London Prepares Olympic preparations.

 

 Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II Lens at 400mm, 1/1250th at f4, ISO 1600,
Gitzo Carbon Fibre Monopod

Photo positions for the water polo are available at both ends to shoot the attacking players, much like you would expect at a football game, and from elevated positions both side on and head on. During the course of a couple of matches I tried all them, and each gives a slightly different perspective. Overall I think the elevated positions worked best where you can assure yourself of a clean background most of the time by using the blue of the water. However, although I think this gives the nicest shots I don’t think this will be the most popular at the Olympic Games.
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London, England, 05-05-12. Lisa GIBSON (GBR) and Kata Maria MENCZINGER (HUN) during the Great Britain v Hungary game in the VIsa Water Polo Invitational. Part of the London Prepares Olympic preparations.
London, England, 05-05-12. Lisa GIBSON (GBR) and Kata Maria MENCZINGER (HUN) during the Great Britain v Hungary game in the VIsa Water Polo Invitational. Part of the London Prepares Olympic preparations.

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II Lens at 400mm, 1/1250th at f4, ISO 1600,
Gitzo Carbon Fibre Monopod

Generally photographers do all they can to keep unnecessary clutter from the background of their images, particularly advertising boards as these can have a profound effect on the saleability of images. However, the Olympics is completely different. Here we do all we can to get us much Olympic background material into the images as possible, and shooting the water polo from the elevated positions will mean you have little in the images that screams “London Olympics’.

 

London, England, 05-05-12. Goalkeeper Elizabeth ARMSTRONG (USA) assisted by Brenda VILLA (USA) in the VIsa Water Polo Invitational. Part of the London Prepares Olympic preparations.
London, England, 05-05-12. Goalkeeper Elizabeth ARMSTRONG (USA) assisted by Brenda VILLA (USA) in the VIsa Water Polo Invitational. Part of the London Prepares Olympic preparations.

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G ED VR II Lens at 400mm, 1/1250th at f4, ISO 1600,
Gitzo Carbon Fibre Monopod

As I found myself shooting all images at the 400mm length on my 200 – 400 lens this is one occasion when perhaps a 400 f2.8 might have proved a bit of an advantage.