I had my first basketball assignment of the season yesterday and it came at season’s ending. For the first time in my career I did not shoot a single regular season basketball game. I shot regional tournament games yesterday, four in a row, and all four teams lost. I think I see why I didn’t shoot hoops all year. Perhaps any teams remaining will pay the boss to keep me at home!
Basketball is both an easy sport to shoot and a numbing sport to shoot. There is no prep sport that has more games over a longer period of time. Baseball, by comparison, seems over in three weeks. Basketball drags over four months beginning in November and finishing in February. And that is only because we don’t cover college hoops which extend into March and sometimes even April and pro hoops which never actually end. I am personally very ready for baseball and I hope I get some games. I love baseball. I wish I could go shoot spring training but, alas, that is rather a long shot unless I do so on vacation.
Still, basketball in the autofocus era is fairly easy game to shoot. There is certainly no shortage of movement and collisions and the emotion at tournament time is very high. Now that we are not tied to strobe lighting, you can crank up the motor drive and really rock and roll. This moves basketball from a one shot and wait for the strobes sport into a sport like any outdoor game where you can just shoot. Gotta love that.
As in all sports assignments, don’t tie yourself to a single shooting position. I try to move around and get some angles and, when possible, climb up into the stands and shoot some frames from up high. The catch with tournaments is you may be shooting several games in a row and you have to be constantly moving pictures back for web updates so you have a little less freedom of movement because of the tight deadlines.
Let’s talk about getting stuff and moving it quickly since in this age we have a continual deadline. First tip is obvious; don’t overshoot the games. I generally shoot most of the first half of the first game then edit and transmit which usually takes the half-time and the third quarter. I then shoot the fourth quarter and any reaction/emotion photos that come at the end of the game. I then edit and move those photos which takes me into the first half of the next game. I keep up the process and by the end of the day, especially if I am shooting multiple games back to back, I will end up just shooting during the second half and at the end of games.
That may seem like a problem but it really isn’t. You want to get your action shots done as quickly as possible and then focus on reaction shots during the tournament. The season will be on the line and you can usually, not always, but usually get some good emotion win or lose. The sports pages which have been running action photos all year will eat up the reaction and emotion shots and the action shots will fill the online galleries.
Don’t forget the fans. As much as fans are not part of the event, they are part of the event. Let me explain. The fans are not playing the game so they are not nearly as important as those who are; however, the fans are really invested in their teams, especially the students who come to the games. Yesterday, East Limestone was getting blown out by Wenonah and the East fans were totally engaged all the way to the end. For some odd reason, with the team down by something like 30 points, they began singing the ABC song we all learned in kindergarten. My neighbor teaches at East so I am going to have to ask exactly what those high school kids are learning these days!
Did I mention that editors love fan photos. I have no idea why they are so fixated on the fans, like I said, they don’t play the game, but editors love seeing fan photos. Shoot a few from your games and you will be the photo hero, at least for five minutes or so!
One final thing, over the years I have migrated from shooting basketball exclusively with telephoto lenses to shooting now more frequently with a wide lens, often times from floor level. I admit, I saw other people doing this and didn’t think much of it until I started to really look at the photos. I really liked the players flying through the air with a sense of context. There are tons of great basketball images done with wide lenses. I decided to add this to my shooting and I think it has really improved my basketball work. This gallery is a selection of some of my favorites from the Northwest Regional games I shot Tuesday. Hope y’all enjoy.