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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Just 'cause you can..doesn't mean you should-available light
Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 1:18 AM on 11.20.11
->> With HS football winding down (it ended tonight in Iowa) I'd like to voice as well as hear opinions about a trend I find disturbing.

I'm somewhat old school. Even with a Nikon D3s, with all of it's low light capabilities, I still strobe football. Not a lot of light, just a little *pop* that opens up the shadow area around the eyes, makes colors *pop* and generally speaking, gives the viewer a professional image.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a stadium where the one shooter was using a Canon Mark, 300 f.28 and shooting available light. This stadium was good by HS standards in Iowa, but when he was chimping, I saw a couple of frames and sure enough, the shadow area had blocked up and it looked pretty bad.

Tonight, I was pulling information and used one of the major state newspapers in Iowa. I was curious when I cruised by the high school section, so I clicked on one game. Sure enough - available light. Flesh tones that looked like Fred Munster's, highlights that had blocked up, some blur and generally speaking, stuff that didn't, in my little ole humble opinion, look that good. And the guy who shot it is someone whose work I resepct typically.

I think today's technology is pretty outstanding. But, I don't believe shooting available light is always the answers. Why would anyone care?

We've spent a lot of time in this forum talking, bitching, writing and jumping up and down about inferior shooters taking business away.

So why would anyone want their work to look no better than a GWC's work?

If I'm out of line, I'd love to hear why. I'd love to hear from people who shoot HS football for publication as to whether or not they shoot available light or add some fill.

Even if the next Nikon D Series camera works at ISO 20,000, if the shadow areas block up and the image looks like sh*t when a little extra light will help, I'm going to add some light.

Am I too old school?
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Nic Coury, Photographer
Monterey | CA | | Posted: 5:50 AM on 11.20.11
->> I think it's purely situational and objective.

I pulled off one of my favorite shots this year shooting at f/1.4 at Hi-2 on my D700, which is roughly 25,600 ISO:

http://mcweekly.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/photos/2011/11/09/Occupy...

Honestly, I don't think a strobe would have given me the effect/look I wanted or captured the mood correctly.

In case of nighttime football or another dark sport, I think it depends on the photo. It can work sometimes in available light. I don't like set rules of "always" or "never".
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Joshua Brown, Photographer
Raeford | NC | USA | Posted: 8:18 AM on 11.20.11
->> I have to agree with Michael that available light for an outdoor, night game is generally better. As with Nic's shot above, a strobe would have killed the mood, but to be fair, there is artificial light to help warm the skin tones and illuminate the shadows. There obviously isn't a fire in the middle of a football field, so flashing to fill in the shadows under the helmet and brighten the image a bit is usually a good thing in my opinion.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 8:38 AM on 11.20.11
->> Nic,
Please don't misunderstand me. There are times when you've got no choice. (Heck, I won a Iowa Newspaper Association competition 2 or 3 years ago using available street light of three sisters crying at a Relay for Life event).

But that's not exactly what I meant here. It's HS football, it's usually in a known venue and you know what the light level is going to be like. Our goal should be to produce better quality in our images than the average GWC. The reality is that the average viewer/reader doesn't care how we get the shot - how much technology our camera bodies posess - it's can I see the shot easily?

Each situation is different, but I stand by my earlier statement - we should be able to produce consistently better results than a GWC. Evidently, we're not when we should be able to.
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Jeff Stanton, Photographer
Atlanta | Ga | USA | Posted: 8:48 AM on 11.20.11
->> Michael, I applaud you for sharing your thoughts and opinions about this subject. I think you should do what you feel is right for you, do what makes you feel happy about your work and the results you get with your methods. Don't worry about keeping up with the Jones'

It's good to look at other ways people do things, perhaps incorporate ideas into your own work, but I feel no one photographer, and I don't care which all-star on SS you're talking about, has all the answers for everyone else's situation.

I've seen people here describe a variety of ways to flash football including on-camera flash, off-cord with flash mounted on a mono-pod, somebody holding the flash for you which of course requires you to hire somebody to hold it, upside down shooting upward to get inside the players' helmets, and the list goes on and on.

I've tried several of these myself and you know what? I'm a man with not enough arms and hands to do all this. If I have to flash games, I mount the flash, fire away and deal with the red eye in Photoshop. If I have plenty of light at a high school venue, then I typically don't use a flash anymore with a D700. It works for me. I get good results that I'm happy with and that's really all I'm worried about. I stopped worrying about the guy standing next to me years ago. He never signed my check.
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Gray Quetti, Photographer
Jacksonville | Fl | USA | Posted: 10:06 AM on 11.20.11
->> Michael, you are preaching to the MaxPreps choir. It makes a big difference when you make your living selling prints.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 12:58 PM on 11.20.11
->> sorry michael. I disagree, I think strobed high school football looks like it was shot by a GWC. just my opinion, which ain't really worth much. glad it works for you but I don't want my name under a strobed football shot....
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 2:38 PM on 11.20.11
->> Its funny, when I was starting out in the mid 90's the old school newspaper shooters made fun of me for strobing HS football. At my weekly we did not have the option to push film for extra ISO, so we used our flashes. I used flash all the way up until we got our D3's four years ago. Now it is mostly available light. So it is subjective. The guys saying no flashes to me for football started in the 70's and 80's.
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Louis Lopez, Photographer
Southern California | CA | USA | Posted: 3:00 PM on 11.20.11
->> I strobe every high school game that does not have college or pro level available light, the image sales speak for themselves and that's all that really matters. I would love to shoot just available light, but I actually earn my income from image sales. Nobody is framing a poorly lit shot.
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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 3:35 PM on 11.20.11
->> Well ... there are "strobed" HS football shots ... and there are shots that are balanced fill flashed that show greater fine detail, bolder more accurate color and much less noise with far better detail in the shadow areas of the image ... if implemented properly ... it would rarely if ever be confused for the work of a GWC ... regardless of whose name you may care not to associate with the resulting images .... this discussion has been ongoing for decades ... and has many legitimate reasons both pro and con ... generalizing that using flash for HS football can ONLY result in amateur level work is by far one of the most inaccurate and uninformed statements I have ever seen in the discussion. Simply because it's not true.

For that matter ... many GWC's are well aware of how to shoot available light and do so quite often ... I've even heard them brag about doing so ... "Just like the pros"

It all boils down the intended end use of the majority of images you capture. For most folks here shooting a mundane, average HS football game as part of editorial sports news coverage ... no more than a handful of images from the game will ever see the light of day ... in print or on the web .... While others of us here that also sell prints online, I know my sales would not be quite as robust if they didn't have the "pop" of accurate skin tones and uniform colors, with a bit of a twinkle in the eye that retains the proper shade of black in the pupils because I moved the flash off axis ... by shooting in this manner, I can quickly process dozens or even hundreds of images for posting to my web shopping cart or to one or several of the print and web clients I do work for .... all this and I am hardly ever confused with a GWC ... possibly because I just finished my 36th high school football season ... You see, I was using both available light shooting Tri-X pushed with Accufine ... AND ... shooting Kodachrome 64 with flash as early as 1978 .... you do what you have to do to serve your clients.

Would I go to all this trouble of using flash for night HS field sports if my sole purpose of being on the sideline was say 2-3 images for newsprint with at least one or more of the batch resulting in a B&W two column on page B-7 ... probably not ... With a bit of quality time staring at pixels on a computer monitor while caressing a mouse in your hand, any available light hs sports shot can be tweaked to perfection in PS to offer optimum output ... though, there are those of us who have to deal with more than a few images which can make the time to spend with each image in question with that level of individual attention prohibitive. In this regard, using judicious flash in adverse lighting conditions can ease the PP workflow.

There is room for both schools of thought on the matter ... but to disregard or to wholly endorse one method over the other in any great fashion, misses the whole point ... use whatever technique is necessary to complete the task at hand which will result in the best finished image possible with the least amount of difficulty ... blanket statements either for or against just don't fit in a reasonable discussion.
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Jim Colburn, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 3:46 PM on 11.20.11
->> Remember Arnold Newman. He once said that he always shot with available light; daylight, tungsten, strobe... whatever was available.
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Matthew Jonas, Photo Editor, Photographer
Evergreen | CO | USA | Posted: 3:55 PM on 11.20.11
->> I just can't help it. Every time I think about strobed football I am reminded of this: http://markhancock.blogspot.com/2005/03/behold-beast.html
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Michael Prengler, Photographer
Fairview | TX | USA | Posted: 5:16 PM on 11.20.11
->> Strobes are pretty frowned upon where I'm shooting. One thing I don't like is my shot being flooded by another shooters strobe or the strobe going off in the background.
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Michael Prengler, Photographer
Fairview | TX | USA | Posted: 8:21 PM on 11.20.11
->> @Huh - Example: I'm on the hash in the end zone, you are positioned on the side of the end zone with a strobe. Peak action shot for a jump ball and we both start shooting, your strobe fires and floods my shot. It does give a really nice look of a train approaching the end zone if you like that look. :) I've had the same thing happen when I'm on one side of the field and a strobe shooter is directly accross from me on the other side of the field.
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Mark Peters, Photographer
Highland | IL | USA | Posted: 8:34 PM on 11.20.11
->> Michael - I didn't give you the huh - but I've got to ask - with a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second or shorter on your end and a flash duration of 1/1000th a second or less on the other, can you really be catching that many flashes?
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Keith Coward, Photographer
Charlotte | NC | USA | Posted: 8:39 PM on 11.20.11
->> @Michael....this same thing happens when you're in a college or NBA arena and somebody's strobe goes off in the rafters. They get a properly exposed shot of a great dunk and you get "the train". How is that any different that what you've just described? Other than it's usually the more experienced shooters who have strobes in the rafters?
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Michael Prengler, Photographer
Fairview | TX | USA | Posted: 8:48 PM on 11.20.11
->> No not that many this season (handfull total) but it does happen.
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Corey Perrine, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 8:48 PM on 11.20.11
->> Michael,

Some suggestions that may help you...

1.) Shoot RAW files in low light...

Shooting RAW files have opened my eyes to low light anything. You can shoot two stops underexposed and pull it open post. The file has TONS more information and in the RAW converter you can additionally bump in a little fill light post production that looks natural. We're talking three stops here.

I shot ISO 6400 the other day in Iowa at a small school and every third frame was pink. With RAW it saved those nasty files.

2.) Shoot on your knees...

When you shoot masked sports on your knees you get below those helmet bars and generally have more useable frames because you are looking up into the players face.

3.) Experiment with long exposures...

Get your safe shots and then start panning. Don't over do it, a couple a game will open possibilities to new frames. Pan with long glass. Pan with wide glass (50mm and wider if they get really close).

4.) Upgrade your equipment...
With the recycle time you are waiting for, you might as well shoot football with a 5D Mark II. At 6400, the files are impressive.

Hate the noise? Get a plugin for Photoshop. Noise Ninja will do.


I have yet to see a GREAT on camera strobed football photo.

I'll be kind when I say this...

Flat light blows. Waiting for a recycle time when you can avoid it kills. And guide numbers, although fine in theory, don't ever pan out the way we would really want them too.

Even if you have that killer shot, you got flat light. You probably got some red eye too. The technology of being a slave to a small portable annoying box of light is there, why not take advantage?

And if the opportunities and success rates are fewer with flash and bound by so many constraints, why spend so much time waiting for an anomaly?



FWIW.

Corey

P.S.

Check out this sick frame from my colleague Matt Miller at a high school football game. One of the best I've personally seen in low light but he made it work...

http://mattmillerphoto.com/#/Portfolio/Sports/8
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Corey Perrine, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 8:50 PM on 11.20.11
->> *of NOT being a slave
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Michael Prengler, Photographer
Fairview | TX | USA | Posted: 8:58 PM on 11.20.11
->> Corey - was it steady every three frames? Was frame 2 any different than frame 1?
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Corey Perrine, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 9:14 PM on 11.20.11
->> It was that wonderful sodium vapor lighting that went pink and green. It was consistent more towards the light fall off near the latter 1/4's, endzones and sidelines.
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Michael Prengler, Photographer
Fairview | TX | USA | Posted: 9:28 PM on 11.20.11
->> I have that in a stadium here. Frame 1 is different than 2, 2 different than three. I'm sure other people reading this know what I'm about to say but it took some research to finally figure out that all the lights were wired on the same 3 phase power so that all the lights are pulsating at the same time. What I learned is that the electrician should have wired the lights on different phases so while they still pulsate, they pulsate at difgerent times which gives steady light.

If I'm mistaken, someone please correct me.
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Adam Brimer, Photographer, Assistant
Knoxville | TN | USA | Posted: 10:55 PM on 11.20.11
->> There is absolutely nothing wrong with shooting available light.
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Mike Burley, Photographer
Dubuque | IA | USA | Posted: 11:50 PM on 11.20.11
->> On camera looks terrible. I don't know whats worse: the angle of on camera flash or the mixed color temperatures. You either get blue faces or orange backgrounds. I just shoot available, raw from a low angle.. pull the mid tones (fill in raw). We have absolutely no problems selling prints at my paper.. And yes, I shoot from the same Iowa stadiums.
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Paul Hayes, Photographer, Photo Editor
Littleton | NH | USA | Posted: 5:14 AM on 11.21.11
->> +1 for shooting football with available light.

Many times my shots have been blown out by other shooters with on-camera flashes. What they got wasn't worth killing my (or other shooters) shots for. I am grateful I've never worked a game with "the beast" linked above.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 12:10 PM on 11.21.11
->> There is absolutely nothing wrong with shooting with on-camera flash if you know how to control the light and color temp ;-)
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Paul Hayes, Photographer, Photo Editor
Littleton | NH | USA | Posted: 12:47 PM on 11.21.11
->> Hey guys, this thread has gotten me thinking. I work in an area with few photographers so I don't know how prevalent on-camera flash use is among other pros at sporting events. So I put together a little survey to see where everyone stands on the issue. You can find it at:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GZMCHN8

I'll re-post survey results, provided people actually take the time to complete it. If not I'll go sit in a puddle of mud and eat worms.
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G.J. McCarthy, Photographer
Dallas | TX | US | Posted: 1:32 PM on 11.21.11
->> "I can't believe what a bunch of nerds we are. We're looking up 'money laundering' in a dictionary."
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Svein Ove Ekornesvaag, Photographer
Aalesund | Møre og Romsdal | Norway | Posted: 2:10 PM on 11.21.11
->> I very rarely use flash while shooting soccer. Yesterday I used flash on some post match pictures of the celebration. It was about 1/200 iso 1250 f/4 ambient light, so the flash was only fill light. In my opinion the pictures without flash looked better.
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John Germ, Photographer
Wadsworth | Oh | USA | Posted: 3:34 PM on 11.21.11
->> Michael - I've gone back and forth. Personally I prefer flash - especially with African American skin tones - it's just very difficult to get faces showing well in poor lit stadiums. I've also noticed that with more stadiums using turf - that really cuts down on reflected light. In the end - what matters most is what your client thinks - whether that's the editor or the customer if selling prints. You have to follow the "golden rule" - that is, "he who has the gold makes the rules". Use what your client likes (as long as it is allowed by sanctioning body/school), not what another photographer tells you you have to do.
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Matt Miller, Photographer
Omaha | NE | USA | Posted: 6:27 PM on 11.21.11
->> Someone just pointed out that I was linked on this thread, so I figured I better check it out.

Thanks for the shout out, Corey. Just for some information on that frame- it was shot all the way back in 2004 on a Canon Mark2 (not even the "n"), and I *think* I shot that on jpg, with a 300m lens.

And to weigh in on this debate, you can shoot any way you want, you just need to make sure to do it well, and no one will question you. Most of the work being done is of a pretty average quality, so if you can figure out your technique and perfect it, your work will stand out.
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Alan Look, Photographer
Bloomington/Normal | IL | United States | Posted: 7:06 PM on 11.21.11
->> Sure glad I figured out how to build my own flash blaster instead of parting with $40 for the better beamer. I'd be feeling like a real idiot about now.
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Nina Zhito, Photographer
Bay Area | CA | | Posted: 8:43 AM on 11.23.11
->> "available light is great... when it's available!"
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Simon Wheeler, Photo Editor, Photographer
Ithaca | NY | USA | Posted: 11:57 AM on 11.23.11
->> Matt

Great photo. Now if we could just get all the other players to pose upside down the light on their faces would be as good as yours.
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Marshall Wolff, Photographer
Framingham | Ma. | USA | Posted: 8:21 PM on 11.23.11
->> I agree with Butch 100%. Make your pix the way you want and that pleases you and your client the most. I like experimenting with flash and available light in all sports.

My 2 cents
Marshall
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Thread Title: Just 'cause you can..doesn't mean you should-available light
Thread Started By: Michael Fischer
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