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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

High School Gym Photographers
Paul Meyer, Photographer
Spring Creek | NV | USA | Posted: 8:12 AM on 09.12.12
->> I had a meeting with the local HS yesterday about covering their gym sports. They seemed very anxious to allow me access but when the subject of strobes came up, initial response was a definite no. I was able to tour the gym with the VP and the lighting seemed moderate at best. I will be returning to shoot some test shots for varsity VB at practice before the week is out (using on camera flash at best, or wide open 135, 85).

Have any indoor HS sports photographers been able to convince the faculty that strobes are OK after the initial "no" reply? I have business general liability and the equipment will be floor positioned, not truss. With all safety measures in place and providing a good plan, I'm sure there is a way to approach this without being pushy persuasive (which it won't come to).

My logic is that class photos use plenty of setup with the same potential hazards. Unless I'm missing something, I'm sure the contracted school photog's have nothing more than general liability.

Thank you
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Ryan M. Kelly, Photographer, Student/Intern
Newport News | VA | USA | Posted: 9:02 AM on 09.12.12
->> This might be a situation where showing them "before" and "after" results will persuade them. I imagine the administration, not being familiar with photography enough to understand the detriment of poor lighting, expects working with available light to be good enough. If you can shoot that practice first with ambient light and then with strobes, and both demonstrate their necessity and have the coach confirm it's not a distraction to the players, your employer may come around.
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Steve Violette, Photographer
Gulf Breeze | FL | USA | Posted: 9:41 AM on 09.12.12
->> The question is also - What's in it for them. Status Quo is "No" so why change. they do not have any complaints now and this presents possible conflict they will have to address. I have found this the case at multiple locations.

At our local high school I made a deal with the administration to help assist the yearbook staff. Instructing the student photographers at events I was at and allowing them to use an occasional photograph in the yearbook. Eventually parents started to contact me about purchasing additional images for yearbook ads for the next year and word got around pretty quickly and helped to improve my business with a model I had not considered. This also helped to grow the Sr. Portrait business as I am now the known "sports guy"

That's my experience

Steve
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 9:45 AM on 09.12.12
->> I think you will have a tough time with a sport like volleyball. Even in my area where we use strobes in a lot of the gyms, it is a no-no for volleyball. The cry about it being a distraction to the players. The basketball players have no problem getting that ball to go through that small hoop, but the VB girls can't hit a ball? I have asked the kids plenty of times if the strobes bothered them and the have told me they don't even notice them.
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Paul Meyer, Photographer
Spring Creek | NV | USA | Posted: 10:16 AM on 09.12.12
->> Thanks for the speedy replies and there is something to clarify/answer from all 3 of you. Exapnding on my situation, two sets of parents have asked me to attend varsity VB games and shoot for purchase and generate a portfolio for scholarship submission. I contacted the school first before comitting to make sure it ok to attend and wander the floor. They typically have parents in the stands and the shots are just not good enough ITO.

Ryan, you picked the situation. After meeting with the P & VP, they said no to strobes and I kinda expected that, but admitted they have no experience with a sporting set-up, so I hope they have negotiation and flexibility with their decision process. I hope your right about them coming around.

Steve, even though I am there to shoot individuals, I have an agenda for mass purchase from the team as a whole. I am also willing to help the school marketing and offer some images for their local promotion to entice kids to sign up. It's a give and take world! I like your angle.

Paul, OCF is not an issue apparently, until someone says so. My intent was to bounce 2 AB800's off the roof from stands using 11" throw reflectors.

Anyway, we will wait and see the test shots from practice and I'll see where to go from there.

Thanks for your help.
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Steve Violette, Photographer
Gulf Breeze | FL | USA | Posted: 10:23 AM on 09.12.12
->> Paul,
When speaking to the Girls VB coach here - he was cautious and let us set up during a Non-district game. His only request was - please do not fire the flashes when the girls are serving.

Also - the local newspapers here use flashes (AB's bounced as you suggest) without problems

Steve
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 1:57 PM on 09.12.12
->> Wow, Steve, you are lucky then because we can't use any kind of flashes with volleyball or cheerleading.

So Paul are you saying you can use OCF and they have a problem with strobes? I would think it would be the opposite. OCF is blasting them in the face at ground level. I can't see this being better than some strobes in the corners bounced off the ceiling. Good luck.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 2:32 PM on 09.12.12
->> Paul...

WHY was the answer no? There must be a reason -- valid or false assumption -- in saying so. One can't overcome ignorance until the "why" question is asked.

I had a school say no once and when asked why they didn't have a reason other than the "assumption" it would be distracting. So I set up the strobes and used them during a practice. When the athletes said the flashes had no affect on them the school reversed their no to a yes and I ended up with some really nice crisp and vibrant images to everyone's delight.

I suggest you try the same. Set up the strobes during a practice and let the athletes decide. When you do the test shoot both available and strobe and show both to the girls explaining the increased quality. When they see themselves looking better with strobe that may very well convince them to say yes even if there is a little bit of reservation.
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Paul Meyer, Photographer
Spring Creek | NV | USA | Posted: 3:58 PM on 09.12.12
->> Hi Doug,

I didn't want to press the "no" answer issue on the initial meeting. I want to beleive that their knee jerk reaction to my set up was because of "tripping/falling/injury/add assumption here" reasons typically associated with lights on stands in a public places mentality. As mentioned, they are anxious to get "better quality" shots than the GWC submissions. I will keep working on them and at this stage, I'm not willing to risk pushing the issue and being rejected without firing off a shot. I actually told them if the test shots failed (to my standards), and the strobe issue is still falling on deaf ears, I wont sacrifice my image quality for the sake of a buck. I'll just set up my subjects elsewhere, get their portfolio images, and wait for them to call me back when they come to realize a strobe isn't that big of a deal.

I wonder if MaxPreps has any endorsment material that may supplement a case, because when I told them about submitting to MaxPreps and helping their school page, their ears pricked up pretty big.

For the record, I understand and agree with your reply> I will find a way and all will be good in the universe.
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Tim Cowie, Photographer, Photo Editor
Davidson | NC | USA | Posted: 8:15 PM on 09.12.12
->> I have had no problem using strobes. In fact, I have talked with the national and state federations about the rules regarding the use of strobes. Sports strobes are allowed and in fact, if they go to the state tournament it is very likely they will be shot with sports strobes.

The only problem comes with on camera strobes. If you use an on camera strobe, an official can request for you not to use it as it can be distracting to them and the players. However, this is a courtesy. The officials in NC have never questioned and have told coaches and players that they are not against the rules and to continue playing.

The best medicine is get there early and fire them off during warm ups so that by the time the game begins, they don't even notice them. Of course, you will always have the parents that think it is affecting their child - especially when she plays bad. BTW - shooting sport strobes when they are serving has no bearing on their success or lack thereof.
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Andrew Brosig, Photo Editor, Photographer
Nacogdoches | TX | United States | Posted: 9:31 AM on 09.13.12
->> Here in Texas at least, strobes at inside sports venues are permitted, as long as they are above eye level and not on the camera. The UIL goes so far as the codify on-camera flash is strictly forbidden at state playoff/finals events.

That said, I've run into venues that just outright ban strobes, often for no apparent good reason than "we can."

I once shot a portrait of a basketball player at the local college, where we have four, 1000 WS strobes permanently mounted in the rafters. I lit her independently, and used the big strobes to fill in the gym floor. On the first shot, she freaked, wondering where all the light was coming from. When I told her, and pointed out the strobes, she said she'd never noticed them before. And she was a senior starter who'd played just about every game we shot for four years.

That doesn't mean some coach isn't going to complain, particularly if their team is losing bad. From that point on, its a matter of damage control. I can see how floor-level strobes on stands could be a concern. I'd explore options to get the lights up and away from the floor. Out of sight is sometimes out of mind.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 12:53 PM on 09.13.12
->> "I can see how floor-level strobes on stands could be a concern. I'd explore options to get the lights up and away from the floor."

I could not agree more. You have to worry about a kill shot slamming into a unit, little kids running around accidentally tripping over a stand leg or power cord or some senior citizen like myself grabbing on to hold myself up while waiting to cross the floor. The entire floor is in bounds so if a girl or guy is running back to get the ball the opportunity for running into one of your lights is a pretty high risk. Mr. Brosig suggestion is the best so far: get the lights up as high as you go. The higher they are the less likely they are to be deemed a nuisance and less of a safety hazard.

In Illinois, the host school sets the gym rules and luckily for nearly all school in my area, no one blinks when I set up my light kit in a gym. Only once in 14 years have I've been told to shut my strobes off at a volleyball game. I packed up and didn't cover that school again until I was invited back. I explained that I had to use strobes to make decent images to run in our magazine and it has never been a problem since at that school.

One other time, we had a school official tell us (media - 3 of us) at a sectional volleyball game that we could not use flash. Now, turn off the lights in the room you are in and close the shades. That's how much light we had to work with.

We were at a gym out in the sticks so I said: "I'm using strobes and they are specially design not to be seen by volleyball players. If there is a problem let me know and I'll shut them off." Shot the entire game without a peep from the woman in charge.
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Scott Sewell, Photographer
Topeka | KS | USA | Posted: 3:14 PM on 09.14.12
->> I have used strobes for high school volleyball for years and never once has a player, coach or anyone else complained.

I received permission from the coach long before the season started and used them at practice a few times so they got use to them. He is also an assistant basketball coach and he knew I had strobed basketball before I started strobing volleyball.

I specifically told the coach before the first game that if he or any players noticed the strobes during the game and they were a distraction to motion to me and I would stop using them. I shot an entire meet with the strobes and after the event asked the coach if everything was okay. His reply: "I asked the assistant coach during the games why Scott wasn't using the strobes." In short, he nor the players ever noticed them. AND, this is a team that has won the state title numerous times (so one could probably assume my strobing their seasons hasn't had a negative affect on their performance!).
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Mike Bradley, Photographer
Davenport | IA | USA | Posted: 7:38 PM on 09.14.12
->> Check with the governing body in your state...I work with a newspaper shooter who carries the IHSA [Illinois] rulebook in his camera bag, so he knows what is allowed for various sports, and he can show that to a principal who has a problem with it.
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Paul Alesse, Photographer
Coram | NY | USA | Posted: 9:08 PM on 09.15.12
->> I think the real question should't be why the SCHOOL is saying NO. But, why YOU are saying YES.

Point being... it doesn't matter anymore. If you're looking to sell a photo or publish a photo, the quality and lack of noise is plenty good enough. And honestly, with all due respect to the previous posters who suggested showing them a before and after... they're not photographers and you're not going to sell them on the quality factor. To them... a photograph is just a photograph. They have no clue about noise or cycling lights and really... they don't need to have a clue. The school and their athletics don't revolve around the photographer. They want you to do what you need to do and get out with as little disruption as possible to the game and its spectators.

There is no comparison between a studio shoot and a strobed game when it comes to risk. A studio doesn't have hundreds of parents, kids, and their little siblings running around. There is a ton more liability! There is simply no gain to the school in granting you strobe access. I wouldn't pursue it. A good photo is a good photo regardless of noise and if it's sellable, it will sell. No parent will ever say to you... "Wow, if this shot only had a little less noise, a little cooler Kelvin, and a little less of a light cycling color cast... I'd buy it."

Not now. Not ever. Just go and make good frames.
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David Scott, Photographer
Portland | OR | US | Posted: 1:02 AM on 09.16.12
->> I just finished a 5 year project where I strobed every basketball, volleyball and wrestling event that I photographed at one local high school. The school's AD told me I could do whatever I wanted to do including mounting remote cameras.

I was questioned only one time by refs before a basketball game. I had a copy of my states interscholastic regulations regarding the use of strobes/flash, an NCAA document with a bit more info (it actually referenced flash duration), and the tech specs of my strobes all in a neat presentation folder. When the refs questioned me I brought out the folder and showed them the pertinent info (I had it highlighted).

If you are covering games regularly meet the refs and learn their names. It helped me out when I was questioned by the refs that didn't know me to name-drop the other refs that were OK with the strobes.
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Roger Davis, Photographer, Photo Editor
Russiaville | IN | USA | Posted: 1:17 PM on 09.17.12
->> I will second what Mike and David say: check with the governing body. I shoot Indiana HS basketball and other indoor sports. I carry a hard copy of the IHSAA photography policy, but not nearly as presentable as David (I really like your method). IHSAA guidelines do not appear to be on the web site now or I would provide a link. I believe, actually, that I had to have them e-mail it to me. It states things like no flash in-line with a focal point of the sport (such as behind a basketball goal or even a football goal). It also says at the discretion of local game officials and administration. But still, because it mentions guidelines for strobes, I reference it if ever questioned and inform the local authorities that I comply with the IHSAA guidelines for strobe photography. For many of the gyms I shoot it makes a big difference, but I do carry my ExpoDisc to get white balance close and crank up the ISO if I have to. Obviously, working without flash if possible gives back the advantage of higher fps to capture just the right moment in a big play.

By the way, my avatar image of ball through hoop was shot with a strobe :)
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Roger Davis, Photographer, Photo Editor
Russiaville | IN | USA | Posted: 7:28 PM on 09.17.12
->> After re-reading some responses, one more thing I do for my protection and the school's is carry liability (and equipment) insurance. A modest package will cost between $30 and $50 per month. I safety strap all my strobes, but just in case something would happen or the school asks for it, I have a policy. And that's another thing that should go in my little folder I plan to make after reading David's post.
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Joseph Rogate, Photographer
Seaford | NY | USA | Posted: 8:17 AM on 09.20.12
->> After being told no by the coach my response was, if they (the players) are looking at my strobes they are most certainly looking in the wrong place. strobes then were permitted. During and after the game no one complained.
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Jim Urquhart, Photographer
Salt Lake City | UT | USA | Posted: 9:14 AM on 09.20.12
->> I have to agree with Paul Alesee.
To me in general, the use of strobes on high school sports is way over rated and also gives an amateurish feel to the work.
No matter how crisp and clean the image it is still a strobed shot that probably could have been made better by the photographer seeing the light that is already there and making storytelling images.
I used to use strobes at high school events (both indoor and outdoor) earlier in my career when I worked at a small paper in Wisconsin. These images will thankfully never see the light of day again if I have anything to do with it.
I am also seeing so many people getting hung up on the technical aspects of a photo and technology used to make them. This is where the gear head amateurs separate themselves from the professionals ... but there are several exceptions to this.
At the end of the day, very few care about the technical perfection of a photo. It is the storytelling and emotion that you made the viewer feel that is remembered.
"Free yourself from the chains of tech and recycle times and you too can be just like Ron Jeremy" -Ghandi Circa 1942
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Joseph Rogate, Photographer
Seaford | NY | USA | Posted: 7:54 AM on 09.21.12
->> I agree Jim and Paul. When ever assigned from the paper I most always went with natural light never strobes. I only used (set up) strobes when working for my college clients.
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Roger Davis, Photographer, Photo Editor
Russiaville | IN | USA | Posted: 12:55 PM on 11.26.12
->> I just stumbled across this thread again and must have missed the comments by Paul Alesse. Maybe Paul is blessed with high schools in the area with plenty of light. I shoot gyms around here that aren't too different than candles on a cave wall. At 3200 ISO and an f/2.8 lens my shutter speeds max out around 1/100th of a second and to me that's to slow. And then there are the dark faces. I prefer to shoot f/3.2 or 3.5 to give a little depth of field "window" due to movement quicker than my series 1 lens 70-200 or 28-70 lenses can focus my 7D bodies.

If strobes are considered "amateur" then why do photographers for Sports Illustrated and Getty Images and many others pay high dollar to rent them or install them in venues with better lighting to begin with than many high schools?

Sure, if the lighting is good (my limit is ISO 2000 and 1/200th shutter) I prefer to leave the strobes in the truck and shoot the 8.5 fps my camera supports, but that just means I have more to sort through and I am not developing my timing skills to catch the moment when I can fall back on "it's got to be one of those images".

Do people really care? Well, in my case they do. One photographer shoots for free with the same 7D and 70-200 lens I use but no strobes. Partly because she doesn't know how to set up her camera or other reasons, people will still pay for my photos even when they get her free photos. They like mine better because they are brighter I am assuming. But maybe hers have too much motion blur.
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Tom Ewart, Photographer
Bentonville | AR | USA | Posted: 1:50 PM on 11.26.12
->> I am sorry that some here have given into the "good enough" work flow. I strobe about anything indoors, I never know when that parent or school wants a 20X30 or larger or someone sets a national record and some magazine wants it. High school sports are evolving and they will more than likely encounter strobes at the College level. The comment about an action shot never looking like a studio shot, It may be because you don't try or have the skill. Shooting sports action takes a different skill set than shooting in a studio. Some people may have had bad run in with someone who didn't know a thing about flash duration or how to aim a strobe not to a major distraction. I agree cameras have come a looong way with low ASA, but put the 200 ASA properly lit shot indoor sports photograph up against an available light image at high ASA from the same camera and tell me it doesn't matter. I hold the rights to sports action all the High School Championships in the state of Arkansas
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Stanley Leary, Photographer
Roswell | GA | USA | Posted: 9:34 PM on 11.26.12
->> I think there are some things being overlooked.

first, the client needs to be happy with not just the results but the process. sometimes strobes are more distracting to some people than others. If they are paying then make them happy and then get more work.

I wrote a blog on lighting a high school like gym. Here is that if you want to read it in detail
http://blog.stanleyleary.com/2012/10/sports-photography-high-speed-flash-vs...

I arrived early shot with strobes and said I could shoot without them, but the quality wouldn't be as good. Well, that is normally true, but those lights are newer and they looked great. WOW I was shocked. Shot in another gym later and like every other frame another color. However this venue was great.

Here is a follow up blog on shooting that same venue with just available light:
http://blog.stanleyleary.com/2012/11/shooting-volleyball-with-nikon-d4-usin...

When strobes are not welcomed this is when the higher ISO capable cameras can and do make a big difference.

When the Nikon D3 was first introduced this made a huge difference in my low light photography. When the D3s came along I was also blown away.

The newest Nikon D4 is similar to the D3s, but I now have more to work with since the pixel count went up.

Strobes will clean the light up, but it isn't always all about the image. It is about your image and how you carry yourself. Business practices are just as important and what I am talking about here is making the customer happy with the entire experience you bring, not just the images.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 12:24 PM on 11.27.12
->> @Jim Urquhart

I am of the opposite opinion of your statement, "No matter how crisp and clean the image it is still a strobed shot that probably could have been made better by the photographer seeing the light that is already there and making storytelling images."

No matter how cool a moment a shooter may capture, if the presented image has technical deficiencies, the photo would be so much better if made by a photographer who had a better technical skills. Thanks largely to the mentors I had in my early days in the industry, I view the technical aspects of a photo every bit as important as the moment captured in it.

Regardless if a photographer shoots with strobes or available light, they can make storytelling images. What separates the wheat from the chaff, as the guys who mentored me harped, "If you can't make a photo where the skin tones look natural, then you aren't a professional photographer." Just as not everyone has the ability to make compelling storytelling images, nor does everybody has the aptitude, ability or training to produce technically sound images. It amazes me how many people in the profession think an available light photo is good (or great) when the subject's skin is somewhere between the color of a manila envelope and a Sunkist orange. I cringe when I see strobed images that are two steps away selenium blue.

"At the end of the day, very few care about the technical perfection of a photo."

No, at the end of the day, it depends on who's paying you as both Mr. Leary and Mr. Ewart were alluded. Some photographic jobs require a high degree of technical ability, such as those in forensic and scientific fields. Others are low enough that a MWC can perform the task needed to generate revenue. At the end of the day, technical ability needed depends on the level of quality your clients expect, what the client is willing to pay for or what's necessary for the industry segment you are performing the work.
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Jim Karczewski, Photographer, Assistant
Hammond | IN | USA | Posted: 7:31 PM on 11.27.12
->> If I HAD to shoot Natural Light, I would, in fact I did for all of the volleyball season here in Indiana even thought as mentioned by others, when they get to state there ARE strobes used. Only rule here in Indiana is On camera is not allowed and it's up to the officials to decide if it's OK to use off camera or not.

That being said, I hate most gyms around here. Even with a fast camera and high ISO's you run into a TON of gym lights, just like football fields, that are not properly wired as far as lighting goes and once you get past 1/60th your getting a mix of colors in the same frame. The top of the frame can e perfectly exposed but the bottom is dark brown or brownish green because you are shooting higher than the cycle rate of the lights.

Volleyball is very temperamental. Basketball, never had an issue. Not once in all the games I've strobed over the last 4 years. Coaches have told me directly (after I asked when I first started):

"If my players are looking at your lights going off then they are looking at the wrong thing and they will promptly be escorted back to the bench and replaced with a player that doesn't see them and pays attention to the BALL"
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Guy Rhodes, Photographer
East Chicago | IN | USA | Posted: 10:41 PM on 11.28.12
->> "Even with a fast camera and high ISO's you run into a TON of gym lights, just like football fields, that are not properly wired as far as lighting goes and once you get past 1/60th your getting a mix of colors in the same frame."

It's not really a matter of "proper" wiring or not (though some ways of wiring groups of lights might be more ideal for photo than others), it's just the nature of the beast when dealing with lights in gyms.

I prefer the look of strobed images because I like the way I can isolate players from often cluttered backgrounds, not because my cameras and lenses aren't capable of shooting in the available light. Not having to tone strobed images either on deadline is a huge plus.

I can't wait til flicker-free LED fixtures start to make their way into gyms. For those non-strobable high school sports around my area (like volleyball), it would make things a lot easier to deal with.
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Tom Ewart, Photographer
Bentonville | AR | USA | Posted: 3:43 PM on 11.29.12
->> Guy, some of the issues are indeed with proper wiring, if you have light the cycle and you put 1/3 of them on each phase, the cycling of the lights will not effect you nearly the same. The only sports I don't strobe are gymnastics and ice skating, why can't you strobe volleyball, did someone tell you, you couldn't. I strobe volleyball all the time in Arkansas at the high school and Div 1 college level, wondering what other sports you can't strobe and why?
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Guy Rhodes, Photographer
East Chicago | IN | USA | Posted: 1:10 AM on 11.30.12
->> Well, maybe not "proper" for our cameras, but proper enough for actually lighting the gym. Commercial electricians aren't wiring for our shutters, after all. :-)
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Jeff Stanton, Photographer
Atlanta | Ga | USA | Posted: 3:54 PM on 11.30.12
->> I'm sorry folks, but if you carry a rule book around in your camera bag and show it to some referees who are bent on stopping your strobes, it won't matter what the rule book says. They will stop the game (match) and won't restart until you agree to turn them off, all the while having a gym full of angry parents, coaches and fans all staring at you.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 4:24 PM on 11.30.12
->> I'm really glad I live in Iowa with stuff like this. Had one principal at a high school question me once about it. Told her if her players were looking at the ceiling, there was a much bigger problem. Pointed out that camera mounted strobes were a lot more of a issue. She got the message.

I had one other time where the visiting team coach was grumbling. This is where making nice with the local HS staff and the officials paid off. At half time, one of the officials said "well, if he had complained the athletic director would make the call and you probably would have to turn them off. "But", he said, "the real reason he was grumbling was the home team was kicking his a$$. You were just the excuse..."

Nothing like a bit of truth. It's never been a problem for me with VB....

M
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Scott Serio, Photo Editor, Photographer
Colora | MD | USA | Posted: 8:23 PM on 12.02.12
->> Hmm...
"No matter how crisp and clean the image it is still a strobed shot that probably could have been made better by the photographer seeing the light that is already there and making storytelling images."

So...in the one gym I have that is 1/2 stop darker on one end, and they are the Tigers, so the ENTIRE gym is painted orange, I should just shoot at ISO8000, 1/500 @ 2.8 and suck up that huge orange shift (more so on end end that the other) and make these great, generally poorly lit, with still some motion blue images?

Nah, I'll take my SB's on stands at just below 1/2 power. It gets me a 1/250th sync, F6.7 and ISO1000 or 1250. Yeah, I can't jam on the motor drive and rack off 15 frames, but I can practice patience and double-tap it.

As far as what sports...I found they were very leery of volleyball and all other sports were good to go in Maryland.
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