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|| News Item: Posted 1999-02-04

High School Gym Lighting, Part 2
By George Wilhelm, LA Times

Even though Fuji 800 pushes very well, we decided to start lighting high school basketball a couple years ago because we were getting tired of grain the size of the basketball and loss of detail in dark faces. Also, some of the gyms in our area have pulsating lights, where if you shoot available, you sometimes get the same effect on your film as if you had shot with lights out of sync.
Anyway, here's the way I set up.

I use a pair of old Norton 200C power packs and two heads with standard reflectors. I use them because they're small and lightweight so anything similar will work as well.

Two sets of Pocket Wizards (2 transmitters, 2 receivers)

Two sturdy light stands.


I generally shoot from one end of the court with two bodies. One with a 300/2.8 for the far end and the other with an 80-200 zoom for the near end.

I try to arrive at the game early. 45 minutes to an hour early usually gets me there during the JV game so I can set up while they're playing.

Every gym is configured a bit differently but in general I put one light on each corner of one baseline. About 10 - 15 feet outside the sidelines and as far behind the baseline as possible usually up against the gym wall. Some schools have bleachers that come out very close to the court sidelines and actually butt up against the gym wall. In that case I put the light stand inside the bottom step of the bleachers. This also protects the stands from being knocked over.

Attach the battery packs to the heads and your Wizards to the heads and raise them up to about rim level or at least the bottom of the net. Aim them down just barely.

I aim each light to halfway between the top of the free throw circle and the half court line.
At the end of the JV game I go out on the court to take my light readings before the Varsity teams come out to warm up.

With the Normans set at 50 watt-seconds I take readings under the near basket, the near free throw line, half court, top of the far key, and under the far basket.

At 800 I get readings in the neighborhood of f4 - 4.5 in the near court and from f4 down to 2.8 in the far court. Obviously, the nearer or farther you get to or from either one of the lights your readings will change. I choose an f-stop half way between the high and low readings in each half court. The point here is that with the relatively forgiving nature of negative film, I can shoot with my long lens down court and my shorter lens in the near court and not have to change my exposure settings.

Make sure you shoot at the single frame setting. The recycle time for the Normans is pretty fast at 50 watt-seconds but it still can't keep up with your motor on continuous.

If I happen to be at a gym with a fairly low, light colored, flat ceiling I'll sometimes crank up the Normans another notch and bounce my lights. This gives a more even, flat coverage.
Setup time only takes about 10 minutes once you've got the routine down.

I've never had a coach or player or referee complain or ask me to stop using the lights. Nor have I ever had my light stands knocked over. Maybe I'm just lucky in that regard but I do place them far enough off the court to be out of the way of foot traffic.

This is the way I set up most of the time. As I mentioned before, high school gyms come in all types of configurations and sometimes you have to improvise. I've even clamped my strobe heads to bleacher railings (although fans sometimes get in the way) or the struts that support the practice backboards which are usually folded up against the gym wall. Actually this works well because you eliminate the light stand.

So pack up a couple of lights and head to the gym. This is the way I do it but you can experiment with different configurations. You'll be pleased with the results and it really doesn't take a lot of extra time to set up or break down.

(George Wilhelm and Brian Vanderbrug are staff photographers for the LA Times

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