Downcourt with the 300

November 18th, 2008
By

In my few years of covering basketball for the Star-Bulletin, I’ve always found it to be a bit of a challenge as far as what focal length of lens to use.  Basketball is a very static sport that seesaws from one end of the court to the other, causing a bit of a juggling episode between two cameras with different lenses.   In previous years, I’d normally use just a 70-200 zoom, then use a 50mm prime or 24-70 zoom for the closer stuff.  The past three games I’ve photographed this season, I’ve used a 300mm lens for all downcourt action and an 85 1.2 for the closer stuff, and I think I’ve found the winning combination of focal lengths.  The 300 mm is quite challenging in that it is tight as a tick (see my post on the 800mm lens in football for more on tight), but when everything and everyone aligns right in the frame, it makes for some very neat and different images.  Here’s one from last night’s late nailbiter against Idaho State:

 

.Hawaii's Roderick Flemings, left, and Idaho State's Austin Kilpatrick eye a loose ball during the first half.  Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 3002.8L, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/800@2.8, ISO 2000, 4100K Whitebalance

.Hawaii's Roderick Flemings, left, and Idaho State's Austin Kilpatrick eye a loose ball during the first half. Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 300f2.8L, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/800@2.8, ISO 2000, 4100K Whitebalance

Now here’s one that I wish went MY way instead of going the other way.  Just the luck of the draw sometimes.

 

Idaho State's Matt Stucki loses the ball while jumping over Hawaii's Adhar Mayen in the final seconds of the first half.  Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 85f1.2L, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/1000@1.2, ISO 400, 4100K Whitebalance.

Idaho State's Matt Stucki loses the ball while jumping over Hawaii's Adhar Mayen in the final seconds of the first half. Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 85f1.2L, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/1000@1.2, ISO 400, 4100K Whitebalance.

Here’s another shot with the 85mm, showing just a fabulous background blur and really isolating the players and action:

 

The 85mm is tricky, because just a hair off, and your shot is out of focus (OOF as we affectionately call it)

The 85mm is tricky, because just a hair off, and your shot is out of focus (OOF as we affectionately call it)

11 Responses to “Downcourt with the 300”

  1. Michael Carino:

    not trying to nitpick, but i think you mean it’s a very dynamic sport? haha. fricken awesome shots with the 85L btw…is that yours or the bulletins?


  2. Jim:

    What was your aperture settings for the 85mm shot? That is such a hard lens to focus.. Have you tried out the 135mm 2.0 the AF seems to be faster than the 85mm. Great shots!


  3. jammaquino:

    Thanks for the compliments, guys! As for the 85, and with all the sports I shoot, the aperture is always wide open–in the 85′s case, at 1.2. This cleans up the backgrounds considerably and isolates the players/action that you are capturing. Yes indeed, that 85 is really tricky to focus, and requires a lot more concentration on pinning that focus point to the subject.

    Jim, I’ve tried the 135, and it’s a fabulous lens! It’s a little too tight in the near court for basketball, methinks. One detail to add here is that I shoot from the baseline near the benches, so I’m actually shooting at an angle towards the hoop. When I’d shoot with the 50mm or 24-70, I usually post up (pun intended) more underneath the basket, but in the past season, the action I’ve gotten from there is usually a whole bunch of chin and no eyes/face when the players drive to the hoop.


  4. Kent:

    ive been using the 85 1.8 @ 1.8 and i love it.

    the action i’ve been getting with the 24-70 is all arm pit. just great. i do like how the 1.2 totally isolates the subject(s) therefore almost creating a totally new reality for the subjects.

    very cool my friend.


  5. J-Dog:

    That last shot is sick!


  6. Simple:

    When you shot the 85mm at F1.2, how did you set your focusing since it should have been extremely narrow?


  7. jammaquino:

    Hey Simple,
    Generally, I set my AF to AI Servo for all sports. In the Canon 1D-series cameras, there’s also the option to set the AF tracking sensitivity from very slow to very fast, depending upon the sport and how fast subjects are coming towards the lens. For basketball, I set my tracking sensitivity to moderately slow, since players aren’t always sprinting full speed at the camera. I also set my focus point to the middle one, and only use 11 of the 45 AF points available. 45 is too many to choose from in my humble opinion. Hope this helps! Another aspect to achieving good photos at 1.2 isn’t on the camera–it’s CONCENTRATION. I always always wear earplugs when shooting football, basketball, volleyball–it really aids a lot in keeping your mind and your vision locked into the viewfinder and into the shot.


  8. Michael Carino:

    i just realized i got that same moment (as your last shot) but mines IS OOF.


  9. Michael Carino:

    crap

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbcarino/3048981886/


  10. SIMPLE:

    Jammaquino Thanks for the info ! I did not expore the AF sensitivity tracking part – definitely worth exploring. Will you have the chance to test drive the new 200mm F2. some time this season at the Stan’ ly?


  11. How to Get Six Pack Fast:

    Hey, nice tips. Perhaps I’ll buy a glass of beer to the man from that forum who told me to visit your site :)


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