CM Sports Photography: Blog https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog en-us (C) CM Sports Photography (CM Sports Photography) Mon, 14 Jun 2021 08:38:00 GMT Mon, 14 Jun 2021 08:38:00 GMT https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/img/s/v-12/u687682535-o1052029752-50.jpg CM Sports Photography: Blog https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog 119 120 Photographing fans protests https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/photographing-fans-protests It pays to know your patch, have a sense of the crowd and the strength of feeling about the issue underpinning the gathering. The supporters protest at Old Trafford against the ownership of the club by the Glazer family is the only such event that I have ever photographed - so I claim no expertise at this type of photography.

 

Being a regular at Old Trafford, I know the place well - the entrances, exits and the streets around the ground. I also know the history of the supporters feelings about the Glazers who are despised for what they are doing to the club. There is real anger about the issue.

 

Armed with that knowledge the day went very much as I expected. The crowd started to gather an hour before the official start. Everything was peaceful with young families arriving, fathers with young toddlers on their shoulders, young couples there to show support for the cause and “Glazers OUT” protest cards being given out on the street corners. The road down to the ground was decked out with all sorts of anti-Glazer flags. All of these made for good newsworthy photographs.

 

I met with other football photographers who were there taking pictures as more and more people swelled into the crowd. Colourful smoke flares were repeatedly let off which added intensity to the scene and again yielded some good images. Groups started chanting the usual football songs and huge banners were seemingly marched into the forecourt in front of the ground. 

 

As a photographer I was simply on the look-out for decent pictures that would capture the essence of the event and thus wandering around the forecourt looking for people with posters, flares etc.

 

A security cordon of red barriers was spread right across the front entrance to the ground to stop people from passing through. It was all going quite peacefully but still there was a sense of ‘anything could happen here’. Suddenly, there was a main group on the concourse who set off some more green, yellow and red smoke flares and moved like a swarm towards the Munich Tunnel breaking through the metal barriers and casting aside hapless security stewards who could do nothing.

 

This group jumped onto the top of the low level roof of the Train station and seemingly put pressure on the closed main gates at the Munich Tunnel.  The mood had suddenly turned a bit menacing. I went close to the Tunnel to get some pics of these activities and then moved out to the concourse again as the inhalation of concentrated smoke from the flares was beginning to affect me.

 

Word then began circulating amongst the photographers that cameras and lenses were being deliberately attacked by some in the crowd. That was enough of a signal for me to get out of the way and return to my car. I had enough good pictures and had no need to hang around to see the ugly side of the protests take effect. 

 

Back in my car I was amazed that many in the crowd had actually gained entrance to the stadium and fights broke out with police. It would all have made great photography but I value my safety more than a few extra pictures

 

 

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(CM Sports Photography) https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/5/photographing-fans-protests Tue, 04 May 2021 12:39:54 GMT
Shooting high up in the Grandstands https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/2/shooting-high-up-in-the-grandstands If you shoot a lot of football games you can get into a ‘normalised’ way of doing things. You sit in roughly the same spot, getting the same angle, taking the same sort of pictures - it can all become a bit of a routine.

 

If however, you want to learn, you have to do new things, look for different ways and find unusual features. The top sports photographers have a creative mind that sets them apart. They are continuously thinking about adding a different level of ‘value’ to their images. It certainly pays to look at their work as an inspiration to your own. 

 

Thus, as the grandstands are currently enduring a covid related emptiness, I decided to break with my usual routine at the game between Stoke City v Sheffield Wednesday and instead of going pitchside, I ventured about 40 rows of seats up into the Grandstand level with the goal-line and sat there for most of the game with my 600mm lens and a 70-200mm.

 

The most significant differences are the angle of view (naturally) and the nature of the backgrounds. Instead of empty grandstands forming the backdrop to the action, for many images it would be green grass. I think this is a pleasing ‘clean’ effect to action images.The 600mm gave great range all over the pitch apart from the small corner of the field nearest to me. I could easily reach the further end of the pitch, just about getting both goalposts in the frame, thus I had to do less switching between lenses. 

 

The most difficult bit of it was that I seemed to suffer more of a failure rate usually because stray body parts seemed to annoyingly ruin another wise good shot - this was more so than being pitch side but that may be because I am more attuned to looking out for ‘cleaner’ images when pitch side.

 

I was really hoping to get the different angle on the ball hitting the back of the net from, say, a headed corner kick but there was only one goal and it was at the other end of the pitch with the scorer being blocked out by a defender behind him. The usual occupational hazard.

 

I would definitely do it again, or at least build in a 20 minute slot into a shoot where I would move up into the grandstands for a different perspective - when the fans are allowed back in we won’t be able to do it, so take the chance now whilst you can.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2021/2/shooting-high-up-in-the-grandstands Wed, 17 Feb 2021 16:57:38 GMT
Football in the era of Coronavirus https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2020/10/football-in-the-era-of-coronavirus There are good bits and bad bits to shooting football during these tough Coronavirus times and in my book the bad bits far outweigh the good bits.

 

The good bits are all about making your job easier. It’s easier to get to the ground as there are not as many cars on the roads, you get a parking space allocated at the stadium as there are no VIP or hospitality guests and pitch side there is plenty of space to work in as only a handful of photographers are allowed in. Added to that the stadium wifi works perfectly as there are not thousands of fans blocking the airwaves, and if it rains you can de-camp to the empty grandstands and work in the dry. Finally, it is very easy getting away from the ground at the end of the game.

 

There is one downside that outweighs all of these positives - access to games. As mentioned above the number of photographers allowed into games has been reduced to between 8 to 10 rather than the usual 25 -30. It does not affect the big agencies as they will get in to any game they choose and will often take up 90% of the allocated spaces. Middle sized agencies are getting squeezed and smaller agencies stand very little chance of getting into Premier League games and some chance of Championship games. If you can’t get access to games there are no positives to be had at all. The irony of it is that there is now so much room inside stadiums that they could have double the usual number instead of one-third of it.

 

Between March and December 2020 I have photographed 20 games without crowds (mostly Championship). It is definitely not the same experience and frankly it is a sad shadow of the game with no atmosphere whatsoever. Photographers rooms are understandably shut and thus there are no facilities on offer. The absence of crowds also gives you no audible ‘alert’ that something is happening on the pitch, so if you are sending out images on your laptop the play can be moving quickly and an major attack/goal can leave you scrambling to get the celebration having missed the goal being scored - annoying !

 

Images themselves are less pleasing to the eye with backgrounds of empty stands rather than emotional raucous crowds giving a sense of occasion…..So, from this photographers standpoint the sooner we can get back to ‘normal’ the better.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) Coronavirus football during coronavirus https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2020/10/football-in-the-era-of-coronavirus Thu, 29 Oct 2020 18:44:06 GMT
Photographing Premier League football https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2020/3/photographing-premier-league-football At Premier League level, photography is highly competitive. There can be over 20+ photographers at each game producing thousands of photos. However, the interest is global so the demand for good images is high - particularly for games involving the top six teams in the country. 

Including travelling time to and from the ground it can take between 8 - 9 hours to shoot a football game. You arrive at the ground three hours before kick-off. Not just to avoid match day traffic but also to reserve your pitchside position. Those three hours before kick-off seem to go very quickly. They usually involve taking pictures of the empty stadium, going outside to get pictures of fans & players arriving and then more pictures of the teams doing their warm-ups before the game. So before the match starts you will already have sent in up to 30 pictures.

Most photographers will leg it to the managers dug-out area to get pre-match pictures of the two managers shaking hands and also portrait shots of managers settling down for the game. Then its back to your pitchside position to send off your managers images and await the start of the match. 

You have to keep alert for all areas of the pitch to see what is happening - in the crowd, the activity of managers on the sidelines and of course capturing the key action of the game as it progresses. Personally, I do not watch the game through the camera’s viewfinder, I think it is better to watch what is happening and to do your best to anticipate where the action is moving to. Of course, there are no second chances so if you miss a critical piece of action then its gone forever. 

Photographers from the big agencies can wire images straight from the camera to a remote picture desk where someone will edit, caption and send the finished product out- this is luxury ! For the rest of us we have to do all the work ourselves whilst the game is in play thus you have to balance your time between having your head in the laptop and actually taking pictures of the action in front of you. The big agency photographers have one hell of a speed advantage !

Around 30 top action images are sent in during the game with a further 30 (usually the more boring ‘man with ball’) pictures sent in after the match has ended. Thus, you are normally leaving the stadium an hour after the game has finished.

Camera equipment needs to be at the professional level with Canon 1DX - or Nikon D5 bodies (usually three of these) and a lens selection which would include a 400mm f2.8 , 70-200mm f2.8, and a 24-70mm f2.8. A Fisheye lens is good for stadium shots. I try to get as close to 1/2000th of a second as possible but in poor light this can go down to 1/1250th, usually always in the aperture range f2.8 and f4. Images are still very usable up to ISO 8000 if you really have to go that high, more usually it is between ISO 2000 - 4000.

The industry standard software for downloading and sending out images is Photomechanic. It is fast and reliable.

Photographing the big Premier League clubs can seem glamorous, and yes you do get privileged access and a great view of the game but it can be quite stressful when, for example, your wifi or ethernet connection will not work and you cannot send your images out. You can also be operating in all sorts of weathers, heavy rain where all your equipment needs to be covered up or extreme cold when your Laptop will refuse to work at such low temperatures. So, it is not for the faint hearted when you see the big agency photographers getting all their images sent out from the cameras at great speed and you cannot get your equipment to work. The times when everything goes smoothly and you have a trouble free night are about 30%, the other 70% of times will throw you a glitch that needs sorting at some point during the evening.

The photographers facilities within stadiums vary from club to club, some have a cramped room where you have little space to work, others have proper chairs and desks with a good area of space in which to operate. Some give you a meal before the game, others just chuck a bundle of pies in the corner and thats it. Pitchside areas can also be short on space and you have to be mindful not to get your gear in the way of other photographers.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) football League Premier soccer https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2020/3/photographing-premier-league-football Mon, 09 Mar 2020 17:04:45 GMT
Photographing Snooker https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2019/3/photographing-snooker Snooker is a slow moving sport so in theory it is not difficult to photograph as things move at a walking pace and players stay still on their shots for enough seconds to enable good quality sharp images. The major challenges are the quality / colour of light and the repetitiveness of it all - it is hard to get much variation in your shots and you have to be alert for anything that might be just a bit ‘different’.

Seating position

You are normally sat behind the roving TV cameras so expect that for about 30% of the time you are going to be blocked out from your shot. You just have to accept it and realise that there is still sufficient scope for getting good shots. I was sat behind a four foot screen which was terrific as it meant that I could hide behind it when I wanted to change cameras or lenses without disturbing players with my movement. You do have to keep very still, if you move at all do it very slowly and not when a player is bending down to take his shot.

Monopod v Tripod.

I used a monopod and due to the limited room it is not really practical to use a tripod with a gymbal head, although this would bring more assured stability to your shots your hand movements to adjust the gymbal head would have to be carefully judged so it didn’t catch a players eye.

Lenses

I used the 400mm f2.8, 300mm f2.8 plus the 70-200mm f2.8. I thought the 300mm was the perfect lens. The 400mm was also extremely good for getting in close but I felt there were too many occasions where it was just too close. I only used the 70-200 a couple of times to get wider angle shots of the table.

Camera settings

Shutter speeds can be as low as 1/200th sec and probably do not need to be more than 1/500th sec. Aperture is wide open f2.8 or f4 with ISO’s being in the range of 1000-2000.

The most important camera setting is the silent shutter release. The Canon 1DX has a noisy shutter and even on silent mode it still gives an audible click that players can hear. When you are sitting in your spot you could easily come to the conclusion that players would not be able to hear the silent-ish shutter click but believe me they can. One of them gave me ‘the eye’ on the one occasion over two days when my finger did the wrong thing. The ‘golden rule’ is that you must never press the shutter until the player has hit the cue ball - players will ask for you to be removed from the arena if you do this as they deem it to be disrespectful.

Shooting at wide open aperture is needed as the light is simply not good enough to do anything else but it does mean that in a head on shot you can expect the players face to be mostly sharp but his extended hand on the cue will be way out of focus. Side on shots work well in overcoming this problem but otherwise there is little you can do about it.

I judged that it was to risky to put the shooting mode onto continuous so I was shooting in one shot mode all of the time.

The Light

The colour of the light is the trickiest thing to master. Each corner of the table seemed to have a different colour of light which shows up primarily in the faces of the players… too orange, too yellow, too blue etc so you have to find the colour balance that works best. I chose to stick with AWB and tried to make processing adjustments afterwards. You also have to be aware of the light on players faces as they stoop down to take their shots. The bottom half of the face can be in deep shadow ( which is where 1\200th sec comes in handy) and it can be of a green tint as the colour of the table reflects up into their faces - you will be able to get rid of some of this in post-processing.

You need to watch out for the extremes of contrast - when you use 1/200th sec you solve one problem i.e you lighten up the face of the player but you cause another if a player is wearing a bright white shirt you will blow the highlights on that significantly - so you just have to find a workable compromise.

To get some variety in my shots I walked up to the balcony to shoot down on the table which only partially worked as the colour of the light from that position was too dominant yellow and proved quite useless. 

What to wear

Wear black or dark blue shirt and trousers just like the TV camera men, it helps you to blend in with the background and shows that you are doing your bit to respect the players and the sport.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) photographing snooker https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2019/3/photographing-snooker Wed, 13 Mar 2019 18:42:02 GMT
Photographing Indoor Athletics https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2019/2/photographing-indoor-athletics I photographed The British Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham Arena in February 2019. An excellent venue that allowed for some good photography positions both in-field and on the perimeter of the track - low down on the ground and high up in the grandstands. The arena was only about half full which meant that I could take up seats in the stands gaining many different vantage points.

 

The arena is well lit which makes you think that you should be able to get some high shutter speeds for relatively low ISO’s shooting at wide open f2.8, however, you quickly begin to understand that 1/1250th sec means that the ISO has to be cranked up to 3200. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow the new Canon 400mm f2.8 Mark III from Canon Professional Services for this event and it performed extremely well on the monopod. It is very lightweight for such a big lens and not being used to fixed focal length lenses I found it a bit limiting when the action got too close - a 300mm f2.8 may have been preferable, but these are the moments when the 70-200mm f2.8 zoom comes in to good effect - one of my favourite lenses. 

 

Shot Put was first up and it was fortunate to see Sophie McKinna compete and win as she is a photographers dream with the emotion she puts in to her efforts - all sorts of facial contortions and interaction with the crowd as she throws her personal best. It was surprising how often I failed to get the ‘put’ in my shots as they hurl it from their hands at speed and different angles. Long jump was best done from the in-field as I had a photographers position at the end of the sand pit so I could get the athletes jumping in mid-air with arms and legs spread out for leverage. Camera’s do find it hard to maintain accurate focus on an object moving straight towards it, so you have to try a few different methods including not focusing until they are nearly up to the jump board.

 

The track events are relatively easy to photograph as you know exactly where the athletes will be positioned and you have plenty of time to work out composition and camera settings. There is a lot of flexibility of position choice, so you can sit aside from the finish line to get that final push or with the view down the winning strait - both are excellent positions for good photography. The organisers also brought the winning runners to the photographer positions so that celebrations with national flags could be captured - this is a chance to lower shutter speed and lower ISO to get better quality into the shots.

 

The 60m hurdle race can yield some dramatic pictures from the head on view at the end of the running strip - probably my favourite shots of the day.

 

Other events were pool vault and high jump both of which I chose to photograph mostly from higher up in the stands in order to get the floor as a more uniform background. 

 

The biggest problem is that there is so much going on at the same time. You simply can’t cover everything so you just have to be selective and prioritise your events in the uncomfortable knowledge that you might be missing some key action at the other side of the arena.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) athletics indoor https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2019/2/photographing-indoor-athletics Tue, 19 Feb 2019 14:55:20 GMT
Photographing International swimming https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/8/photographing-international-swimming When you photograph a new sport for the first time it is always advisable to start at junior events so you get to understand the nature of it, the way they do things and the type of shots that may be possible. However, there was no time to plan ahead for my visit to Glasgow for the European swimming championships in August 2018 and thus it was very much a 'deep end' learning experience at a major international event with global interest. But, it's good to challenge yourself and stretch your capability once in a while.

Although it is a marvellous opportunity to see and photograph some of the worlds top swimmers in action it was undoubtedly my most difficult assignment to date. A number of things contributed to that. For starters, I wasn't prepared for the fact that the action is 'full-on' with no gaps between races. As soon as one race is finished the swimmers for the next race are being introduced to the crowd. It is particularly frenetic during the heats where the swimmers for the next race are virtually standing on their starting blocks whilst the previous race is still finishing. This means you have no time to download, edit, caption and send out images to an agency in-between races - unless you decide to miss a couple of races whilst you get your head in the laptop.

The second issue is that you can finish a 90 minute event with hundreds of images and if it's an unfamiliar sport then keeping track of which swimmer is in your photos and which race they were in can be a nightmare. You have to think about how you are going to keep good order and organisation within your shoot. Swimmers are not like footballers, they don't have easily identifiable numbers on their shirt and shorts and with all the splashing going on over eight lanes of a race it can be a nightmare to accurately identify the correct swimmer just from a partial bit of face showing. It helps that most have country flags on their swim caps (although two swimmers from the same country can be in the same race) and the really helpful swimmers also have their surname on their caps which is fantastic. I made sure I took a photo of the 'scoreboard' at the start and end of each race which ensured that I knew that the batch of images in-between were from that particular race. You can also use the colours of the lane 'ropes' to aid your identification as only lanes 4 and 5 have yellow colours with the others being blue.

On the first day I tried to do too much, getting pictures of many of the swimmers meant identification was a tougher task. On the following two days I concentrated mostly on lanes 4 and 5 as they tend to win most races and having only two swimmers to identify in each race enhanced the simplicity of my shoot.

In terms of equipment and camera settings I used different lenses for the three days as I couldn't be sure which would work best. Day 1 was with the 300m f2.8 which proved excellent for the nearer lanes but didn't quite have the reach that I wanted for the middle and far lanes nor for the end of pool and end of race celebrations. Day 2 was with the 600m f4 which was great for the middle and far lanes and the end of pool but not for the nearest lanes. Day 3, I used the 200-400m f4 which was best of all as it is such a versatile performer. As the light was fairly constant I left my camera settings on 1/1600th sec, f4 with ISO on auto and this ranged from ISO1000 to ISO3200. For the medal ceremonies they brought the swimmers down to our photographers pen and we could use flash which enabled greater depth of field into the image. 

After the first day I concluded that Freestyle swimming is a 'splash fest' and useless for photography, with backstroke not being much better. The best images would come from breaststroke and butterfly particularly where I could get an end of lane head-on position with the swimmers moving into undisturbed water. These positions were limited and not always available but they produced some of my best shots.

Luckily the lighting at the Tollcross arena in Glasgow was good bright and white for the TV broadcast so I had none of the white balance issues that can cause problems in lesser swimming venues. I chose to shoot in RAW rather than JPEG as I was unsure of the nature of the event and wanted as much flexibility as possible. A big thank you to the media organisers at Glasgow - the media suite and facilities were superb, we had ethernet and power at poolside at the photographers station with wifi that also worked very well for all my three days.

A great event, a new sport and much was learned about photographing swimming.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) photographing indoor swimming photographing swimming https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/8/photographing-international-swimming Mon, 13 Aug 2018 11:17:03 GMT
Photographing International Cricket https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/6/photographing-international-cricket Unlike County cricket, the internationals play to packed stadiums and have great atmosphere. Whether it's Test matches or ODI's they are long days for the photographer with 7-8 hours of full on action and image capture. This length of time means you have to think differently about the gear that you bring.

Firstly, bring a comfortable seat ! Those small fold-away stools that are so convenient for 90 minute football will numb your backside over a much longer time period - they also tend to be low down and thus cramp your legs. So, bring a comfortable leisure seat that will ease the strain. The second point is that cricket is very suited to long focal length (and therefore heavy) prime lenses so bring a tripod and a gimbal head to give your set up a sturdy feel - a monopod will be hard work.

On the subject of lenses I use a Canon 600mm f4 for cricket, perhaps a 500mm will be good enough with an extender but much less than that and you will be de-gradinmg image quality with significant cropping.

My experience as an ECB accredited photographer is limited to Trent Bridge in Nottingham and Old Trafford in Manchester for the England v Australia ODI series in June 2018. It was a real luxury at Trent Bridge having ethernet cable and power for my laptop delivered to my seating position. This meant I had no problem wiring out images or seeing my laptop battery run down - which it would do after 4-5 hours of use. Old Trafford was wifi only but it worked superbly fast - very unusual for wifi !!

There is no 'best position' to sit at cricket. Just try to get as good a head on view of the batsmen as you can but be prepared for fielders to constantly get in your way - so be prepared to move. Personally, I like sitting near to where the batsmen will walk back to the pavilion when they are out - if they have had a mediocre innings you can capture their disappointed emotions, if they have scored really well the emotions are more joyous with bats raised in appreciation. But in any case be prepared to wander around to get high up shots from the top of grandstands and any good humorous images of fans Always be on the look out for the unexpected.

The most usual question I get is ..."do you take pictures of every ball being bowled ?" No, I don't, when you get used to it you start to envision the shots that you want to get and what that means in terms of the batsman's upper body and arm movements. If he/she starts to angle their frame and arms in the direction of the shot that you want then go for it and press the shutter on continuous shooting mode. If they don't and they point away from you then I don't bother - so it's all split second stuff. Bowlers are easier to shoot as they run in in quite a consistent way and probably the hardest shot to get is the fielder making a catch as you really have to have a good tracking eye for the ball and which direction it is going.

As cricket is a summer sport played usually in bright sunny days it's great for getting some good quality into your images with high (1\3200th sec) shutter speeds and low (200-400) ISO's. There is such a difference between this and a football match in the middle of winter under poor floodlights.

Because there is lots of action over lots of hours you are bound to take lots of images and the delete rate will be high as the amount of near-duplicates is high and the often hoped for action does not materialise in the way you thought. So on a typical day I would probably come away with 3000 images and of these I will only keep my top 300 - thats the beauty of digital ! 

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(CM Sports Photography) photographing cricket https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/6/photographing-international-cricket Tue, 26 Jun 2018 20:51:52 GMT
Photographing tennis at the Nottingham Open https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/6/photographing-tennis-at-the-nottingham-open The tennis fraternity seems to be very friendly not just to accredited event photographers but also to spectators sitting in front rows clicking away with expensive cameras and lenses - you would not be allowed to do that in most other sports. Surprisingly the players don't seem to get put off by the shutters firing loudly quite close to them. I attended the Nottingham Open for two days in June 2018 and there were usually four courts on the go at once together with a range of practice courts used by the professionals. I chose to bring a 200-400mm f4 for close up action shots and portraits plus a 70-200mm f2.8 for wider full-body action shots.

Tennis is a thoroughly enjoyable sport to photograph but a busy one for the working photographer as you have to spend enough time on each game to get a selection of shots of each player and then move on to the next court or go back to the media room to send off some images - so its a bit too and fro with no time to sit and watch a game from start to finish. Luckily the opportunities for good action shots come thick and fast.

One of the biggest problems is image backgrounds. There are lots of different elements to potentially clutter up your shots - ball kids, line judges, umpires chairs and ugly gaps between the stands - all play a part in making your backgrounds quite challenging. The accredited photographer positions even had TV cameras sitting directly in front of us so that we could only take pictures of one half of the court at any one time. You must be prepared to move about and get better angles for cleaner shots. It is worth noting that the practice courts are ideal for good backgrounds as all of the obstacles mentioned above are simply not there.

For the most part I found it best to use continuous shooting mode for action shots with shutter speeds around 1/2000th sec plus. Even at this speed you will see in some of my shots that the racket in the players hand is quite blurred - not a big issue as I think it demonstrates a bit of motion but if you want sharp shots throughout you may have to go to higher shutter speeds. I tend to favour Shutter priority mode with ISO on Auto. Usually with Tennis it is bright and sunny so you can get quite high shutter speeds with quite low ISO giving you good quality within your image. If I want to get a particular depth of field in the image then I go to fully manual and higher ISO values.

With a good range of focal lengths there is ample scope for a wide range of shots from close up portraits to waist high action shots and full body action shots. One of the important things to remember if you want to have the ball in your image you must start shooting before you can see it enter your viewfinder - try to look at the player getting ready for the shot and shoot in a continuous burst well in advance of the ball arriving. Some good shots can also be gleaned at the end of the game when the winning and losing emotions kick in and when the players are walking off court. At smaller events like this one there is always a lot of post-match interaction between players and fans with selfies / autographs etc being given and this can also make for good shots.

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(CM Sports Photography) photographing tennis https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/6/photographing-tennis-at-the-nottingham-open Sat, 16 Jun 2018 15:55:20 GMT
Photographing in bright sunlight https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/5/photographing-in-bright-sunlight Bright sunlight can be a real nightmare. At first glance, having spent a winter of dull light and very high ISO's the bright late Spring radiant sunshine can seem a wonderful set up - high shutter speeds and low ISO's...and yes, that is the way to think of it.

Such conditions are not particularly ideal for fully manual shooting ( as the light can change and there are often shaded areas) so I always choose Shutter priority mode and in the brightest conditions I normally set up with around 1/2000th sec, maybe stop down the aperture to 6.3 and set ISO at Auto. In this mode the ISO seldom goes above 1000 which is fine - I need to be sure of my shutter speed (which in sports is king) so I don't use Aperture priority which can give very low shutter speeds when the action moves into a shaded area. I simply need to keep my eye on the action, I cannot be forever checking whether my shutter speed has dropped to unusable levels and ruining my photos with out of focus motion blurring.

Advocates of Aperture priority will always tell you that they use it to get the highest shutter speed possible, thus if you set your shutter speed at 1/2000th then you may be limiting your possibilities when you maybe could achieve 1\4000th sec if you had set aperture priority at wide open f2.8 or f4. However, when you know 1/2000th is absolutely fine for the work you are doing then it is best to make sure you are always achieving it rather than having to constantly worry whether the changes in light have led to your shutter speed plummeting without your knowledge and constant attention.

One of the biggest areas to watch out for are blown highlights on the human face. With sunlight burning in from the side you can find that one side of the face is totally burned out white. In this situation you may need to look at up to -1 negative exposure compensation to protect the areas that could be blown out. It is worth checking your histogram to make sure this is working as well as it should and whether you need to make further adjustments. 

The image at the header of this blog was taken with a Canon 70-200mm lens at 120mm focal length, 1/2000th sec, f5.6, ISO 800.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) photographing in bright sunlight https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/5/photographing-in-bright-sunlight Mon, 07 May 2018 21:53:33 GMT
Photographing the Grand National at Aintree https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/4/photographing-the-grand-national-at-aintree Grand National photography is a mixture of hard work and thrilling sport at a truly global event. In 2018 & 2019 I covered all three days of the festival.

Getting to Aintree at around 9.30am to avoid traffic and get your thoughts together for the day ahead is a good idea. The photographers marquee is large and well organised by the Aintree staff. The wifi connectivity is good, you get a desk seat with a power outlet and a packed lunch. The Marquee is also very close to The Chair fence for the big race.

Photographers are given bibs according to their racing specialisation or their expertise/ interest - top horse racing photographers get beige bibs, those only wanting to take pictures of the crowd and the social goings-on get orange bibs, and the majority of us general sports photographers get black bibs which gives us marvellous access to all areas of the course. There is a photographers briefing at noon each day giving us directions as to what is happening on the day.

I took three camera bodies (Canon 1DX2, 1DX and 5D4) plus four lenses, the 200-400mm f4 or long distance work, 70-200mm f2.8 for closer up work and crowd shots, 16-35mm for using in combination with a remote trigger at the bottom of fences and a 24-105mm for general use.

Horse racing provides a multitude of possible shots. If you are a particularly creative photographer looking for new angles on things it is a super event as there is plenty of scope for trying new things and thinking differently. It pays to keep an eye out for what is happening throughout the day on the course and what some of the traditions are. I missed the fact that Gabrielle, one of my favourite singers was performing in one of the venue spots at the end of racing on day 2. I also didn't realise that before the big race the jockeys parade out of the weighing room with the trophy and line up on the podium for a combined photo opportunity. However, with so much going on you simply cannot be everywhere.

You have to have a game plan for the morning before the racing starts as well as where you want to position yourself for each race. You really must move around and try different viewpoints at each race otherwise you will end up with quite boring pictures of the same scene. Try some slow shutter speed panning work, some views from the grandstands, some different fences out on the course - the Canal Turn is a great spot. It is also a good idea to take a remote control set so you can position it close to the bottom of a fence whilst taking pictures with a handheld camera a few yards away. You must also work out which of the three tracks the race will be run on - there is a hurdle track, a steeple chase track and of course the Grand National track - only one race per day is run on the latter.

I used the first day as a warm up, just to get a feel for the venue, how things worked and also how far various possible viewpoints are from each other - you will do a lot of walking over three days ! It is also an idea to spend some time around the VIP entrance to the course as this is where any celebrities will come through. I found that it was best to get most of your people/social side of things pictures before the racing starts. Once the racing begins then everything starts to get very busy, there doesn't seem much time between races when you are having to wire out pictures to your agency in the interval.

Day 2 is Ladies Day which has a very different atmosphere to it - absolutely marvellous. The Ladies turn up in all sorts of fabulous dresses and love having their photos taken. Its not my usual genre of photography but it was great fun as everyone was in such a good, happy, positive mood. My sense of the affair is that  when the racing starts it was best not to go back into the Grandstands as the alcohol effect kicks in and behaviour starts to change. We had been warned to respect the racegoers - meaning don't take pictures of them in a bad state doing naughty things !

Day 3 is the Big Grand National event and the atmosphere ratchets up a notch towards the main race. I had decided my game plan would be to have all three camera bodies on the go. The 1DX with the wide angle lens on the remote at the water jump. Once the horses had past this fence I could then go onto the course and retrieve it whilst running across to the Grandstand side to get pictures of the winning line with the 200-400mm. After the race the winning horses parade back to the winners enclosure for the presentations for which the photographer has to fight through the crowd to get in position. Here is where the 70-200mm comes in handy. The presentation pictures are as important as the race pictures and are not to be missed.

Photographers who have been to Aintree many times know the score but as a first timer you really do need to think about what you want to achieve and plan out each of the days as far as possible to get the best of the event and hence its best to go to all three days so that you can use the first to get your bearings and plan better for the next two.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) grand horse national photographing racing the https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/4/photographing-the-grand-national-at-aintree Tue, 17 Apr 2018 08:36:26 GMT
Photographing Gymnastics https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/3/photographing-gymnastics My first experience of gymnastics came during March 2018 at the British Gymnastics Championship at the Liverpool Arena. Gymnastics is tough work for the photographer, there is constant action for around eight hours with multiple events happening all at once. The temptation is to just get stuck in and start clicking but it pays to survey the scene and think about where the good backgrounds to your shots will be and thus where your best positions are likely to be. You should also have a good idea of the key shots you want to get.

Photographers have to stay out the outside of the main area and find gaps to shoot from - there were no chairs so its crouching down on knees and bum - I wish someone had told me to bring a pair of knee pads ! You also walk a lot over the course of several hours so it can be quite tiring.

At this event the backgrounds were going to be a problem as there was very little space available for getting clean shots with a pure black or single colour backdrop. The large screens, the clutter of the equipment, the grandstands and high level judges positions all contribute to having messy photographs, but there are still areas to search out which get you what you want. For floor exercises I chose to go up into the grandstands and look down on the action thus getting the floor itself as a uniform background. For beam exercises with a black curtain as background I had to move further back and shoot with a longer lens.

As its an indoor experience with many different coloured lights, two other problems have to be overcome - shutter speed and white balance. Shutter speed is critical and I started off too low but soon realised that to get sharp pictures it was going to take 1\2000th sec, wide open apertures and up to ISO 4000. I took both a 70-200mm f2.8 and a 300mm f2.8 and used both equally, its also a good idea to bring a monopod as well - even though you can easily handhold both these lenses its hard to do so for such an extended period of time. Even at 1/2000th sec it was not good enough to freeze the action during fast somersaults and at wide open apertures it is a struggle to get hands and feet sharp if they are off the focal plane - so its a compromise situation and I would always prefer the higher shutter speed. White balance was only a problem during the award ceremonies when the house lights dimmed and they put on the spinning lights with purple, red, green colour bouncing all over the place - it was a nightmare. For this reason I chose to shoot in RAW mode throughout so that I had maximum scope for changing the white balance later on.

I don't know much about gymnastics and apart from Max Whitlock I had no idea who the gymnasts were, so it was critical to get the starting lists from the organiser with the names and numbers of the participants detailed. As I have to caption my images before wiring them out I need to know who is in the photo and what competition were they participating in. This, of course necessitates ensuring that I took a picture of each participant from the back where they wear their numbers !

A very enjoyable event, the gymnastics fraternity are very friendly and welcoming and don't seek to marshall you too much, they trust that you will be responsible and stick to the rules that they explain to you at the start. The hospitality was excellent, the media room ladies looked after me very well and the wifi worked which is always a bonus for a working photographer.

 

 

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(CM Sports Photography) https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/3/photographing-gymnastics Mon, 12 Mar 2018 15:57:53 GMT
Photographing ringside at a Boxing match https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/2/photographing-ringside-at-a-boxing-match Ringside at a boxing match you can almost feel the punches going in, smell the sweat and possibly get a bit of blood coming your way - the experience is so close that the bravery of those who enter the ring is a dominant thought. 

The first thing of note for the photographer is that the space is cramped and if you have to wire images from a laptop then it gets a bit awkward, add to this the fact that you are bent down all of the night to get the best angle for shots and to stay out of the way of the front row paying spectators - so you need a strong back !

When I am shooting a football match I am a bit more choosy about which frames to take and typically come away with around 800 pictures per game- for boxing at the ringside the action is constant on an evening which will usually have around 8 - 10 bouts so the picture count can reach in excess of 4000 leaving you will a lot of processing (and deleting) to do. On a Canon 1DX Mark II with a 24-105mm lens I was trying to get a shutter speed somewhere between 1\800th sec to 1\1250th sec at a wide open f4 aperture. This necessitated ISO's in the 4000-6400 region. Thankfully the camera copes extremely well with those high ISO's. Noticeably the ability to achieve the faster shutter speeds was very dependent on whether the boxing ring spotlights were in your frame or not.

I was told initially that I would be photographing from the balcony so I had brought my longer lenses and the 24-105mm but when I got to the venue they told me I was ringside, so I was stuck with the lenses I had with me. Had I known I was going to be ringside I would have brought a 24-70 f2.8 and a 70-200 f2.8 but I had to deal with the reality of the situation.

I use back button focus as I find it quicker and I have just got used to the method. With boxers moving constantly in all directions and at close range I had to remember to keep refreshing the focus by pressing the AF-ON button otherwise focus could be lost in an instant if your focus point loses the subject (even with AI Servo mode on), so it adds to the need to concentrate on what you are doing.

I tend to use the nine point focusing area, single point would be ideal but its very hard work to keep one point on target the whole time and the off focus shots would increase markedly if I tried it. The one focusing problem you just have to cope with is that the boxers gloves are very often held close to the face so at a wide open aperture if your focus point(s) hit the gloves then the face can be out of focus which is not good - you need to just be alert to this and keep practicing with your focus to get it right.

On the practical issues you have to watch out when the boxers come very close to the ropes in front of you and back off otherwise you could get knocked and interfere with the actual boxing match. You also need to be aware of how far you are edging out under the bottom rope- you can get carried away with the excitement of it all and not realise that you are encroaching too far out. 

When the fight is finished you can jump up and stand behind the ropes on the edge of the ring to get pictures of the winning boxer with their team but you have to be fit enough to do so.

It certainly is a much better and more full-on experience than photographing from the gallery many yards away.

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(CM Sports Photography) at boxing photographing ringside https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2018/2/photographing-ringside-at-a-boxing-match Tue, 27 Feb 2018 17:22:39 GMT
Photographing in the rain https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/10/photographing-in-the-rain Life as a sports photographer can seem quite glamorous but there are times when it can seem far from that. Sitting pitch side at Huddersfield v Manchester United, I was aware a couple of days previous that Storm Brian as going to hit at some point with a lot of rain and very high winds. Luckily the wet stuff didn't come until the second half when it started to drizzle and then chuck it down. 

These are the times when you need some rain protection for your camera and lens plus a housing for your computer so that you can continue to send images down the wires even though its teeming it down. There are those professional photographers who just don't care and offer no protection for their camera equipment, the rain just tips it down on their camera and lens, and honestly, they are probably right the top end gear really is weatherproof. However, I haven't got to that stage of confidence and always feel the need to wrap a protective cover around my gear.

Whilst I use an iCap cover for my laptop to protect it from the elements, it is always difficult to work the touchpad of the laptop with damp or wet fingers, it just doesn't want to co-operate and thus I need to bring some small dry towels to try to get some contact sensitive response. It is still a bit difficult even after doing this.

But, hey, even though I have my golfing waterproofs on, once you are soaked then thats it, it can't get any worse, the rain can do you no more harm, so when that point arrives in a strange sense I feel a bit liberated and look for photographic opportunities that only present themselves in driving rain.

Luckily the rain reserved its worst until the game was over and then it really did hammer down, truly torrential stuff. So, I felt rather lucky.

The photo for this blog shows Lacazette of Arsenal in the pouring rain at slow shutter speed to emphasise the effect.

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(CM Sports Photography) https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/10/photographing-in-the-rain Sun, 22 Oct 2017 21:16:22 GMT
European Champions League Night at the Etihad https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/10/european-champions-league-night-at-the-etihad European Champions League nights are very busy, there are so many photographers around that its difficult getting a good spot even arriving at the stadium 2.5 hours before the game. Particular things to remember when choosing where to sit include the availability of Ethernet sockets which are often all taken if you don't get there early, but also remember that there is a fifth 'official' who always walks up and down the left hand side of goal so if you position yourself that side he is going to be in an awful lot of your shots - and probably ruining a lot of them.

Unlike Premier League games the Photographers pits behind the goals are not used for Champions League games, so you have to sit behind the advertising hoardings among the many stewards who control the crowd. This makes for very cramped working particularly if you need a laptop out to edit, caption and send messages. I was also sitting just in front of thousands of Napoli Ultras who look a bit menacing, so the stewards are vital !! You also need to watch your gear as the fans can get quite close. The benefit of not being in the pits is that you are not affected by the 'crown' of the pitch which often cuts players boots out of your images as you are much lower down.

Its not impossible to move ends at half time although the general chaotic state of the place made me conclude that it was best to view both halves of action from the same spot. Also, as it was very busy there might not be a good place for you at the other end.

Connectivity via Ethernet is superb if you can get a socket, if not wifi is very difficult. The club wifi worked very well pitch side until the crowd started to gather for the game then it went into unusable mode. My O2 mobile hub also proved useless yet again so that will soon be going back to the shop.

Man City are a very hospitable club providing photographers with a parking space, good food before the game and good stadium access. 

It was certainly a very challenging experience working in such cramped conditions with the noisy Ultras just at your left ear and fighting for connectivity to send your pictures down the wires but the view of the game from a photography perspective is excellent.

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(CM Sports Photography) photography at the etihad https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/10/european-champions-league-night-at-the-etihad Wed, 18 Oct 2017 12:15:13 GMT
Photographing boxing from the Gallery at the Manchester Arena https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/10/photographing-boxing-from-the-gallery-at-the-manchester-arena As a sports photographer if you are used to having press room facilities then quite simply there are none at the Manchester Arena. From the balcony position there isn’t even a plug socket so make sure you come armed with enough power. Particularly if you are going to shoot a full undercard of boxing which in my case lasted from 5pm to midnight - it drained my laptop completely. I did not carry any external battery power source so I had the continually nagging worry that my laptop would die just when the main bout was on - thankfully it just lasted the distance.

There are two different Gallery positions, I was allocated to door 103 which is a space with two chairs next to the public stair inside the arena. On the other side there is one of those hospitality areas so you can watch people eating nice food and drinking themselves silly. There would not have been room for a third chair so the space was quite small but if there are only two of you there is plenty of space behind your seating position to store all your gear. As its a mixed public area you are vulnerable to someone interfering with your stuff whilst you are shooting so you are basically reliant on the stewards who seem to stay there throughout the night to keep a watchful eye out. 

It all seems innocent enough when you arrive but later in the evening the crowd grows significantly and a lot of them get tanked up on alcohol so some of the more unpleasant types begin to get a bit too close. So keep anything valuable in front of you.

From the gallery you have a good open and uninterrupted position to shoot but its quite a distance from the action so anything less than 400mm will not work. I used both a 400mm and a 600mm the latter on a monopod, the former rested on the thick glass partition in front of my seat. The 400mm will get almost the whole of the ring in view so its easy for composition and cropping images to get in just that bit closer. The 600mm gets you in quite close i.e you get the boxers from knee level upwards - for my money the 600mm was fantastic. It has the downside that you have to work it all the time to ensure that both boxers are in the frame but thankfully most of the time they are. I just loved the ‘close to the action’ feel of the shots with the 600mm. Irrespective of your lens choice the referee and TV cameras are a constant source of irritation as they stride across your view.

The one variable that causes so much stress is wifi connectivity - there are no ethernet possibilties. I had my O2 dongle at the ready and my iPhone as back up. Neither worked, yes, they both established a proper connection but when I tried to send an image it would progress through at an unworkably slow rate and I mean really slow, probably 20 minutes per image - not that I waited that long !. Arrrgh!!  So, what to do ? 

Well, eventually I hunted down the only FREE wifi without a security password which turned out to be Manchester Arena’s own wifi. It required going through a short registration process but it worked a treat. It started off very fast but as the crowd in the Arena grew it deteriorated throughout the evening from very fast to fast to medium and a tad slow but it always worked.

As regards the facilities, the toilets are about 50 yards away and there can be a long queue later in the evening as the crowd grows. There are food and drink stalls nearby if you have time for that. I found that I did not have time and regretted not bringing some sandwiches and drinks to keep me topped up with nourishment. Car parking in the Arena car park is £12.50 (Oct 2017 prices) if you state that you are attending the event and its worthwhile paying when you arrive in the machines as your exit is much easier.

Finally, the gap between the earlier bouts is really small, they just rattle on with it so you have to decide to either miss shooting the odd round of boxing or miss a bout completely if it seems unimportant in order to get some downloading done. Later in the evening the gap between the bouts grows which is great as you can get a lot done in that time.

 

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(CM Sports Photography) boxing manchester arena photography https://www.cmsportsphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/10/photographing-boxing-from-the-gallery-at-the-manchester-arena Tue, 10 Oct 2017 11:26:08 GMT