Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Perfect Football Picture

A lot of folks can look at a photo and say, "That's a great photo!"... but have difficulty verbalizing exactly what makes it great.  I have my own ideas about what makes a great sports photo, so I thought I'd iterate them here just for fun.

There are a couple of prerequisites for practically any photo to be great:
  1. The focal point of the photo must be crisply in focus.  Not sharpened by post-processing, but naturally and sharply focused.  Equipment makes a big difference here.  Nothing beats a prime (non-zoom) lens for sharpness.  I thought my Canon 70-200/f2.8 was the cat's wazoo when I first purchased it... until I shot a 400/f2.8 prime.  Wow!
  2. Proper exposure is required.  Again, natural accurate exposure is preferred to post-processing.  There are artistic exceptions to this rule, but in sports photography are probably the rare exception.

Now, with those two prereqs out of the way, what makes the perfect football picture?  Here's my list:

1. The ball.  Any good sports photo needs to include the focal object of the sport.  This is one of my early accidental captures, and still one of my favorite football photos.  I call it "Portrait of a Football"

2. Players of both teams.  That's how you tell it's not practice.

3. A referee.  Again, further proof of a live game situation, and the stripes provide a nice contrast in the photo.

4. Eyes!  Any photo of a human subject should include the eyes, particularly a sports photo where the eyes relay the intensity of the moment. 

5. Speaking of intensity, an intense situation elevates the photo, and is one reason football (and sports in general) is fun to shoot... there's plenty of intensity on the field!

6. Close up.  Anyone can take a picture of a football field with players.  Getting that close up of a play ten yards away with a 400mm lens is what I like.

7. An interesting background.  I really like shots of a player running down the sidelines with interesting sideline folks and expressions in the background.  Recognize anyone in this background, and can you guess what he might be thinking?:

I haven't shot the perfect football photo yet... one that incorporates every single one of my criteria.  I'm not even sure it's possible, but I'll keep on trying.

See more at wlpearce.com

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The C-17A Globemaster

I had the opportunity recently to shoot the 2014 NAS Jacksonville Air Show, featuring the Blue Angels.  The NAS Jax Public Affairs Office had graciously granted me a press credential.  I'm a big plane nut, so I had trouble sleeping the night before thinking about what shots I wanted to get, what lens I should use, etc.

I got to the base for press check-in early Friday morning, picked up a credential and got escorted onto base by the PAO.  Naturally, I made a bee-line for the secure area where the performers park their planes and started shooting static shots of neat planes.  While I was shooting the F-4U Corsair, I noticed a big ole' cargo plane making a pass over the base, and then landing and taxiing towards me.  I snapped a few shots and didn't think much more about it. 

Eight hours later after the Blue Angels wrapped up their show, I wandered back down towards the secure area for some parting shots in the different light.  I had to pass the C-17A Globemaster on the way, and so I stopped in for a quick visit, knowing that it would be packed the next day, Saturday, for the open show.  The guys were super nice, and showed me around their plane, including letting me climb up in the Crow's Nest to shoot a couple of shots out of the top of the plane.

They also showed me around the cockpit.  The pilot said, "You just missed us powering up.  The displays look pretty cool when they're all operating."  Shoot!  Then he said if I could get back around 9AM the next day, they'd power up and let me take some cockpit shots.  Perfect! 

Do you think I made it back to the C-17A at 9AM Saturday?  You'd better believe it!  Before they opened the plane to the public, they let me hop on and one of the pilots (sure wish I had asked your name) gave me a tour of the cockpit.  Do I look like I'm ready to take off?

Here's my pilot friend, based out of Charleston with the combined 437th/315th AirWing.  Thanks for the tour, and for taking my picture (an unusual occurrence).  Shoot me a note if you see this so I can correctly attribute the picture, and the tour.

I had a good time playing with the knobs and switches (no, not really... hands off was the rule), but the pilot did power up the Heads Up Display (HUD) so I could pretend to fly the beast.  That's downtown Jacksonville off in the distance.  I was glad to see that there were back-up manual indicators (horizon, compass, etc.), but the pilot said they never used them.  He referred to themselves as "HUD Babies"  Funny.

The cargo bay of the C-17A is absolutely cavernous!  Here's how you solve the problem of expensive airport parking... just take your vehicle with you.  And there's still room for... say... a helicopter or two and about a hundred of your best friends.

Here's the same shot from the Crow's Nest just behind the cockpit, looking towards the open back of the plane.  The H-1 looks like a Tonka Truck back there.

The weekend was gorgeous!  Dry, clear with temps in the 70s.  Can't beat that with a stick. Also made for some nice pics with the wide angle lens.  So to finish up, here's a few shots of the C-17A on the tarmac.

See more of the 2014 NAS Jax Blue Angels and Air Show at wlpearce.com.

See much more of everything at wlpearce.com.