Jeff, my friend and neighbor, enjoys doing Photoshop editing and creating interesting projects. Last year, he did a cool poster for his daughter’s basketball team, and he asked me to help out by shooting some full-length portraits to be included in the poster (see this post). A year later, he has a new poster idea. He once again contacted me about doing the photography for him. The concept included a team photo and several action shots.

The team photo would be shot in the gymnasium some time when we could gain access to it. He mentioned perhaps we’d try to do some action shots then, too. But also, if I could shoot a game, there’s be some photos of the girls in action there.

The opportunity for shooting at a game happened first. I don’t do a lot of sports shooting. Certainly, my gear is more centered on portrait and landscape photography. Specifically, the Canon 5D MkII, while being a wonderful camera, is not the first choice for a sports shooter. It’s focusing is a bit old-ish technologically compared to some of its peers, and it’s frame rate, while decent, won’t win any contests. Still, it has good ISO performance in low light, and its 21 megapixels makes up for some shortcomings.

But it was certainly fun shooting the game. Someone told me to watch the refs who will invariably stand between you and the shot. It turned out to be quite true. Especially for free throws, when I’d set up the perfect angle and composition, the girl would dribble a couple times, then the ref would ease into my frame. Arg!

Jeff and family and friends were into the game. He later told me he forgot I was there. As a photographer at an event, you always wonder about this. At a wedding, I don’t want to be what the attendees see and remember. Same thing for other events – you want to try to be there but unnoticed.

On Sunday, we were able to use the gym. I was looking forward to this shoot. This time, I’d be able to use lights to construct the shots. I brought three Speedlites – one on the camera as a master and two slaves. The master was set to not fire during the exposure – it was there only to control the other two. The team shot was first. Using a couple umbrellas, this gave me some remarkably even lighting. Jeff was great in arranging the girls to match his vision and the girls did really well as I clicked off a couple dozen or more shots.

But I was most excited about what we might get for action shots. I had the lighting and a particular look in mind. It took a few minutes to find the right setup for the lights – still using two strobes. But once that was nailed, things went pretty smoothly.

The baskets were raised and we were losing the gym to another group, so we couldn’t spend much time exploring various types of shot. But we were able to catch each girl in some action. I really enjoy using lights like this. It adds drama to the shot, and when it’s combined with a cool move, the result can be terrific.

I think I have some good shots for Jeff to use. I took the resulting images and applied some effects in post to give them the look I had in mind when I shot them. This was my favorite shot as it really hit the mark I wanted. She’s in a great position and her flying hair adds to the motion and action of the photo.

I’ve never been a big fan of basketball, but put a camera in my hands and, better yet, give me the freedom to put up some lights, and I’m loving it!