You would figure that having worked the the Indianapolis Star as long as I did, I would be no stranger to sports teams, or even important playoff games of some kind or another, but that is absolutely not the case.  When it comes to shooting sports, that skill was something that was primarily on pause in my time at the Star, because it wasn’t my department.  When I worked for the newspaper I shot all custom and special content projects.  Advertising, marketing, and custom publications.  Special Sections essentially.  That was great because I got to shoot all kinds of interesting things, from angles that normal folks don’t get to see them.  While the press was going to media day, I was getting my own time with any number of the event subjects, outside the limelight.  All that time however I never forgot what got me into photography in the first place though, which was my desire to photograph sports (which I did for Purdue for a bit while I was getting started).  When my position was eliminated at the Newspaper part of me was very excited because it gave me an opportunity to get back into some of the photography that I really enjoyed doing. As it turns out; that took me to the Playoffs.


(Nikon D4s, 2500ISO, Nikon 400mm F2.8VR2, 1/1000th@F3.2.)

That was one of the last frames I shot last night at Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs here in Indianapolis.  Kind of a what the hell sort of moment as all the other shooters around Lebron had wide angle lenses and I still had my 400mm F2.8VR mounted on the walk back to transmit my stuff.  In a bit of Irony it’s probably one of the frames I’m happiest with out of the stuff I shot last night.  I’m getting ahead of myself though.  A few weeks ago USA Today Sports contacted me about shooting a few of the games alongside Pat Lovell and Brian Spurlock.  There were a few availability issues between the two of them due to the Indy 500 and a few other events and they wanted me to fill in the gaps.  I made sure to mention I hadn’t shot any basketball in a while, and they wanted to send me to what was seeming important but once that was out of the way we were off and I was on  my way to shooting a handful of playoff games from the three series leading into the finals.


(Nikon D4, 640ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8@14mm, 1/100th@F7.1.)

My spot was to be elevated shooting down onto the action.  I greatly prefer shooting on the court, but I also greatly prefer shooting on sport strobes and neither of those were going to happen for the set of games I was going to.  That was fine, it was quite the opportunity to shoot some of the current “Greats of the game”.  Even not following a lot of basketball outside of the Indiana Pacers (which I admittedly don’t follow all that much) I had still heard of most of the Miami Heat.   Lebron James and Dwayne Wayne, are obvious examples of this, but I also still really wanted to see Greg Oden take the court at least once knowing his history here in Indiana. It didn’t happen though, and at the time of this writing I have no other playoff games on my schedule.


(Nikon D4s, 12,800ISO, Nikon 200-400F4 with Nikon TC14eII Teleconverter zoomed to 360mm.  1/1000th@F5.6)

Not knowing much about the elevated position I shot the first game (Game 7 of Series 1) with a 200-400F4.  I found that 400mm was a almost a little too tight for the close end of the court, but not enough for the far end of the court.  Easy solution.  Out comes my Nikon TC14II 1.4x teleconverter.  This solved some problems, but created some others.  On one side, I was shooting from 280-550mm which was the perfect range for that spot at BOTH ends.  On the other side, I was shooting at 12000+ ISO and at F5.6.  While my Nikon D4s can handle that, I didn’t feel as though it was the right combination for me from that spot.  The next game I went for the straight up 400F2.8VR, and decided to crop in when necessary.  I personally greatly prefer to shoot while filling the frame, but needing to cover such two different distances at once, I didn’t feel as though it was a viable option while covering both teams.  On one side, my image resolutions were smaller than I liked (most being in the 6-12 megapixel range after cropped), but they were a lot cleaner at only 2500ISO and as most pro’s would know anyway; 6-12 megapixels is more than enough for even poster sized prints.


(Nikon D4s, 2500ISO, Nikon 400mm F2.8VR, 1/1000th@F3.2)

While it was an incredible experience  that I am exceptionally thankful to have been offered it, I often find myself explaining to people that it’s not quite what they think that it is.   That’s a story for another time, but for these games my shooting location was behind a section of spectators standing on a step-stool because every big play the crowd would stand up and well…. Gosh there went the shot otherwise.

2014-05-13 19.26.31

(This is where I was shooting from.  My iPhone totally botched this Pano, but you get the point)

That last paragraph is NOT me complaining.  It’s an incredible experience no matter how you look at it, and hope that at some point I have the opportunity to shoot such an important game from the floor to see what I may produce from down there.  Really though, for such a long reach I’m glad that I: A, managed to resist putting my 2X teleconverter on my 400 and missing a whole bunch of shots while searching for that one full frame super sharp detail shot from back there….  and B I’m glad I spent $10 on a 12″ collapsible step-stool to get above all the screaming super-fans right in front of me.  You’d be surprised at what you find incredibly useful as a freelancer.  Of course my friend Matt laughed and said I was the boy scout of the group while in the editing room.  The comment came after supplying aspirin and an iPhone 5 charger to another shooter in need.


(Nikon D4s, 2500ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR2, 1/1000th@F3.2)

While Sports is what I really enjoy doing, it’s not something I have as many opportunities to do as often as I would like, and  I am very thankful to the folks at USA Today who contracted me to shoot a few games through the playoffs thus far and I look forward to any other opportunities that may arise.  Until then though it’s back to the life of a freelancer as I know it.  Meaning Tomorrow I’m shooting Medial and Scientific equipment in a studio.  Guess that goes back to Matt calling me the boy scout of the group.  When it comes to shooting freelance, you should be ready for anything.  More Soon.


(Nikon D4s, 2500ISO, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR2, 1/1000th@F3.2)