Gaelic Football and overcoming lens restrictions for sports photography

I photographed Gaelic Football for the first time last week and it was an awkward experience – I was without my 300mm lens, all I had was a 70-200mm F/2.8 which I was not comfortable with. And I was in a position where I couldn’t sit on the ground, I had to stand at the sideline. But I couldn’t just simply not photography the match – I had to producer images that were usable for my college newspaper, and this was a pretty huge cup match!

It wasn’t the best experience to say the least, and it was cold and raining. However, the key is not panicking, and using what you have to your full advantage.

I knew going into this that I wouldn’t be able to cover much more than just the sidelines, so my aim was to position myself at the side of the pitch, between the halfway line and the goal line. Then shoot directly across, or upfield.
There was about a 4 foot barrier in front of me, so I couldn’t sit down and couldn’t get particularly low, but I was able to use that barrier to steady my hands much like a monopod would – and it helped keep horizons straight! Shooting in landscape orientation as opposed to portrait orientation is also an easy way to make things seem somewhat closer, portrait orientation opens up too much of the foreground and makes things seem farther away than they actually are.

Working with what you have at your disposal is the sign of a true photography, and what everyone should try to do. You don’t need that really expensive lens to take great photos, you just need to make the most of what you have with you. Know the limitations of your kit, and work around them.

Here’s some of my photos from the match, the first two are black and white because of artistic preference – I wouldn’t submit monochrome images for publication in newspapers, but I prefer the images this way:

BW (4 of 5)

BW (5 of 5)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (1 of 12)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (3 of 12)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (4 of 12)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (5 of 12)

DIT vs Marys Sigerson (12 of 12)

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Album Cover Photoshoot

Today I had the opportunity to do a photoshoot for the album cover of my friends’ band, “Checkpoint”. You may have seen me blog about them in the past, I’ve done a lot of work with them, we’ve been close friends for almost 6 years now and they got me into photographing live concerts so I love to give back as much as possible. Their new album is coming out soon, check out their facebook page for further details: http://www.facebook.com/CheckpointPunk
You can check out one of their new songs here: https://soundcloud.com/checkpoint-punk/driven-you-dead

Anyway, I am still very new to portraiture. I don’t have a clue how to pose people or how to compose shots, I always feel very uncomfortable when working one on one with people. I’m a huge fan of candid shots, about 90% of my work is of a documentation style, so this was another learning experience for me.

We all got delayed and gradually met up much later than agreed upon so we didn’t start shooting until 4:30pm, to add to that it was a horrible snowy day and we were down an alley… so I was stuck up around 1600 ISO the whole time, using my Canon 1D Mark IIN.  As per usual with photoshoots, I did a bit of forward planning and started to come up with ideas, unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with much. But I had one idea which I sketched out a little, here’s the page of my idea book:

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Well, my idea didn’t work out like I planned. The shooting itself didn’t go how I would have liked, and the photoshop afterwards went horrible. I’ll probably end up going back to it and attempting to photoshop it again but for now I’ll give up with this crappy attempt. My idea was to blank out the eyes and seal the slight opening in the mouth, to make them dummy like.

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That shot took a few minutes to set up and get the desired result, I’m really kicking myself about not getting the photoshop part right. With more time and effort my vision could come true, my cloning/tone blending abilities aren’t the best if I’m honest. After that we got on with the rest of the shoot. They had a few ideas which we shot next, mainly focused on their shoes which I found a little boring so worked around with a few angles to get as interesting a result as possible.

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After that I wanted to do some individual portraits so set up in front of that door they’re standing in front of above. The reason I’m going with a square crop for these is because the album booklet will be in square format, so for ease of use I’m keeping them all square.

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And of course, I had to capture a candid or two in between shots.

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The candids aren’t square as there is little chance of them getting used. The above one was more powerful without cropping.
Throughout the whole day I found it very difficult shooting for a square crop. In the editing process I frequently found myself cutting off little bits of the image here and there because I didn’t shoot wide enough or underestimated the parameters of the square crop. We were wrapping things up when it started pouring snow again (it’s late March and it’s been snowing sporadically every day here in Dublin, Ireland). We spent the whole shoot in a little alley, so every location is less than 15 seconds from each other, it was a really cool spot to use, had a lot of interesting textures and a fair bit of character. If you’re ever in Dublin and want to use the location, it’s the back alley to the Olympia Theatre in Dublin City Centre, not too far from the IFI. We were about to head off because of the snow but decided that we can’t turn up the opportunity to have some shots walking down the lane with the snow in the background. We braved the elements and may have gotten a cover photo out of it!

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All-in-all it was a pretty enjoyable shoot. The photos came out better than I had expected, but I still long for a particular style/feel to my photographs that I haven’t yet achieved. Maybe with time things will improve as I learn to work with people in a more efficient manner. If it weren’t for the weather I would have brought out my lighting kit and tried out a few things, but I didn’t feel up to it because of the snow. Really wanted to bring my brand new Peli 1510 case (I’ll be reviewing this soon!) but didn’t want to get the bus with it so brought everything in my Think Tank Retrospective 30. Unfortunately, in the end the only two pieces of gear I used were the Canon 1D Mark IIN and the Sigma 24-60mm F/2.8.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram for behind-the-scenes stuff from all my shoots:

http://instagram.com/stuartcomerford