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)

Bavaria City Racing and Canon 60D’s resistance to rain

Today the Bavaria City Racing took place through the streets of Dublin. It was quite the day; as is typical for Ireland it was raining. But the rain didn’t put people off going (although the fact it wasn’t being televised probably made people feel like they needed to go).

Today I discovered that the 60D isn’t as fragile as I first thought. It withstood a fair bit of rain, I took the risk of bringing it out and it paid off. I paired it with a Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L non-IS (which seems to have no weather sealing? It’s a 2002 model I believe). As I was shooting I kept popping the 60D back under the plastic poncho I was wearing (courtesy of The Sun) and kept the battery door covered by my hand as the black rapid RS-7 strap I used leaves the bottom facing upwards when the camera is resting by my side.
The 60D performed well today, I’ve always thought it had a good, snappy AF system and today proved that it most definitely does. It was very rare that I missed my focus on the cars/bikes, and when I did it was more of a user error than a camera error as I’m still new to the whole sports shooting scene (I only just started using AI Servo, I still prefer One Shot AF – how noobish of me). If I’m more than happy with the 60D’s AF system then I could only imagine what the 7D’s is like (or even the 5D Mark III’s! Although I did get to try it at Photofest.ie back in April and I was extremely confused).

So the camera performed well and I think I did alright. It was tricky, at first I was wondering how I could take something that I don’t think is very fun to watch unless you’re big into cars/bikes yourself. It was quite an entertaining event, would’ve been better in the performance area where they did tricks but it’s a shame I couldn’t afford tickets.
The weather was miserable and the moments of action were few and far between.   Looking at the photos now I believe the rain makes some of the shots; I don’t think they’d have turned out as good if it had’ve been bone dry today. The pot holes in the roads through Dublin city centre were a nice container for water to be spat up by the wheels of the cars/bikes.
Here’s some of my favourite shots from the day:

All in all I think they came out reasonably well. I’d appreciate any feedback you guys have to give me, I’m new to this are of photography! It’d be awesome to improve my skills as much as possible.

I’d also really appreciate it if you went over to my facebook and checked out the other photos from the event, like any which you think are good and if you like what you see give the page a like! – http://www.facebook.com/StuartComerfordPhotography

Hopefully I’ll have something else to talk about soon, I’m trying to get a few gigs to work at over the next little while but it’s not going too well for me. I might have another blog post up soon, might not be photography related but I’ll try and appeal to everyone’s interests!
Talk soon guys!