Thank You, Players!

Thank you to all the players and parents who appreciated and commented on my baseball photographs from the 2012 Pleasant Valley season.

It was a great year for me in many ways and I believe I am getting better and better in my sports photography abilities. You players certainly helped me by making some amazing and acrobatic plays on the field! You put the energy and action on the field and I was fortunate to capture some amazing moments from this season.

Last night’s Baseball Banquet celebrated the season and honored the outgoing seniors. It was a true celebration for some amazing athletes and students at Pleasant Valley. The photo presentation I presented captured just some of the highlights and photogems of the season. To see more of this year’s photographs, check out the Sports section of my website.

Thanks again, Pleasant Valley Baseball Players!

This Photo is in the Running for Photo of the Month

This photo is the running! Each month I select my best shot of the month and give it the honor of “Photo of the Month” on my all-sports website, Perfect Game Photos.

Last month was easy because I captured a bat breaking as it was swung at and hit a baseball. I always try to get the ball in the frame because it shows the intensity and action of the game. This photograph I captured today shows the second baseman’s eyes focusing on the baseball as he is tracking down the ball to catch in his glove. One of the player’s feet are in the air as he is running it down. I love the action of this shot!

I am picky though and there is one bad part to this image and that is the background. There was a house behind the field and it usually shows up at the exact wrong time in an otherwise great photograph. Still, this is a quality shot and is now in the running for the honored spot for the month of April.

Adding Multiple Keywords in Adobe Lightroom

 

Do you ever have the need to add multiple keywords to the same photos? I do. For example, after a high school baseball game I want to enter the players jersey number and their full name to their photographs. I find it better to do it now because at the end of the season I make collages for the seniors. All I  have to do then is search for the player name and jersey number and I am good to go!

Through some trial and error, I found a great way to enter these specific keywords to all the photos after a game. This might not make much sense to those of you who don’t use Lightroom, but I am guessing that similar procedures can be used with most software applications.

Here is how I enter multiple keywords after a photo shoot.

Step #1
I apply universal keywords when importing the photos for the first time into Lightroom. “Team name”, “Opponent”, “Away” or “Home”, and “Baseball” are all keywords that get entered into photograph as it is being imported.

Step #2
I create a collection of the keepers from the game. This prevents me from having to enter keywords into photos that I will never use. Time is precious, so saving time is essential!

Step #3
I created a filter that checks each photo for the keywords I am about to enter. This filter is pretty big because it looks for each jersey number and player name on the entire team. I initially created this filter to check to see if any photos from a game were left keywordless. But now I found another great feature by using this filter. I apply the filter just before I add keywords, so when I add keywords to a photo it “disappears” from the screen because it no longer matches that filter. So, as I add keywords, only those without the appropriate keywords are left on my screen. This is pretty slick in my opinion and helps me tremendously!

Step #4
I use the Painter Tool in the Grid view to add my keywords. I click on the Painter Tool and then enter the player’s jersey number, then a comma, and then the player’s name. Then I go through the grid of photos and paint on the photo that matches these keywords. As I do, they “disappear” because they no longer match the filter I selected.

Step #5
I skip over photos with multiple players in them because more than one jersey number and player name will be applied to these photos. I use the Painter Tool again if there are a good number of photos with the same two players in them, or I simply add the appropriate keywords to the remaining photos one-by-one.

When I’m all done, there are not photos left on the screen because they’ve been filtered out and I know that each photograph has been keyworded to my specifications.

It works wonderfully for me!

Photo Tip Tuesday – Shoot Wide Open

We can be creative with our photographs by paying attention to what we want the viewer to focus on in our photo. The goal is to use clear focus on the subject but not the competing surroundings or the background. How can we do this?

Shooting with a larger aperture, small numbered f-stop, say like f/2.8, will blur out the background nicely and keep proper focus on the subject. This is the best way I’ve found to do this and is what I use almost all the time in sports and wildlife photography.

Think about it… you’re shooting an animal that naturally blends into its habitat. This is, after all, what keeps it safe from predators–camouflage. Take a photo of a bunny and you will immediately see just how much it blends into its environment. This does not make for easy photography. By opening up our apertures, we are letting more light hit the digital sensor in our camera. But it also decreases the depth of field that is in focus in the photograph. Several factors contribute to this formula such as distance from the subject, but the effect results in a blurred background. This helps to keep the viewer’s eye focused on the main subject, which of course is our goal.

The next time you’re out on a photo shoot, take a photograph of a subject with your f-stop set at something like f/16, then switch the f-stop to f/2.8 or your lowest setting. Then compare the two photos. Do you see the difference?

Remember, shoot wide open to blur the background and keep the focus on your main subject.

Sports Photography – Sometimes It Just Clicks!

I enjoy sports photography. I like sports, I played sports, I coached sports, and now I photograph sports.

Sometimes, every once in a while, things just click in sports photography. Yes, need to know the game we are shooting, try to anticipate where the action will be next, obtain the absolute best shooting position–you know, the whole nine yards. Even then, when all seems to be going just right, a photo can be out of focus, or an umpire or coach steps right in the way of the action. I know because I’ve experienced this more times than I can count.

But then, every once in a great while, things just click in sports photography!

The above photo was captured at the Pleasant Valley vs. Northwestern Lehigh high school baseball scrimmage. The weather was gorgeous and it was a perfect day for baseball. Spring has about sprung, and the new baseball season is nearly under way officially. How could a sports photographer complain on a day like this?

One of my goals in sports photography is to try my best to get the baseball in the frame of the photograph whenever possible. This helps to show the action even in a still photo. It’s even better when the player’s eyes are focused on the ball and the ball is in complete focus in the frame. Of course, this just doesn’t happen all the time, but it is a worthy goal in my humble sports photo opinion.

On this particular swing, I knew the batter broke his bat. Everyone could hear it and one fan even said so to me. Yep, the bat was broken, but I did not realize I capture “the moment” until I was editing the shoot on my computer back in my office. Then, as soon as my eyes saw this photo, I knew I had captured “the moment.”

Let’s first talk about what’s wrong with this photo. First of all, it contains that dreaded baseball background–the chain-link fence. I hate these backgrounds. It looks more like a dog fence than something that ought to be in a photograph. Who let the dogs out anyhow? Secondly, the baseball is not in focus, not even close. Third, the catcher’s arm is cut off and appears to be floating in the air all by itself. Yuck!

But even with all that, I like this photograph. The player is in focus and the ball leaving the broken bat tells the story well and almost exudes action! As a matter of fact, when I look at this photo I swear I can almost hear the crack of the bat hitting that baseball!

Now the next photograph wouldn’t mean much without seeing the one right before it. But now this last photo helps to tell the story of this at-bat. And you thought you carried a big stick!

Panthers vs. Bears Basketball

The Panthers of Pocono Mountain West faced the Bears of Pleasant Valley for the Mountain Valley Conference Championship tonight in Stroudsburg.

The girls’ game was first and Pleasant Valley won in overtime. Then it was the boys’ turn. The Panther’s only loss this season was to Pleasant Valley, which was an upset. Tonight they were battling it out on the court again. The Panthers struck first and often. They ran off a big lead and never looked back. The Bears could not overcome the deficit and never led the game. It was a disappointing night for a team, which battled several injuries late in the season, including their all-star Nick Stanovick. The Panthers won big with a score of 82-49.

The Panthers looked strong off the glass, on rebounds, and on the floor. Their passes were crisp and sure, and their full-court press made for a difficult and frustrating night for the Bears. Both teams will play in Districts.

Wrestling – Stroudsburg vs. Pleasant Valley

This week featured an exciting Mountain Valley Conference match-up for the championship. Winner take all! For all the marbles! However you want to say it, this match was going to determine the winner of this years Mountain Valley Conference. Stroudsburg had the three previous titles and once again Pleasant Valley came in as the predicted underdog, even though they outranked Stroudsburg in the District playoffs.

Sadly, I was not able to photograph the Varsity match due to another commitment, but I was able to photograph the Junior High match. These photographs are just a sampling of the photos I captured at this match. You can view all the photos here.

I hope these photos reveal at least some of the excitement and enthusiasm that came out on this huge night. It was a night of noise, enthusiasm, excitement, and champions!

Batter Up!

The high school baseball season has begun and I shot my first game of the season this afternoon. It was refreshing and exhilarating to be behind the camera at a baseball game. This time I used my 70-200mm lens attached to  my D300 mounted on a monopod and I had my D70 around my neck with the 24-70mm lens. This combination worked pretty well and allowed me to capture most of the action.

It also didn’t hurt to have my MB-D10 Battery Grip attached to my camera, which gives me 8 frames per second! This really helps me when a runner is stealing second base or when an infielder is fielding a ground ball. This fast frame rate allows me to capture more of the action, which is critical in a baseball game.

The other critical thing is to constantly pay attention and anticipate where the action is next going to take place. This takes concentration and some luck. But having coached baseball for nine years certainly helps me anticipate where the action might take place next. Having two cameras on hand is helpful, too.

Batter up! The baseball season is in full swing and I couldn’t be happier!

My New Sports Portfolio

I have taken a lot of sports action photographs in recent years. I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of trying to capture the excitement of the plays on the field! The challenge is obvious because many variables are involved. Will I click the shutter at just the right moment? Will the shot be in focus? Will the ball be frozen in the frame with the player?

Of course, there are some things the photographer can control. Watch the background to keep it as uncluttered as possible. Have your camera ready for action at all times. Keep batteries charged and memory cards ready. Position yourself in the best possible location.

Last night I spent some time going through many of the baseball photos I took this year. I wanted to create a portfolio of my best sports photographs. Then I posted the resulting portfolio to my website. You can see the Sports Portfolio for yourself. Take a look at these photos and let me know what you think of them. Do they capture the action? Do they tell a story? Are they any good?

Basketball

Tonight I photographed the Pleasant Valley basketball game. They played a good game against Northampton. In the end they came up a little short, but it was fun to try to capture the action on the court.

Indoor photography can be tricky at best. Working without a flash I had to bump up the ISO. My Nikon f/2.8 70-200mm got exclusive use and performed beautifully. Fast lenses are a necessity in situations like this. I turned my white balance to florescent which seemed to work very well and render colors correctly.

The action was fast and furious at times. I positioned myself on the baseline, hoping for the action to come straight at me. It did!

I did learn a few things that I need to remember for the next game I shoot:

1. Remember to follow the players as they jump. Sometimes they jumped out of the frame!
2. Keep shooting after the play is over. Players reactions are sometimes very photographic.
3. Bring knee pads along. They will save my knees from becoming so sore.

Overall, this was a fun shoot. I can’t wait for the next tip-off! I hope to have some of these photos posted on my website soon. www.bobshankphotography.com