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Matinee: 'Photographing NCAA College Basketball' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

28 March 2015

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the seventy-eighth in our series of Saturday matinees today: Photographing NCAA College Basketball.

This 10-minute video coincides with another weekend of March Madness as the NCAA college basketball tournament cuts the field down to the final four. Through it all some dedicated sports photographers are on their knees under the baskets hoping the refs don't block their shots.

Mike Olivella shot the Florida State vs. Wake Forest men's NCAA game a few years ago and had the bright idea of taking us along for the ride. He walks us into the Civic Center arena, shows us the media workroom and immediately takes us to the court where he gets down to business.

He gets there early to reserve his shooting spots. He shows you where to make your stand, explains why and show you how to mark your spot for both halves of the game.

He doesn't always shoot from the floor, though. For a completely different perspective, see Mike's Shooting Basketball From The Catwalks blog post.

Then he briefly takes us back to the media center to show us the food line before we go back to the court to go through his bag. It's packed with lenses, bodies, batteries and more but Mike explains what he uses each lens for and even why he packs a strobe, too.

Then he shows you which lens he puts on each camera and how to keep them out of the way of the players and refs. No small task. Next he explains why he kneels instead of crouches on the floor.

During the game, he talks about switching from one lens to another and the special shots he looks for during, say, a timeout.

When the game is over, he shows us what he shot with which lenses. You see the difference between the fish-eye and the wide angle zoom, the 85mm prime and the 80-200mm zoom.

He also has a lot to say about exposure. But this was 2011, keep in mind. The upper limit ISO he was comfortable with was 1,600 shooting with a Nikon D3 and D300. So a fast aperture (nothing less than an f2.8) was essential to get his shutter speeds up to 1/400 and 1/500 second.

Only two years later and using the same lenses, Reed Hoffman suggests, "Shutter speeds of 1/1000 or faster are necessary to stop the action, so you need cameras (at least two) that can get good quality at ISO 3200 and above. With the large-chip (FX) Nikon cameras I use (D4, D3 and D700), I mainly shoot from 4000 to 8000 ISO."

Mike's insider's advice on shooting a game is not to be missed but what we most appreciate about the piece is what he has to say about the glass. This is really a video about lenses, their focal lengths and apertures. And it covers the range from fish-eye to telephoto.

And that's why it's valuable whether you find yourself courtside for an NCAA game, shooting from the stands at a sixth grade practice or not any closer to the court than your couch will permit.

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