Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Philadelphia Union vs UNF Ospreys

The Major League Soccer team, the Philadelphia Union, practices during the late winter/early spring in central Florida.  I was lucky enough to find out about this when the photo editor for the UNF Spinnaker contacted me and asked if I would go down and shoot an exhibition match between the Union and the UNF Ospreys.

The weather started out pretty crappy.  It was drizzling off and on, cloudy, windy, and (by Florida standards) cold.

Fortunately, just before game time, the rain stopped and the clouds began to part just as the sun was setting.  This made for some gorgeous shots.  Like this one:

For both the Union and the Ospreys, it was a really physical game.

For some quick tips for shooting soccer in crappy weather conditions:
  1. A camera that allows a high ISO is important if you're shooting at night.  I shot these at 4,000 and aperture 2.8 with a 200mm lens.
  2. Keep something in your camera bag to protect your camera from the elements.  I have some inexpensive camera covers that just slip over the camera and lens.
  3. Water proof shoes/boots are also nice.  It sucks having to run around for over an hour with cold, wet feet.
The rest of the photos from this match can be seen on my site:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making the best of a bad situation...

Last week, I heard there was going to be an eclipse that would be partially viewable by the East Coast of the United States shortly after sunrise.  The only downside to this, so far, was that I don't like mornings.  But, not wanting to miss a rare photo opportunity, I made it a point to make it out to the beach.  As seen in the photo below, I wasn't the only one.  :)

Sadly, though, there were clouds on the horizon, so I didn't see the actual eclipse.  It's ok though.  There will always be times when things doing don't go as planned.  You can either get frustrated and let it impact your work, or make the best of the situation and come away with some good images.  Here are some photos of the sunrise.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Photographing Volleyball: Part 2

Last weekend, I photographed my second volleyball game for the University of North Florida.  I learned a few more things and have some new insights.

  • push the ISO a little higher and try to shoot at an aperture around f4.  It is more forgiving than lowering the ISO and shooting at f1.4.  While I would like as little noise as possible, it doesn't matter how much (or how little) noise is in a photo if it's not in focus. 

  • For the last match, I switched to the 50mm lens and shot a bit wider.  I was initially concerned about it being too wide, but was happy with the results.  Not only did I still get some great action, but I was also able to capture the emotion of the game in the other players' faces.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Guide to buying camera gear

In this day and age, there are plenty of places to get new camera gear.  But how do you decide if you want to buy new or used?  Online or in a store?  What equipment should you get?  These are all good questions.

First, start with what to get.  This is not an easy thing to answer since not everyone's needs are the same.  I generally wait until I have a need before I buy a new piece of gear.  I started out with a mid-range dSLR and the kit lens that it came with.  This worked well for me until I photographed my first concert.  Out of approximately 750 photos, less than 25 were usable.  I quickly realized I needed a better lens.  That's how I ended up getting the Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens.  That was many years ago and I still have that lens.  For the general consumer who isn't sure what they want, a great place to start your research is SnapSort.  This site will allow you to do side-by-side comparisons of a wide range of camera gear.

Second, now that you know what you want, where should you get it?  A local big box store?  The internet?  Random guy (or girl, no need to discriminate.  :D )  I don't recommend the random person on the corner.  Who knows what could be wrong with that gear.  I tend to avoid the big box stores for camera gear since they don't have much in the way of higher end stuff.  Two of my favorite places are B&H Photo and Adorama.  They have good warranties for their merchandise and are reputable sales companies in the camera business.  You can also check Ebay and Craigslist, but be careful.  You generally don't get a warranty from these sellers, and there's no real guarantee that you're getting what you pay for.  If you do choose either of these, check the prices at other dealers first to make sure you are actually getting a good deal.  I've seen a few cameras lately on Craigslist that are more expensive than if I were to buy them from B&H.

If you have any questions, let me know and I'll try to help.  :)

And here's a random photo I took of a body-painted model in a suitcase from John Shippee Photography.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Photographing volleyball

Learning to Shoot Sports: The Volleyball Edition

While I have been shooting concerts and events for the past 15 or so years, I've only recently started shooting sporting events.  Some things carry over from concert photography into sports photography, such as:
  1. Action.  In both sporting events and concerts, there's constant movement.  You need to stay alert to the action and be ready to shoot in less than a second.
  2. Weird lighting.  Lighting conditions for sporting events vary from venue to venue and also depend on the time of day and if it is indoors or out.  The good thing though, is that unlike concerts, where the lighting is constantly changing, once you've got your camera set for the lighting of a sporting event, it is unlikely to change throughout the game.
  3. Timing is everything.  Whether you're trying to get the guitarist in mid-jump at a show, or the center spiking the ball in a volleyball game, you've got to time it just right.
I have only shot one volleyball game so far, so I am far from being an expert.  With that being said, here are some things I learned from my first game.

1.  The action is quick and it is difficult to follow the ball through the camera's viewfinder.  I found that I was getting better shots if I sat along the sideline, near the net, and focused my camera on the center person in the front row.  This seemed to be where most of the action took place. 

2.  When there's a crowd of people in the background, such as in the photo above, using the camera's continuous focus feature wasn't much use.  I found that the camera tried focusing on the people in the stands instead of the players on the court.

3. I tried shooting from an elevated position, but the perspective just seemed off.  I recommend shooting from ground level, if you can.

4.  Always get the ball in the photo.  Unless you're shooting the reaction/emotion in other people's faces.

More shots from this game can be seen on my site John Shippee Photography.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments section.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tips for photographing horse jumping

When you're shooting a horse jumping competition, it's all about freezing the action in your photo.  I shot a horse competition for the first time not too long ago and here's what I learned.

1. It's all about timing.  The ideal time is when the front hoofs are tucked underneath the horse. 


If you are a little slow on the shutter release button, you'll end up with an image closer to this one.  

Notice how the legs are coming down and getting ready to land.  This image doesn't have the same visual impact as the one above it.

2. Horse move quickly.  In order to got shots like this, I recommend shooting at a shutter speed no slower than 1/500th of a second.  Because the shutter speed needs to be so high, I was shooting at 2.8 and had the ISO cranked up to 8000.

3. If at all possible, shoot horse going over obstacles that conceal their hind legs.  There are times where their back hoofs are still on the ground as their front legs start coming down for the landing. 

This image does not have the same impact as the one below because you can see the back hoofs still on the ground.

This horse's hind hoofs are probably still on the ground, too, but because you don't see them, the overall image is more striking to the viewer.

This is one of my favorite images from the set.  The timing was right, I like how the rider's position matches that of the horse, it all came together nicely.

If you'd like to see more shots from this event, check out my site, John Shippee Photography.  If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Friday, September 27, 2013

3 Tips for photographing concerts

Photographing concerts can be crazy fun or it can be super frustrating. Sometimes it's both. Whether it's trying to get access to a show, something/someone obstructing your view, or equipment failures, it seems like there's always something not going quite right. But that's all part of the gig.  You can either get upset and "throw in the towel" or adapt and move on. I like the challenge and it feels good looking at great photos, especially after a particularly challenging show. Here are some tips for having the best experience possible.

  1. Get there early. Not all venues have press areas, so you're going to be lumped in with everyone else.  Everyone else may not be as courteous as you and will most likely have their cellphones high in the air to get what they expect to be the best (cellphone) pic ever.  Sadly, this means that they're going to have their arms and phones in your line of sight unless you are in front of them.
  2. Research the venue. Is there a large space between the stage and the crowd?  Is the stage really large?  What's the best place to be to get the best photos?  These are all important questions.  One of the local venues that I shoot at is a very intimate venue.  The stage is only about 6 feet deep and maybe 12 feet wide and the crowd can be right up to the edge of the stage.  Because of all this, I never bring a lens that is over 50mm.  Anything with more zoom than that, and I would be photographing close-ups of their faces and other detailed shots.
  3. Equipment. 
    1. Make sure your battery in the camera is charged and the memory card is empty. The last thing you want is to have gone through all this planning and halfway through the first song have your battery die, or your memory card be full.  I always bring an extra of each just to be on the safe side.
    2. Earplugs are also important.  If you're going to be really close to the stage, chances are, you'll also be really close to loud speakers.
    3. Lens and camera body.  Obviously you need these to shoot a show, but I recommend as fast of a lens as you can get.  Fast meaning wide aperture.  I generally shoot with either 2.8 or 1.4 depending on the venue.  As for camera body, find one that has a high ISO.  It's going to be dark in the venue and you're going to want a fairly fast shutter speed to freeze the action.  That leaves you with the option of bumping up the ISO and/or increasing the aperture.  Sometimes you have to do both.
    4. Just like you'll want to have the right camera and lens, you'll also want to have the right attitude.  Don't stress out and be nice to people around you. If you're nice, they may be more accommodating to you and willing to either switch places with you, or at least make sure that they aren't lifting their arms into your line of sight.  Also, stressing out doesn't solve anything. Take a deep breath and improvise ways to work with what you've got.
Canary In The Coalmine at MOCA Jax

Hank and Cupcake at Jack Rabbits

The Airborne Toxic Event at Freebird Live

Check out more of my concert shots at John Shippee Photography.