Shooting Basketball w/ White Lightning x1600
Last weekend I shot basketball at a local area High School with my two new WL X1600 strobes - for the first time. I was not able to get on the court to take a light meter reading to set the f stop. by metering. I aimed the strobes (placed at one end of the court) at the ceiling for a bounce effect. I fired the strobes at 100%, and shot at 1/250 second, synch speed. Focus was fine, but many shots were blurred - If I shoot at 1/1000 this coming weekend, is there a "formula" for determining f/stop, or is this a trial and error situation. My favored ISO is 200 and my lens of choice is an 85mm f2.8.
I suspect that trying to use studio lights in this way for sports will be a lot like dance photography. You would need lots of power distributed among many flash heads so that you get a lot of light with short flash duration. I.E., instead of putting 1600 W-s through one strobe head, put 400 W-s each through four heads, and you'll have a better chance of freezing the action. That's how Lois Greenfield gets those perfectly sharp dancers suspended in mid-air.
The shutter speed shouldn't really be relevant, and I'd be surprised if your studio lights can sync at full power at high speed.
I also think you're going to lose too much light trying to bounce off the ceiling of a gym, even with studio strobes.
Just my thoughts..
"Back in the day" when I had to go to work for the papers, strobes weren't allowed at the high school/college/pro games...times have changed! We shot 'em with high speed print or pushed Ektachrome with a f1.4 or faster lens at 1/500.
If your camera syncs faster than 1/125, I'm also surprized. Man, am I behind the times :o Perhaps the blurring is due to the 1/250 speed...I always used 1/500 to stop action at games. But that's neither here nor there, as I would think your flash duration on the strobes would freeze 'em mid-air. I have a hunch that even your gorilla strength strobes don't put out enough punch when bounced off a high ceiling. I had great results in available light with either of the fast films mentioned above...give it a shot.
Maybe I'm old, behind the new technology and stuck in my ways, but I wouldn't use 'em, 'cause you're going to get to a game or tournament where they're not going to let you use them.
The paper I worked at had four, ancient, monster strobes permanantly hung from the ceiling of Allen Field House for Kansas basketball. They were set on "kill" and triggered with a radio transmitter. They could shoot sharp chromes at maximum sync speeds. For high school hoops, it was Fuji 1600 pushed a stop for grainy images at 1/250th at best.
I'm with jolefler... I'm way behind the times, too! I used to shoot high school basketball with Tri-X pushed to 1600 with a Mamiya 645, and got great results. I learned to stay under the basket and shoot with a wide angle lens.
Can't believe they let you fire flash! But I wonder if it's worth the trouble...
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Wow, this brings back memories, not all of them good. Two 1600 watt strobes at each basket on approximately 45 deg angles, not bounced. Rollei 6008 on 1/500th with a radio trigger and an on-camera Metz potato masher flash for fill only. 60, 110 and 180 lenses. Fujichrome, great results. Schedule an appointment with your chiropractor in advance. It got interesting when a player slammed in and broke the backboard.
My guess is that the "blurriness" is actually a slight case of the "double-exposures." You got two images: one from the flashes and one from the ambient light. Looking at the edge of the basketball player, you may see the actual double outlines of his body. BTW, what camera do you have that synchs at 1/1000th?
Thanks for the replies....I may have "mis-spoke" as my camera synchs at 250. I am also tad embarassed to admit I now shoot digital (Nikon D1h)...I found this site, read the lighting posts and it seemed like there were some real pros here...so I signed up. Hope I am not like a Nikon guy at a Canon convention. May I be forgiven for having gone to the dark side?
The main reason I have bounced the strobes is to avoid having the flash shoot directly at the players. I shot all day Sat, never had a complaint. I am out tomorrow at a different gym, we will see how it goes.
Am wondering if the "blur' is an AF problem - I was shooting with a 70-200 f2.8 for a while...that's a lot of glass for that little motor to throw around. Later when I switched to the f1.8 fixed 85mm, the results seem to improve significantly.
If I am understanding how this works, it's the flash duration that freezes the action - and setting my shutter speed @ 1/500 or 1/1000 will have no effect?
I was somehow under the impression from reading my flash meter manual I could set my strobes at 100%, select an ISO, AND a shutter speed, take a reading and the meter would give me an f stop. Did I misunderstand the meter instructions?
I've seen other people use similar, though they often only light one end since the teams change sides at half time. If you have 4 strobes, then you can light a little farther out to cover more of the whole court. The guys that I know who used to do this would normally shoot 400 speed film, but we were also in arenas that had enough light in the center to get decent results, so they were just filling the basket areas. Except for one game in the better stadium where there was an NBA exhibition game that was covered by their photogs, and then they set up many strobes way up high all the way around the court and tripped them all with radios. They must have had about 16 fixtures up, and this was a stadium that was very well lit where you could get a decent shutter speed with 400 film and no flash.
Originally Posted by TimVermont
Don't sports photographers know how to pan and catch the pak of action anymore?
In the early 40's while in high school I photographed high school basketball games with Indoor Kodachrome (Weston speed 12) and flash bulbs with a Kodak 35. The maximum shutter speed was 1/200, lens f 3.5.
Of course, the little #5 flashbulbs put out immense amounts of light but panning was certainly necessary as was catching the action at its peak.
A little practice at panning and learning to catch action at its peak will go a long way in eliminating the blurring.
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