***** DRAFT *****
I was asked by the Annandale High School (AHS) Director of student Activities (DSA) to take photos of other 2017 Fall sports besides field hockey. I am always looking for opportunities to learn, especially in new environments, so I agreed to give it my best, and cover whatever events my work and travel schedule would allow.
Varsity volleyball was my first opportunity, so this blog entry is an attempt to capture what I learned from the few games I was able to shoot.
Here are links to the password-protected galleries of photos for each game:
- September 14, 2017 – Annandale HS vs. Washington-Lee HS (91 photos)
- September 23, 2017 – Annandale HS vs. Westfield HS (63 photos)
- September 23, 2017 – Annandale HS vs. Dominion HS (71 photos)
- September 23, 2017 – Annandale HS vs. JEB Stuart HS (140 photos)
- September 23, 2017 – Annandale HS vs. Tuscarora HS (144 photos)
- October 19, 2017 – Annandale HS vs. T.C. Williams HS (144 photos)
Annandale HS vs. Washington-Lee HS (September 14, 2017)
Annandale HS vs. Westfield HS (September 23, 2017)
Annandale HS vs. Dominion HS (September 23, 2017)
Annandale HS vs. J.E.B. Stuart HS (September 23, 2017)
Annandale HS vs. Tuscarora HS (September 23, 2017)
Annandale HS vs. T.C. Williams HS (October 19, 2017)
Some of the better photos are as follows:
1. Volleyball Moves a Lot Faster Than I Thought
Before the first game started, I noticed that there was another photographer getting ready to shoot, so I went up to her and asked her for some pointers. She told me where the players would be lined up for introductions and the national anthem, and she gave me suggestions for where to position myself for various shots during play. I also asked her what camera settings she uses. In particular, I was interested to know what shutter speed she suggested, just looking for confirmation that the 1/400 to 1/500 second range that I assumed would be adequate to capture the action (This would also allow me to consider using my 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens instead of the 105mm f/1.4 prime lens that would be my alternate.). To my surprise, she said that she shot at 1/800 to 1/1000 second shutter speed, because the people she delivers her photos to want to see the ball frozen.
Once I started shooting, her recommendation proved true, and I ended up sticking with 1/800 seconds, together with my 105mm f/1.4 prime. Unfortunately, after I got home I realized how many of the decent shots didn’t show the ball. I had taken these shots at 7 frames/second, so I figured that I should bump it up to 10 frames/second, the maximum that my Nikon D500 can put out.
2. Release vs. Focus Priority
3. White Balance
After my first attempt at photographing his team, Larry Lefbom, the varsity volleyball coach at Annandale High School, passed along a number of tips regarding photographing high school volleyball that he received from his extensive network of volleyball contacts. Among them were some tips from Peter Halvorson, who suggested, among other things, that I set the camera’s white balance before each match. As I have now learned, this is especially important in closed environments like a high school gym.
What I found during my second attempt to shoot high school volleyball (at the J.E.B. Stuart High School ‘Raider Rumble’ tournament on September 23, 2017), was that my Nikon D500 was really struggling to find the proper white balance when using the Auto White Balance setting. Many of the photos (although not all, even in a single burst) showed an unflattering yellow tint in skin tones. I assume this resulted from the ceiling lights reflecting off the yellowish finish on the wood floor. At one point I stopped and tried all the camera’s likely alternative white balance settings, but I didn’t see any that rendered the skin tones accurately. Peter’s suggestion was to either set the camera’s white balance ahead of time by using a 15% grey calibration source (or equivalent), or shoot RAW files (instead of JPEG) so I could adjust the white balance after the fact. Since I’ve never done the former, and the latter approach would allow me to apply as much or as little correction as I thought I needed (For instance, I took some photos of players faces looking directly up into the lights as they practiced spiking (I was shooting from the referee’s tower.), whereas other shots of players near the floor would be more dominated by the reflected light.
Unfortunately, in using the RAW files I then have to deal with what I’ve considered to be an unacceptable amount of color noise at higher ISO settings (I set the limit to ISO 3200 in order to get proper exposure at 1/000 second shutter speed at the wide open f/2.8 aperture of my 70-200 mm zoom lens. I should have lowered it back down to ISO 2000 when I was using my 105 mm f/1.4 prime lens.). I low light settings I typically use the JPEG files, because the JPEG algorithm in my camera seems to filter out a good portion of this noise (It also seems to generate more saturated colors.).
It seems that I am really pushing this camera to its limits.
Built-in catch lights.
5. The Nikon D500 DSLR Produces Noisy Photos When ISO is Set Above 2000
6. Focus Improves Significantly is there is a High-Contrast Background
7. Autofocus Tracking with Lock-On
Autofocus performed pretty well with Blocked Shot AF Response set to 3 (Quick is 1, Delayed is 5), and Subject Motion set to “Erratic”. 3D-Tracking Face-Detection was also set to On.
Make sure the focus is locked on the person, and not the background.
8. White Balance Gets Screwed Up when the Scorer’s Table Lights are in the Field of View