Thursday, October 24, 2013

Friday Night Lights 13.3 - Learning from Crossfit - Part 3 of 5

Lesson #3 Embrace the strength of your gear

The following post is part 3 of a series of posts about lessons learned from documenting the athletes at my local Crossfit Box. You can catch up on my previous posts here: Part 1 and Part 2.  Thanks for stopping by. 

Jackie, one of the most talented coaches in at PCF

Spending time shooting at Paradiso Crossfit solidified a couple of things about the system I was shooting with.  1) The micro four thirds (m43) system is very capable for sports photography, despite the generally accepted sentiment that you must own a DSLR to get decent results. 2) Electronic view finders (EVFs) are an evolutionary step forward and a godsend for manual shooting.  3) Single auto focus is blazing fast.  4) Continuous auto focus is not the greatest with contrast detect cameras like the OMD. Having knowledge of point #4, I knew that photographing these athletes would be difficult and that I would have to get creative to properly capture them.   

150 balls - enough said

Death by wall ball
Now for a bold statement: EVFs in newer m43 cameras are far superior than a DSLR's VF, though that was not always true. Without getting too technical in this post, traditional DSLRs have you shooting through your lens via an optical view finder.  You will be able to tell if your subject is in focus, but you will not able to determine the depth of field and/or exposure by shooting through the lens. Although the built in metering scale is extremely accurate, you don't always know if the sensor is determining exposure based on the environment or the subject (unless you chimp or take multiple test shots).  Most Canon/Nikon bodies offer a live view feature, but you are only limited to the back of the camera screen and not the view finder.  This can get particularly troublesome during outdoor shoots due to glare and you lose that extra point of stability when you hold your camera away from you as opposed to against your face.  From my experience I found that between 160th and 250th of a second was adequate to stop motion (depending on the lift/exercise/skill level of the athlete), but determining what aperture and ISO to use was another issue.  Having that EVF to give you instant feedback on the exposure as you change each setting is extremely invaluable.  You essentially see what you get before even depressing the shutter release.  The more time spent fiddling with settings, the more likely you are to miss the shot - something that can easily happen while shooting a wedding, candids, crossfit, etc.

As stated earlier, I knew my continuous auto focus was weakest aspect of the OMD (and still is), but my single auto focus is second to none. Since crossfit requires athletes to perform specific movements repetitiously, I knew that any given subject wouldn't deviate too far or even at all from their designated spot repetition to repetition.  If I locked my focus on rep #1, I could fire away on rep #2 knowing that I would still maintain critical focus.  The beauty is this works whether you shoot with a DSLR or a micro four thirds camera. Although this "technique" may not work with other types of sports photography, it does with certain crossfit workouts and activities with repeating movements/patterns.  I honestly would have never thought to do this had I not committed to Friday Night Lights.  It was definitely one of those "a-ha!" moments that I may have never gotten had I not put myself out there and tried something completely different from what I normally do.

The Muscle Up - one the best movements you can do 

Every single time I take the camera out, I feel I am improving my photographic skills and getting a grasp of the nuances of my gear. The less you have to think about what needs to be done for a given situation, the more confidence you will undoubtedly get in meeting your goals. Working around my camera's limitations and utilizing its advantages was the biggest take away from the day and it applies to all types of photography no matter what or who you shoot.  Thanks again for stopping by.  I hope these little lessons somehow help with your future work. Now get out there and fire away.

So say we all,