When Your Camera Does Matter

My last article was titled, “Proof That Your Camera Doesn’t Matter,” even though as we all know, sometimes your camera does matter. The message of that entry was that photography resides in your heart and your head, not in your wallet.

This week we had several basketball teams playing in the area tournament at one of the most poorly lit gyms in the area, the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester, Oklahoma. The trouble isn’t the actual lights in the place, as much as it is the fact that due to the Expo’s multi-purpose nature, the layout puts the lights high above the floor, and widely spread out.

Expo Center Thursday: JPEG file provided to us by a reporter; tiny lens + noisy sensor + weak built-in flash = nearly unusable image.
Expo Center Thursday: JPEG file provided to us by a reporter; tiny lens + noisy sensor + weak built-in flash = nearly unusable image.

On Thursday, one of our part-timers was writing the story of the first-round game, and while he was there, he squeezed off a few frames with a small point-and-shoot camera. The results bordered on being unusable, both because of the limitations of his camera, and the fact that he has no training or experience shooting sports.

On Friday, two of our local teams were slated to play each other, so I covered the game. The lighting, as I said, leaves a fairly narrow margin for success. At ISO3200, I was faced with f/1.8 at about 1/400th of a second. Fortunately, I brought my 85mm, and with it I worked mostly from the baseline, since much of the midcourt is out of reach for this lens. I was happy with the results, and it certainly made a difference having the camera I needed, and the skills to do the job.

I should point out that I don’t own the newest, greatest camera in the digital photography world. In fact, I was shooting with the 2003-era Nikon D2H I got from eBay for about $400. With the 85mm, my rig cost about $700. The point-and-shoot the stringer used the day before ran him about $300. Hmm. Maybe my last entry should have been “Why You Don’t Need an Expensive Camera.”

Expo Center Friday: Latta's Madison Snowden tries to drive inside against Konawa's Chelsea Gillum; 85mm + high ISO + working the baseline patiently = successful basketball action.
Expo Center Friday: Latta's Madison Snowden tries to drive inside against Konawa's Chelsea Gillum; 85mm + high ISO + working the baseline patiently = successful basketball action.
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2 Comments

  1. The point-and-shoot image is surprisingly good, considering. 🙂 I’ve had hundreds of these submitted to me when I worked the sports desk in Seminole, and almost none were as good as the example you provided.

    Sports photography, mainly because of fast action and usually very dim lighting, is one of those exceptions to the “camera doesn’t matter” idea. Another might be wildlife (I’m thinking *real* wildlife, not the birds outside Grandma’s window.)

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  2. However, I have a wonderful wallet cam I bought at the spy shop. So, I guess then perhaps I am the exception…Even so, the sentiment expressed is dead on. We so often place limitations on ourselves that are not real.

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