Mar 6, 2012

The strobes give, the strobes take away

Flash Basketball-8617

I've set up strobes for basketball in the past, but high ISO's work pretty well these days too. With North Forney advancing to the second round of the high school playoffs, they played at Texas A&M Commerce, where the basketball facility was built in the 1950s. That does not bode well for lighting, so some research was in order.

I found photog Brad McClendon through his images from the TAM-C Field House on Flickr. He was very helpful with lighting info, as well as hooking me up with the sports information office to get access to the building's built in strobes.

Shooting with strobes gives a very different dynamic in basketball, and the TAM-C setup put the lights almost directly above the corners of the court. Both ends of the court fired at the same time, and one of the four corners was not functioning.

The first thing that the strobes take away is the ability to shoot multi-frame sequences. Timing is everything and you have to be patient and wait for your shot. It is good practice, but also a limitation.

The second is, if the strobes do not fire (this happened several times), you get nada.
Flash Basketball-5481

The other problem is shadows. You want to limit the amount of ambient light in the exposure so that the strobes stop the action. With players waving their arms around, harsh shadows can fill in a player's face, ruining a shot. This was especially problematic on the end of the court with only one strobe.
Flash Basketball-5503

One more negative... if you shoot from the floor, the strobes on the opposite end find their way into a lot of shots, as you can see above. The affect isn't always terrible, but it is distracting and problematic when you are already shooting fewer frames than normal.

This one has both the shadow issue and the strobe flare craziness.
Flash Basketball-5523

When everything comes together, though, the strobes give a unique, clean and dramatic look that is impossible to get shooting in ugly gym lighting.
Flash Basketball-5534

Flash Basketball-5479

My favorite shots came from the mid court area. With the single strobe on my end reflecting off of the floor and filling faces of defenders, and the dual stobes acting as rim lights, the effect was very nice.
Flash Basketball-8631

The cheerleaders, meanwhile, got the spotlight treatment.
Flash Basketball-8632

Big thanks again to Brad. Now that basketball is over, and daylight savings time has begun, there is hope for some decent baseball and soccer photos.

Have a great week,

Don J.