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More on the NBA experience Monday, December 29, 2008

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I thought I'd write a bit about shooting pro basketball (now that I have all that experience under my belt).

This was the first basketball game I've shot since last March, so I expected to be a bit rusty. My reactions were a bit slow, and there were some things I kind of forgot about until partway through the game.

For the most part, though, it went really well for me. To be honest, in most respects I found shooting the game a lot easier than shooting high school hoops. Why? Let me tell you.

Shooting NBA is easier than HS because:

  1. The lighting is better. It's brighter than a HS gym—two full stops better than some gyms I've been to. And the lighting is even across the court—no dark spots. Most of the light comes from the outside, so you can see the faces of the players when they're looking at the hoop. Every lamp gives off the same color of light—a pretty decent color at that—and, best of all, they don't flicker. Not only does the bright light allow for a faster shutter speed and lower ISO, it also makes it easier to focus.
  2. The background is better. The fans aren't as brightly lit as the court, and most of them a lot farther away from the action than at a typical high school gym. Yeah, you have to put up with some advertising in the photos, but it beats fluorescent lights and steel girders.
  3. The NBA 3-point line is farther from the hoop. That spreads everybody out, leaving more room for them to drive to the basket and more room for me to shoot between them.
  4. The players are better. They're bigger, they're stronger. They jump higher and seem to hang there longer. They make—or at least attempt—amazing plays on pretty much every possession.
Having said that, there are some challenges in shooting the NBA that you don't face with high school hoops.

First of all, the access is much more restricted. For high school games, you can pretty much shoot from any position outside of the court, as long as you don't block the team benches or scorer's table. For my game at the Rose Garden, I was assigned shooting lane no. 20—that's third from the right side of the court on the south baseline. It's a pretty decent place to be, but it doesn't offer you much variety. Between the court sweepers, Blazers Dancers, the Reuters photographer, the AP photographer, the team photographer, TV crew, and other media photographers, there isn't much room to move.

With so many other shooters in the house, the other problem you face is shots overexposed due to other photographers' flashes. Some of the guys who shoot regularly at the Rose Garden have strobes up in the rafters that give the court even more light. That's fine, except when they fire at exactly the same time as you—mostly at the key moment of big plays. That's what happened with all of the examples in this post. It's hard to believe that you could pick the same 1/800th of a second to shoot as the guy next to you, but it happens.

I imagine I'll be shooting a bunch of high school games over the next few months—I'm looking forward to fighting through the challenges that brings and making great images in spite of them.

For a limited time only, you can see more of my images from the Trail Blazers game on my SportsShooter page.


Unknown said...

Yo Matthew,

How's it going? Coming back to NY anytime soon? I just wanted to stop by say hello and leave a comment. The pictures on this post look really over exposed. Is that to show the difference in lighting at a pro basketball game?

Anyway, hope you had a nice new year. Best of luck to you in the new year.

Matthew said...

Shawn, good to hear from you.

I chose the pictures for this post to show what happens when someone else's flash fires at the same time as your shot.