One day at the World Championships '19

Discussion in 'General Forum' started by s_mair, Aug 29, 2019.

  1. s_mair

    s_mair Regular Member

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    As some of you already might know, I took the chance to visit the semi-final day at the recent World Championships in Basel. I think it is my duty to make a little report about the day and share some of the pictures I have taken (link to the picture gallery below).




    The Media Center

    Media Center_320.jpg


    A photographer briefing was scheduled 30 minutes before the first match , I did my best to memorise very carefully the dos and donts while entering the arena and being at court side. The main message was “Do it like yesterday, then everything is fine!”. I decided to watch the first match comfortably from the stands – I still had a regular ticket with a seat in row #3, so that wasn’t the worst option. Also, that would be the perfect opportunity to watch how my pro colleagues behave at court side and spend some minutes to gather my thoughts and to come up with a new plan on what to focus during the next couple of hours.


    Let the matches begin

    World Champion to-be Pursala V Sindhu needed 40 minutes to end a rather one-sided match against a passive and somehow disheartened looking Chen Yu Fei (which was only the start of a series of surprisingly one-sided matches over the next two days…). The plan I came up with in the meantime was to spend a couple of matches at court side and trying my best to take a couple of decent pictures whilst still trying to simply watch and enjoy the matches.

    I decided to focus on both men’s singles matches, the second women’s singles and the mixed doubles match with my current two favorite XD pairs Huang Yaqiong/Zheng Siwei and Arisa Higashino/Yuta Watanabe.
    And since it was Kento Momota’s turn in match #3 of the day, I got my fancy red bib from the media center and headed for the arena towards the end of the women’s doubles match.

    And then…. I was there….
    Field of Play_320.jpg

    I’m not sure if I’m the only one feeling like this, but I’m still sure that there is some kind of time/space anomaly around that court. Cause it felt like time is passing at least twice as fast as it does normally. So I hardly managed to sit down on the benches for a minute to prepare my camera and check all the settings when the speaker announced the reigning World Champion and dominating #1 in the World Rankings Kento Momota -


    The traps of technology

    I will go a bit deeper into equipment and photography stuff now, maybe it will be useful for others in here reading this. All those who don’t really care for things like f-number and shutter speed, you can safely move on to the next headline…

    For all those who are interested, here’s the gear that I was using:
    Camera: Nikon D610 full-frame DSLR
    Lenses: Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 (made in the 90s, super slow autofocus but still great picture quality…), Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5

    And having shot badminton pictures in my club before, I knew that the 80-200mm would most likely be the weapon of choice, especially looking at the f-number. The basic camera settings were clear (at least I thought so), I knew it would be all about getting short shutter speeds while keeping the ISO at 6400 maximum (I know that’s the point at which the noise turns from acceptable to “beach” on the D610).

    And right then, I made the decision that ruined pretty much all of the action shots of the Momota match. I set the camera to aperture-priority “A”, thinking that if I set it to f2.8, the camera would the adjust the shutter to the fastest possible. The camera had a different idea in mind. It thought “okay, I give you your 2.8, but I’ll try to go down with the ISO since that will make the pictures look better!”.
    Result was that it dialed the shutter to 1/100 sec. which is of course complete and utter bollocks in that situation. And with the ongoing input-overflow on all my senses during the match, I literally didn’t check a single time the histogram and data on any of the (blurred) pictures. :mad:

    It took me another couple of rallies of the following women’s singles match between Nozomi Okuhara and Ratchanok Intanon to find the key to acceptable actions pics. I changed to shutter priority “S”, limited the ISO to 6400 and chose the fastest possible shutter speed by a bit of trial and error. So basically an “assisted” manual mode. Also, I changed the exposure metering mode from “matrix” to “spot” which created a great contrast between the motive and the dark background. I ended up with a fastest possible shutter speed of 1/800 to 1/1000 which brought acceptable results also on action shots.

    And sitting there right next to the action, I had dozens of ideas what to shoot and what to do that could be interesting for other badminton nerds. So I jumped at trying this and that but bottom line, I didn’t really follow any of those ideas consequently. Looking at all the footage, I now feel that one of the better idea was to capture a close-up of the players’ footwork. But sadly, I wasn’t that happy with the first clips when I checked them on-site, so all I came up with were Nozomi Okuhara and Anders Antonsen:




    As said before, I will add a link to a picture gallery later on in the text. This will be a selection of my favorite pictures and I’m looking forward to getting some feedback from you guys and girls. And I know that we have a number of a lot more experienced badminton photographers in here (@lurker, @kwun), so don’t hold back on your comments.
     
    #1 s_mair, Aug 29, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 31, 2019
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  2. s_mair

    s_mair Regular Member

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    Photographer or badminton fan?

    Anyways, the match was over before it had started, and I noticed that by watching the match through the ocular, you pretty much don’t get anything of what’s really going on on court. First game was over and, I’m not kidding, I had no clue who had won it at that point. I decided to focus my photography time to the first half of a game and to watch the rest from court side. Needless to say that I moved a bit to the back and sat on the benches (and my sore knees and back were thanking me a lot for that too!). Although I was a bit surprised that it was way less cramped than I had expected. Of course, the best spots at the center of the court were always crowded, but starting from the service line to the backline, there was basically always more than enough space to get to the court. We were only allowed to shoot from the sideline of the service-judge's side of the court so that was limiting the possible viewing angles a lot.

    With that mode, I was very happy. I also took some breaks to take a look around the venue and to visit the media center and the shops. Also, I decided that I won’t be covering all matches with the camera but instead chose the highlights and watch the rest from my comfortable place on the stands. When I finally sat down to watch Ahsan/Setiawan, I noticed how mentally and physically exhausted I was after spending the previous matches next to the court and behind the camera. My brain must have felt a bit like Ratchanok’s calves towards the end of the decider. ;)

    The undisputed goosebump-moment of the day for me clearly was the match point of the Anders Antonsen match. And if you watch closely, you can spot a guy right next to the court. Guess who that was…

    AA final rally_400.jpg


    And here's the result:



    Summary

    Seriously, I still have issues to realize that it was really me who was there that day. All the impressions during the day were a lot bigger and a lot more impressive than I would have expected beforehand – for both, the badminton fan and the photographer in me.

    To witness badminton history happening literally just an arm length away was a unique experience. It was mindblowing how loud the cheers from the crowd are when you’re down in the arena – I had goosebumps just sitting there and listen to all that, especially during the Anders Antonsen match. And I can’t even imagine how it must feel to be standing on court there. Mark my words - I will never ever be criticizing players in the future anymore because they couldn’t “handle the pressure”. The mental factor is a lot(!) bigger than what I would have expected before and it doesn’t take much to put you over the edge when you’re standing in that limelight and having thousands of people watching (and judging) you.

    Regarding the professional photographers, I have the biggest respect for them. Doing that job day in day out is damn tough. The day after, I felt like I had played a tournament day myself since my back, legs and especially the knees were killing me. And that after only parts of half the matches of the day behind the camera. They were all very friendly at the court and were offering the better places to shoot a couple of times. And I feel like I’ve learned a lot just by observing them doing their job.

    Looking at my own pictures, I can clearly see an improvement with every game that passed and I’m actually quite happy with some of them. Here’s the link to the gallery with a selection of pics, I hope you will enjoy it a bit:

    https://www.amazon.de/photos/share/uk71G9urVnWFFksoE9hwMOkgvi3khYBmT85aKgSZbI

    In case anyone would like to get some of the pictures with full resolution, just drop me a PM.

    Would I do anything differently if I had that chance again and knowing what would be happening on site? Yes, I definitely would. First of all, I would make sure to do a proper camera settings check and maybe even shoot some practice pictures in the club as preparation. To have wasted so many pics from the Momota match only because of that silly setting mistake still makes me angry. Also, I would spend more time to put together an actual strategy about what I would like to focus on in the pictures. For example, I completely forgot to do a bit of a “behind the scenes” about the work of the photographers and the atmosphere right there beside the court. Thinking about it now, I get a lot of ideas about potentially interesting motives, but too late. I would also try to organize a better standard zoom lens or even fixed zoom lenses since my 24-85mm was just too weak in terms of available f-number so that was a big limiting factor in terms of potential motives.

    To end on a high note:
    The final cherry on the whipped cream on the WC cake for me then was to get my accreditation signed by Ratchanok Intanon. She had a long signing session at the Yonex booth in the late afternoon and still didn’t refuse a single autograph or selfie request when she was walking through the crowd. And what a nice and lovely person she is. :)

    Autogramm_320.jpg
     
    #2 s_mair, Aug 29, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
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  3. movingbase

    movingbase Regular Member

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    Thanks for sharing Simon :)
     
  4. Cheung

    Cheung Moderator

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    Nice writeup.

    A bit about the photography. Usually I set to manual, fix the shutter speed and aperture after some some test shots. I know some might set to shutter priority but I found I couldn't really rely on it to get the metering correct.

    I really like the focus on the footwork. However, you have gone in a bit too close and moving the camera side to side a lot. It would be better to zoom out a bit and then you will have less camera shake and fewer bits missing when the player gets to the edge of the frame.

    The lenses are your main limiting factor - if you want to stick with Nikon, you need their fastest lenses f2.8 with the fast autofocus. However, some photographers are now moving to mirrorless cameras. Some interesting possibilities are coming up there like 20 frames per second shots.
     
    s_mair and speCulatius like this.
  5. s_mair

    s_mair Regular Member

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    Going with shutter priority was working really well. Looking at the picure data, the camera did a good job and stepped down the aperture to 3.2 or 3.8 for a number of pictures which gave especially the close-up portraits a slightly bigger depth of field. f2.8 can be a bit extreme for my taste that either your easily missing the eyes by some centimeters and end up with the focus on the ears. And even if you hit the eyes, the depth of field is so limited, that the ears and nose are noticeably out of focus already which is just too extreme for my taste.

    Funny enough, it was the change of the exposure metering mode to "spot" that made a noticeable improvement. The dynamic between the almost black background and the brightly lit court and players seemed to be too hard to handle for the matrix metering.

    In fact that was the exact reason why I didn't go on with it. I didn't want to do a lot of lens juggling at court side, so I was using the 80-200 for those videos too - which of course is sub-optimal. In retrospective, I should have taken my "backup" Sony a5100 with me too for video footage. Cause hands down, the video features of the D610 (and in fact of most Nikon DSLRs) are a bit sh*t. ;)

    I'm looking at a Tamron 24-70 f2.8 for ages but so far couldn't make myself pull the trigger. First of all, the picture quality of the 24-85 kit lens is very good and it's very compact. So I really came to like it as an "always on" lens for normal applications around the family. The original Nikkor is just damn expensive and huge!

    Regarding the mirrorless cameras, I didn't see a single one of those around. Although in theory, it should be the perfect setup for shooting sport pics. I can only guess that it's due to the lack of available lenses

    On a side note - the pics you see in the gallery are all JPGs directly off the camera. I was playing around with the raw files in Lightroom but frankly, it took me ages to get a good result. And comparing that result to the JPG from the camera quickly showed that it won't be worth the effort. I'll work on some more artistic pics in Lightroom when I will have time and inspiration for it, but overall the camera did a fairly good job with the JPGs imo.
     
  6. Borkya

    Borkya Regular Member

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    Nice! Thanks for the write up!
     

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