Size doesn’t matter as long as there’s enough to go ’round.

Uni Games Day 3

Team Monash swimmer at MSAC
Team Monash swimmer at MSAC

Day 2 was hectic.  Yes, this post is about day 3, the now, but yesterday was a nice introduction and steep learning curve to the world of sports photography.  Long story short, the 10 frames per second of the 1D Mark III is the key to obtaining many critical moments in gameplay for ball games, especially volleyball where things move very fast.  The key to making a useful photo from a ball game – and one I’ve commonly seen neglected, other than the obvious sharpness and focus factors is that there should be a ball somewhere in the photo to give it some meaning.

Team Monash basketballer
Team Monash basketballer

This can be tough.  43 milliseconds plus human reaction time delay is enough to miss a shot by the time you get the ball in the frame.  It’s times like these that I envy the rangefinder users out there, where the viewfinder has a smaller box inside of which you frame things in, the peripheral area around the box is just useful to frame your subject accordingly.  This makes it really, really nice to fire a shot when you see the ball enter the frame.

The other issue I ran into is lighting.  MSAC isn’t the best lit venue, even the so-called Show Court had the worst lighting conditions of the lot.  Not all lights were on, so in order to get the action-stopping 1/800th of a second or faster, I was needing ISO 3200 minimum.  400D users, please don’t even bother unless you have a 200 f/2 and then you’ll be able to scrape by on 1600.

Womens' Volleyball: Monash vs. RMIT

Volleyball: Monash vs. RMIT

And it was also the first time I shot jpeg, emphasising the need to get everything right including white balance before I fire the shutter.  Fortunately I did keep the raws and the shots weren’t as urgent as I had originally thought, so I had time to process those images – but the 1D III did a fine job of in-camera noise reduction and jpeg processing.

“I’m a professional”.

So, where was I?  That’s right, day 3.  Other than the requisite early morning, I was surprised when I went to my current favorite place to get a banana smoothie (at Monash University, mind you).  They’re the only guys who do it right, incidentally, like what Feeling Fruity used to do before they went bust.  But this time, the woman over the counter decided to put some orange juice in.  I thought I was seeing things but upon questioning it, she told me the following phrase:

“I am a professional, I will make it taste good”

Monash swimmer diving in for a quick 50m lap

Monash swimmer diving in for a quick 50m lap

… huh?  I wasn’t going to argue.  Maybe it was an excuse for being half asleep, but she did everything else right and the resulting beverage was quite fine, although not as creamy as I would have preferred.  It’s not something I’d do, say, when taking a photo – if someone told me how to take it, I’d probably listen, after all, they’re the people who are requesting my services, not the other way around.  One time I was given a shot of Cointreau in a pot of Hoegaarden at the Euro one night many years ago.  The barman suggested it but didn’t force it upon me.  This turned out to be a win move however I haven’t heard of this being done ever since.  A Zardoz(tm) approved additive to Hoegaarden.

So off to the sports and aquatic centre again for more swimming heats.  It was a bit easier to follow this time around, although photographically I don’t know whether I did as well as yesterday morning.    I met some nice photographers there who were shooting for RMIT.  All the photographers I have met so far – both paid and volunteer – have been really nice at these events.  A stark contrast to the professionals I’ve shot alongside at other events where bringing home that one shot is what

One of my favorite swimming shots thus far.

One of my favorite swimming shots thus far.

sells and the competition is fierce – that prime position or pressing the shutter at the right moment, pointing the lens in the right direction can be as euphoric as winning the match.  However, here, there, it doesn’t matter – we’re all shooting for ourselves, no agendas other than to bring the best coverage we can.  To record history.

That’s what sports and event photography is all about.

You walk alone with the ghost of time

It’s eerie and saddening to walk about venues that were once host to world-stopping events.  The Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre was host to the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games swimming events.  The outdoor pool was built specifically for this purpose however little remains of what once was.  Two out of three stands were since taken away and are now just empty patches of grass or concrete.  No signage remains; it looks like any other public pool with perhaps a slightly larger than normal grandstand.  Just one.

Baron: the Melbourne Olympic Stadium

Baron: the Melbourne Olympic Stadium

It still had that look of new, however it was hard to conceptualise how some of the world’s biggest swimming stars once swam in that water.  The likes of Libby Tricket, Stephanie Rice, Ian Thrope have all done more than a few laps in that very pool with the world watching, perched at the edge of their seats.  The giant cavity of water was host to the entertainment of the world and now, barely a breath of the same magic and glory remains in this now pedestrian structure.


It wasn’t until we arrived at Olympic Park where things really began to set in.  It’s a gloomy venue for sporting; the track has faded, the colours seem washed out, the stands are of the similar construction of the original swimming pool that was used for the 1956 Olympic Games here in Melbourne and hasn’t changed one bit.  The five coloured rings stand prodly and tall on the outside of the venue.  A small, deserted ticketing booth sits outside.  It’s hard to believe that an Olympic games event could ever have been this small, although it should be noted that some grand stands were removed entirely, making way for grassy areas or temporary tent-like structures where the University Games set up for this week.

QUT high jumper wishes he was playing something else...

QUT high jumper wishes he was playing something else...

Old, empty grandstands echoed the cries of the past, the athletes, the spectators and the glory that was once here some 52 years ago.  This stadium is now home to the occasional rubgy match however daytime use is frequently seen by nearby schools for athletics days.  Volunteers for Athletics Australia would conduct things like the starting of races, set up the timing equipment, the hurdles, make announcements, rake the sand-pit level after a long-jump had completed and so on.

But all this gloom didn’t stop the shenanigans from one QUT student who decided that running with a footy was a better idea than actually attempting the long jump.  I think he certainly did do his University proud in the eyes of his friends…

Unfortunately I missed the shot of the jump.. which was more like a dive into the sand.  Perhaps this was to compensate for the lack of diving at the university games, which is quite a shame as I have always enjoyed watching diving and it will definitely be an event to see at the Olympics in 2012 which I hope to attend.

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