Amateur V Professional "How difficult can it be?"
‘How difficult can it be?’ Getting your photos in print, on-line or accepted by the professionals is something that many amateur photographers yearn for. My girlfriend, Vikki does it for a living, with articles placed in a variety of National and Regional magazines, Sunday supplements, newspapers and online. But, after borrowing her Canon 400D, and capturing shots to rival her own, I was caught wondering aloud - what does it take to call yourself a ‘pro’?
Well I should have known better. Knowing I was off to Sri Lanka to watch England play cricket Vikki, laid down the gauntlet: “buy a basic digital SLR, a lens and let’s see how well you can really do in the field".
It was a tempting challenge - I’d always wanted to take decent cricket photos – and the point and shoot cameras don’t come close to providing anything other than ‘souvenirs’. Perhaps, with a decent bit of kit, I’d come home with something I could call ‘professional’.
Sourcing The Kit
Apart from using a very old SLR when I was a kid, my photographic knowledge to date has been limited to a point and shoot SONY Cybershot DSC-T1 digital camera. So, the first step was to research the best kit. After using Vikki’s, the decision on the body was an easy one. But what to spend the rest of my £1000 budget on?
I needed a lens that would be able to handle the demands of the job – capturing fast-moving play from distance, and offering a good range. A lens with Image Stabilister (IS) was a must, in order to negate the need for a tripod. After seeing the pro’s in the field, I knew I’d need a long lens. But with 400mm lenses costing up to £1000, my budget would be blown completely.
I narrowed the field to:
|Tokina 80-400 F4.5-5.6 AT-X AF||£500|
|Sigma Zoom Telephoto 50-500mm||£750|
|Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6 DO IS USM AF||£800|
|Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 L IS||£950|
In testing, the budget Tokina proved too bulky. The Canon 100-400mm lens was fantastic, but required a mono-pod, consequently it was ruled out. So, it was a toss-up between the Sigma 50-500mm and the Canon 70-300mm. After reading the forums, I decided to go with the Canon EF 70-300mm f4-5.6 DO IS USM AF – the compact size of the lens being the winning factor.
The lens filter, 4GB memory card, spare battery and small backpack completed my kit for the assignment ahead.
Having watched no end of cricket matches I knew that trying to capture a batsman at the actual point of dismissal was going to be a tall order. I did some calculations; a 5 day game of cricket would see some 2700 balls bowled, and with 40 wickets, I would need to take hundreds of images to get the ‘OUT’ I was after.
With this in mind I was going to need some stock photos. The training sessions allowed me to test the camera and lens to capture some stock footage
Ian Bell (Batting) & Graham Swann (Bowling)
It didn’t take long for me to work out the limitations of the lens. With a maximum of 300mm, obtaining pin-sharp images from distance was going to be a tall order. In order to get really ‘close-up’, was going to have to rely on cropping and zoom in the editing suite!
This shot of Dilhara Fernando and Alistair Cook, when cropped in editing, turned out well.
Never-the-less it’s not a patch on the clarity offered by the larger longer lenses the professional were wielding.
However, with perseverance, I managed to capture the only wicket that was actually ‘bowled’ in the whole of the match. What luck!
Ravi Bopara Bowled
Whilst the actions shots proved challenging to capture, and were never going to offer complete clarity, some of the close up shots came out very well. Standing some twenty feet away the 70-300mm lens really did come into its own.
Kevin Pietersen – end of play
Steven Harmisson – after training.
Michael Vaughan – end of match awards.
Statistically, if you take enough shots, you can get a good photograph. The professionals in the field were working with cameras controlled by transmitters, positioned at either end of the wicket, thereby capturing every ball. Giving them far higher odds of capturing the wicket, or an item of play that’s marketable. Taking 5 shots per ball per camera they manage to capture up to 40,500 shots a game. And, coupled with top of the range cameras and lenses, it’s very hard to compete
When I set off on my mission, I wasn’t expecting to take 1500 images using almost five gigs worth of memory. After some sifting through them though, I was pleased to find a selection of good portrait shots. They’re not going to be selected for Getty or Associated Press, but they’re good enough for regional news sites.
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