How to Photograph Kid’s Sports

line in composition

Photographing Kid’s Sports

No one plays harder than kids and taking pictures of kid’s sports events, practices, and pickup games can be a lot of fun. Here are some things to consider that can help you get memorable shots the next time you shoot kids engaged in sports.

Capture the Decisive Moment

Every kid’s sport has its peculiarities and moments of prime importance and understanding the game and how it is played can dramatically increase the number of exciting shots. You’ll be able to anticipate what the players might do next and that will help you have your camera focused on where the action is likely to occur. If the game uses a ball, you might track it with your camera when it is moving.

If you’re shooting a practice session of a kid’s sports team there will be moments when the ball or puck is stationary and kids will run or skate up to it. Focus on the ball or puck with one eye and keep the other eye on a larger area so you will be ready for something to happen. That’s how I got the soccer practice photo.

Another approach is to spend part of the time tracking your favorite player. If your camera has a burst mode you can take multiple shots when the action around him or her is hot and that will increase your odds of getting a truly memorable picture.

Pay Attention to the Background

A cluttered background makes for a messy picture. At worst, it might be difficult to understand; at best, it won’t have the impact of a photo where the action is sharply focused and everything else is not. If the scene is particularly jumbled you might spend part of your shooting time with your attention on an region with a comparatively simple background and shoot when something occurs on that part of the court or field.

Manage the Appearance of Motion

Slower shutter speeds emphasize motion and fast ones can freeze action. Decide how you want to depict motion and then set up to do it. You’ll need to understand how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO setting interact with each other to get the best results. If you’re not sure what to do you can check out this post:exposure-speed-aperture-and-iso-simplified. And remember that fast speeds usually mean that the camera has a large aperture. That tends to make backgrounds less intrusive because the sharpness of focus is reduced in front of and behind the region of focus. For more information take a look at the post on depth of field.

Shoot Faces

The participants in kid’s sports (and their coaches) are deeply involved in the moment and their faces can express emotions ranging from extreme exhilaration to anger or even deep disappointment. Capturing displays of emotion makes for compelling photos.

Practice Photographing Kid’s Sports

The kids practice to get better at what they do. You can get better at shooting kid’s sports if you practice too, so if you can get away to attend some practice sessions with your camera, you’ll be better prepared to catch the action at their formal games.

Have Fun

You might not have as much fun as the kids, but maybe you can get close. After all, whatever you’re shooting is a game, and win or lose, part of the fun of a game is the excitement.

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Backups: A Professional Photographer’s Survival Guide

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Essential Guide to Backups

Bad things happen to good people, but you don’t have to lose your photos if something bad happens to you. You and no one else has to go without photo backups because of cost or time considerations. There are inexpensive and even free backup solutions readily available, and you can “set and forget” some of them and they’ll automatically create backups every time you add photos to the pictures stored on your computer.

I urge you to give serious thought to start creating backups if you’ve not already covered that base. You’re probably like most people in that your photos are important to you and some are irreplaceable. And you can be sure that if they are gone you will never see them again unless you have backups. You can’t go back in time, and sometimes you can’t even go back to a place. Even if you did, it probably would not be the same and the light would be different. Before I tell you what I do to assure that my photos are backed up and safe, I want you to know that I’m not recommending any particular products or services for backups, and that I will not gain in any way if you choose my methods for backups.

1. Make Backups Right Away

There is more than one way to do this without spending time at it. I began by using a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Discs) card and a second hard drive in my computer. Every time I loaded a new image file on my hard drive my computer automatically made backups on the second drive. As my photographs increased in number I added a DROBO, a free-standing assembly of two to eight hard drives connected through a USB port. One advantage of this technology is that you can increase storage capacity at any time by simply removing one of the drives and replacing it with one of higher capacity. I started out with two 500mb drives in my Drobo, and added capacity as needed. Now it has two 1TB drives and two 2Tb drives. I reformatted the older drives, sold some, and used the others on a different computer.

The RAID option may be enough in the way of of a local backups for most people. Those who have thousands of images might want to consider a DROBO for their photo backup needs.

2. Store Your Backups in Another Place

One way to assure that a fire or natural disaster will not take your prized photos is to keep a copy of your backup in a different physical location. I have a backup of my most important images on a hard drive kept in a back safe deposit box so that it can be accessed quickly if I need it. Another option is to have a relative store DVDs or a hard drive containing your digital photo backups.

3. Store Your Backups in the Cloud

The cost of online data backups has come down and there new options keep appearing. I use CrashPlan because it is cost effective, operates automatically with no attention from me, and permits making backups of multiple computers. It also offers an option for free backups — you and a friend can download the software free and make fully encrypted backups on each other’s computers. You can also backup other computers in your household in the same way and at no cost.

CrashPlan works on Macs, Windows, and Linux machines. Setup is simple and once it is done the backups occur automatically. You can also direct the software to only make backups only during hours when your computer is not in use, and you can put the software to sleep for one or more hours if you happen to need the computer while it is making a backup.

CNET gives CrashPlan its 5-Star “Spectacular” Rating in this article:
. Another review is the fastest at making a backup from Windows Home Server.

You can quickly discover other services for online backups with a web search. And while I’m not recommending any particular methods for backups, I am strongly recommending that you find a method to backup your photos and consistently use it.

I always like to hear from readers, so your comments and questions are welcome. How do you backup your photos?

© 2011, All rights reserved.

Geometry: Pro Photographer’s Composition Secret No. 15

line in composition

Lines & the Triangle in Composition

The very first article in this series on composition showed how to use straight and curved lines to direct the viewer’s eye to the subject. The photo of the train is an example of the technique in which a leading line (the track) directs the eye to the subject (train). In the next image the path is actually the subject, but it also serves to carry the eye from the foreground into the middle distance.
line as subject in composition
line as subject in compositionLines can be more complex as in the photo of the pasture where the eye first sees the foreground fence and then follows it throughout the image. We might not grasp the picture in its entirety untel we rich the point where the line of the fence moving from the left upward to the right changes direction and starts to pass behind the trees. Again, the lines (fence) actually form the subject. The opposite is true of the birds. They are the subject and the eye stops when it meets them and then moves back and forth, and our view centers on the bird with a raised leg and open bill.
line as subject in composition

Curved Lines in Composition

line as subject in compositionThe black and white photograph is about the tree and the complex of lines that form its structure. I’ve never decided if the harsh angles are softened or emphasized by the arch that I stood behind when making the picture, but I know that the curve of the arch adds interest to the composition. The organ photo uses both curved and straight lines, some converging, and some parallel, and the lines of the pipes are at a slight angle to add energy and excitement. Straight or nearly straight lines making an angle to the edge of an image generally provide dynamism. Horizontal ones add stability and calm to a composition, and vertical ones are approximately neutral in the emotional sense.
line as subject in compositionA January thaw caused water from melted snow to accumulate in a low spot and reflect an oval patch of sky and part of the cat tails. The water’s oragnic elliptical shape is in sharp contrast with the horizontal line of the horizon and vertical lines of the vegetation, and gives a feeling of calm to the scene. line as subject in composition
Rounded shapes, and especially regular ones — circles, arches, ellipses, and spheres — provide a sense of stability and peace.

line as subject in composition

The Triangle in Composition

In the world of real objects the triangle’s wide use is because of its strength that comes from its simplicity. It is the simplest possible way to enclose a space with linear forms and therefore has the least possible number of weak spots – the places where the sides meet. The structure in the photograph is a bridge framework, shot upward from the water through the assembly of beams that will support the bridge deck. Notice the large number of triangles used in its design.

Painters have long recognized the visual strength and stability that a triangle can bring to a composition. One of the more famous compositions using the triangle is Raphael’s Madonna, seen at left, below. One very famous photographic composition using the device is that of U.S. Marines raising their flag over Iwo Jima during World War II and it uses the triangle twice. The sense of visual strength in both images comes from the bases of their triangles being close to and running nearly parallel to the bottom edge of the compositions.

line as subject in compositionline as subject in composition

The windmill composition uses a large triangle to encompass the windmills, and the windmills themselves show once again how often the triangle is used to strengthen physical structures. In the second composition the triangular block also adds weight, and its shape creates an imaginary leading line pointing to the bridge (subject).

Your photography will improve if you practice finding and using triangles when composing. Whether they come from groupings of people, triangular shaped objects, or even areas noticeably different in brightness from their surroundings, finding and using the triangle will strengthen your compositions.

Check out all the Pro Photographers Composition Secrets:

1. Leading Lines
 2. The Rule of Thirds
 3. Beaking the Rule of Thirds
 4. Self Assignment: Leading Lines and The Rule of Thirds
 5. Framing the Subject
 6. Negative Space
 7. Graphic Design
 8. Backgrounds
 9. Foregrounds
10. Patterns & Repetition
11. 9 Composition Self Assignments
12. Use Color as a Focal Point
13. Balance and Symmetry
14. Unique Perspectives
15. Geometry and the Triangle

italy photos

© 2011 – 2013, All rights reserved.

How to Photograph Fall Color: Part Three – Still Life

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Keeping Fall Color On Hand

Fall color soon fades but here’s a way to keep some of it around. Gather leaves and store them them in paper grocery bags — not packed, just placed into the bags loosely so that air can circulate and help dry them. When you need some for you photography just go to your stash and pick some. Sometimes they’re useful in their dry, curly state, but soaking them for a little while in water will cause them to uncurl. Drying between paper towels with a little weight on top turns them into dry flat ones.

Fall Color Still Life

Curly or flat, these pieces of concentrated fall color will add realism and interest to still life photos with an autumn theme. The first simple arrangement on a table is attractive in itself. Adding wine and candles — be careful, you don’t want a yard fire in your house — turns it into a piece of pictorial art suitable for advertising copy or worthy of a place on your wall. You can use it seasonally and if fall color works well in your decor it might even work all year round.

autumn color still life stillfall foliage stilllife

Another way to use fall color in a still life is to create a collage of fall color photos. I created the opening photograph by assembling images of leaves taken from my grocery bag stash. Their beauty was captured with a flatbed scanner with the lid open so that the white cover would not reflect back into the scanner. This gave me fall color on a black background right out of the scanner. From there it was simply a matter of laying out the grid using Photoshop, sizing the leaf images appropriately, and arranging them on the grid.

Be sure to check out Part One and Part Two of this series on photographing fall color.

© 2011, All rights reserved.

How to Photograph Fall Color: Part Two

Fall Color Photography

fall color
The previous article talked about photographing fall color on sunny days, cloudy ones, using a polarizing filter, capturing reflections, and applying the rules of composition. This article continues the discussion of photographing fall color in wind, rain, and after they’ve fallen.

Windy Shooting

The soft effect seen at right came from photographing up close on a breezy day with a shutter speed of 1/3 second. Longer exposures produce more blur and softness; shorter ones give sharper images. Photographing from a greater distance requires a shorter exposure to produce as much apparent blur. As with much of photography, there is no “correct” exposure time – - the time needed to get the blur effect appearance depends on the wind speed. And of course, the choice of the amount of blur is a matter of taste.
fall color

Fall Color in the Rain

Wet leaves have strong colors and a special look that dry ones simply do not possess. Photographers are naturally wary of getting their gear wet, but an umbrella or even a reflector might provide sufficient protection for a few shots if wind speed and rain intensity are light. Custom water protective gear is available for many cameras, but I prefer an umbrella or other simple option as long as it keeps the camera dry and water off the front of the lens.
fall foliage

Take Pictures of the Details

The beauty of a stand. hillside, or valley of trees in full autumn color can be breathtaking, but autumn beauty also exists on a smaller scale. Get in close for unique shots of single leaves or an unusual collection of autumn colors, and don’t restrict your shooting to the woods. I’ve never seen a photo similar to this one of the vines on a courtyard wall, and I would have missed it if I hadn’t been keeping my eyes open for the small and delicate. It can be easy to miss the forest for the trees, but just as easy to miss the details because of the whole.

Fall Color in the City
Nature lives in parks, neighborhoods and on downtown streets, and fall color is in all these places. Where in your town or neighborhood might you find a stream, path, park, garden, or plaza to photograph fall foliage?
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Monochromatic Photos

Leaves on the ground soon lose the fall color, but still make attractive autumn and subtle photographs. The next two images are of the same scene, one rendered in black & white, and the other given a sepia treatment with Photoshop.
black & whitesepia

autumn foliage

Remember People

The strong attraction of fall color means there are usually opportunities close to home to photograph families and children romping in the autumn color just lying on the ground. For me it is always fun to look back through my own family shots to recall individual days and notice how quickly little children turn into big ones. In a way, childhood seems almost as brief as the fall colors themselves and I treasure the memories represented in the photos.

© 2011, All rights reserved.

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