Sunday, May 06, 2007

"Chimping" at the "Q"

I first heard the term "chimping" about a year ago. I think the British coined it. It means the reaction a photographer makes when he views his images on the LED display on the back of his camera. When they get excited about an image they do an "uh uh ah ah" sound like a chimpanzee. I have never heard such a sound come from the mouth of a photographer, nor have I made such a sound. My sound is more like, "eh" or "yuck" or "cool".

I thought it might be interesting to do a little research on "chimping" at the Cavaliers-Nets playoff game Sunday. Let's get a look at those hard-working guys and gals capturing pictures of LeBron, Vince Carter, and Jason Kidd including the excellent shot of Sasha's "swat" by Plain Dealer photographer Joshua Gunter.

Here we go. Note the photographers are right on the ball here. The action is on their end of the court so they are using short lenses. Probably zoom lenses in the 24-105mm range. Or maybe prime lenses of 24mm or 35mm. The primes are great in the typically dismal arena lighting. These natural light images are usually better than the sometimes harshly-lit ones using the arena's wireless strobe system. With these lenses they can set the color balance and shoot available light at 1/800 f2.8. It will stop the action, have a sharp foreground image and wonderful "bokeh" effect in the background.

Now the action moves to the other end of the court and they switch to their second camera with the long lenses. Those big, white lenses are the Canon L's which are the standard for sports shooters. They weigh anywhere from 5 to 13lbs and cost between $1,000 to $7,000!

When there is a timeout they start the "chimping." It's really a quite wonderful thing. Remember when you had to shoot film and wait for the images to come out of the processor? Now the satisfaction is immediate. The new digital process or workflow moves incredibly fast today. Several of these photographers have wireless file transmitters on their cameras. As they shoot the images are actually being transferred to a computer server and then immediately reviewed by an editor for publication.

Let's move to the other side of the hoop. I think I see a couple photographers using Nikons which a great camera too. Most of sports photographers are using the Canon 1d Mark II camera. It's an excellent camera for shooting sports with a 6 frames per second shutter speed. The new Canon 1D Mark III (I want one) shoots at a blistering 10 frames-per-second at 10.2mps (like Charlie Sheen says, "that means it's cool"). I like the short monopods they're using. It helps the arms when you spend four hours holding a 10-15lbs. camera/lens combo.

I think one of these photographer's must be Joshua because this was the end and the side of the court where the great shot block came. Josh, where are you? Everyone at work wanted to know if the PD had a shot of the swat and you did! Great job!

Always follow the bouncing ball. I like the guy in the foreground trying to shoot with his pocket camera. This group is using the short lenses when action is close. Even though these lenses look pretty long they probably are 28mm-200mm zoom lenses which is just perfect for side-of-the-hoop action.

Another time-out and they "chimp" away. You may wonder how they can sit on their butts the whole game dodging both runaway hoopsters and pom-pom popping cheerleaders? It's because many of them have little cushion chairs with backs. I guess if you do this long enough and you'll eventually know all the tricks.

After my research I guess it's safe to say that sports shooters don't act like chimps when reviewing their pictures. Probably because there is no one to show it too anyway. You're not going to show your best shots to the competitor sitting next to you. They got to be tired anyway.

There are a couple other camera things going on at the "Q". You've probably seen the cameras connected behind the hoop in order to get those great dunks. There were about three cameras rigged behind this hoop. They are remotely and wirelessly-controlled. And, from the look of the camera rigs, they are using the arena's strobe/flash system. This time the flash will make a perfect splash on their faces.

There is also a couple cameras rigged at the base of the hoop to get some nice wide angle shoots under the basket.

Here's another interesting camera position at Quicken Loans arena. This rig has a Canon 1D Mark II with a 400mm L lens . The control pad at the top triggers the strobe. The guy sitting next to the camera is a spectator. I'm sure Michael, one of my favorite ushers at the Q, was keeping his eye on this $8,000+ camera rig.

Oh yeah, I did watch the game and the Cavs won. But don't you think the photographers are just as interesting as the players?

Gear: I used a Canon G6 at 1/100th @f2.8 ISO 200 to capture these images. Wouldn't a floor pass be great?

Copyright 2007 James D. Fisher
All Rights Reserved.


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