Dec 1, 2011

En garde. Prêt. Allez!

November has come and gone faster than I thought possible. A significant portion of it was due to my preoccupation of our work at the Canadian Fencing Federation Canadian Selection Circuit here in Saskatoon on November 18-20. The preparation, scouting and planning had us busy, the shoot filled a good portion of the weekend and preparing the photos for delivery was a lengthier task than usual.

I won't get into too much detail, but enough that a few of the photographers who visit here will hopefully learn something, if they don't already know how to best these barriers. The challenges were threefold. First, overall lighting. Dark for action to say the least. 1/500", f/2.8 at ISO 3200. I could've gone for a higher ISO and had noise under control but I wanted to maintain detail as best I could.

Parried the attack with a spin, got his blade down and scored with his back turned.

The second obstacle was the quality of the lighting. Awful orange cast of steady sodium/mercury vapour lights mixed with the unreliable green flicker of florescent tubes, depending where in the Fieldhouse I was shooting from. Florescent lights flicker 60 times per second, the same speed as alternating current, which means they are off 60 times per second. Shooting at a shutter speed faster than 1/60" (I was at 1/500" most of the time) means I am not getting the full on & off cycle that happens once every second. Think of video of old CRT TVs and monitors with the flickering, rolling screens of black horizontal bands.So, half of the photos near florescent lighting were affected by the florescent and half were not. The half that were had the green cast caused by florescent, mixed with the orange of sodium/mercury vapour. The, other half were darker with only the orange cast. Add to that the position of each strip used by the fencers, in relation to the proportion of florescent light as well as my shooting position, and maintaining colour consistency was difficult. The final colour slap in the face was the reflection off the ground. Either green from the court sections of the area or a deep red-maroon from the trackj lanes. Very unforgiving.

My method was to keep the torso of the uniforms as white as possible, even though one side of one fold could be two completely different colours.

A longer exposure (1/3") to capture a bit of motion.

The third challenge was my positioning. Simply put, the officials were mostly excellent. It was immediately obvious to me which of them understood that without coverage there would be little growing interest in their sport. Reduced interest means reduced funding which coincides with a greater challenge to Canadian competitors on the world stage which includes the Olympics. If they need to spend time away from training to fund raise it affects us all in some way as Canadians.

I worked hard to get the shot without interfering or getting run down. Had one close call, but there was no way I could move in time so I trusted the athlete's reflexes. Still have two eyes and and intact camera so we're good.

Quite a few more to come...

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