Ryu: One body army

Morning. I’m sitting in a laundromat, near my new home in Berlin. I apologise for the delay in getting this post up, it’s just that I just moved house and as you may know, it’s not easy moving from one country to another whilst going on assignments. Of course, Matt will never miss a beat if he was in a similar predicament, but I’m more frail and sensitive to changing circumstances than he. But now that I live in a house with no furniture and no internet, it is back to regularly schedule programming.

Whilst I was on the move from Paris to Berlin, I had some people come and take our stuff to our new pad as we didn’t want to do it ourselves. As you might have expected from me by now, I made a grave error in that I let them take my camera bag as well. Although my baby is back in my hands now, the day after the movers came I was slated to goto Nice to shoot the figure skating world championship. With no camera, with no lens, with no nothing, I was stuck.

I made a desperate visit to my local NPS in Paris and as usual they came through in style. They lent me a body (D3s) and 3 lenses (200-400mm f4, 70-200mm f2.8, 16-35mm f4). But unfortunately, I was left with only one body. Which means I had to figure out how I would shoot a 4 day competition with just one body. This meant that I was in a similar predicament to some of you out there, who must face the one body and maybe one lens problem. Here are few things I noticed which might help you realise that the simple life isn’t all that bad.

1. Plan, plan, plan
As I keep on saying the same thing over and over and over, I will keep on saying it over and over and over. Plan ahead. If you know which sport you are shooting, then you should know which lens works best. If I’m shooting basketball and if I’m only allowed to bring one lens, I will choose the 70-200mm f2.8. For me, it’s the most versatile for this sport and I can get most of the shots I want for the action closest to me. On the other hand, if I’m shooting football, I will go with the 400mm f2.8. The reason for this is that even though the action will “spill” out of the frame when it’s too close, I’m certain to get most of the stuff I want, including the celebrations after the goal on my end.

At the figure skating world championship (henceforth knowns as “FSWC” as I don’t want to write it again), I used the 200-400mm f2.8 for the majority of the time. Yes, pity me. From my previous knowledge of the sport, I knew that this lens would allow me to get most of the shots I wanted (close ups from rink side and ice as background from the stands). Although there were moments of “I wish I could quickly change it to a wide angle”, unless I wanted a very specific shot, me and my 200-400mm f4 were attached to the strap.

2. Force this issue
Since you’ve only got one body, you really want to stick with one lens for the majority of the sport that you are shooting. The reason for this is that whilst you change from one lens to another, you might miss a shot. Other reasons are that with only one lens on the body, you will learn how to forcefully get the shot you want with that lens. When you have too many options, you become too dependent on situational lens swapping. Especially if you are hoping to break the mould of your current shooting style, learn to shoot differently with what you have. The first logical step is to try to get closer or further away from the action. You might find that shooting a step closer will net you a shot you never thought possible and the same goes for stepping back a step.

At the FSWC, I shot mostly at 400mm. The reason for this is that I learned quite quickly the AF speed on this lens is not as fast as 400mm f2.8 in low light indoor situation. Rather than having to fiddle with the zoom ring and trying to minimise the fuss, I decided that 400mm was the focal length I will stick with unless the situation demanded that I concoct an alternative. For example, instead of moving the zoom to 200mm when the skaters got close to me on rink side, I shot with the 400mm. If I had the 70-200mm or 14-24mm with a body on my other hand, I would have swapped it, but I went with the 400mm throughout. The results were 50 / 50, but I got shots I couldn’t have gotten with a wider lens.

3. Be foolish
Your decision to stick with one body and one lens does get old. No matter how you shoot and no matter where you shoot from, you’ll need to think of something else to do as there is only so much one can do with a simple setup of one lens one body. May I suggest a bit of blur practice? Low shutter speed will get you some blur magic going and this is something you’ll need a lot of practice to get it right. Even if you are good at it, it is not an exact science and therefore it requires you to shoot often. In any case, try the blur in different shutter speed. Start with 1/15 and go all the way down to a full 1 second. This will not be easy to do outdoors during the day, but depending on how sunny it is, you can go blurry throughout the game.

Once again at the FSWC, I got bored after 1 hour of shooting. My colleague, who I shall not remain nameless (Tsutomu Takasu from Four + 1) is a genius when it comes to the blur. We will get him on again on BLFS very soon to give us more tips on advanced blurring. I digress. He gave me a short lesson in blurring that I hadn’t thought about and off I went on a blurring spree. Combined with my thirst for multiple exposure (thanks Matt), I made things interesting switching techniques depending on my mood. Although, I have to admit that you shouldn’t mix blur and multiple exposure. With all things good for us sports photographers, it’s sometimes wiser to leave these two beauties on separate corners.

There you have it. I survived the 4 days of staying true to one lover. Although at times I definitely thought we were spending way too much time together, the occasional foray into the uchartered territory made our relationship worth our while. But if you ask me again, I prefer menage a trois. :)

Ryu, not apologising for being pervy at the end.

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2 thoughts on “Ryu: One body army

  1. You are “complaining” on a high level while having 3 great lenses and a great body at your disposal ;-)
    Last weekend I also had to shoot a football game with only a 70-200mm as my 300mm 2.8 was in repair. That’s still a great lens to shoot football and you’ll probably not get the midfield action when sitting behind the goal, but you can capture great goal shots and celebration after goals. When I look at the pictures that are used in the newspapers and on the net, I notice that these are often more “wide-angle” shots from decisive moments or goal celebrations.
    I often had good close-up celebrations, but the newspapers used a picture out of a 70-200mm range.

    1. Ben,

      Sorry it took me a long time to respond to complain about my horrible life. :) I think when you are forced into a situation, such as you did with your 70-200mm, you tend to either take up the challenge and do something or you just settle into your routine. We always tell our listeners to go for it as there is nothing more satisfying than getting a great shot whilst doing something completely out of your comfort zone.

      In any case, don’t get too caught up with celebrations and decisive shots. There are lots of stuff in-between grand moments, so keep your eyes peeled open for them.


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