London Lions

1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000, 50mm

Last Friday I was able to attend a basketball match with a press pass. I’m part of a photography group, and one of the organisers apparently knows the right people, because 37 of us were all able to get press passes and have the freedom of the Copper Box arena in London to shoot a professional British Basketball League game.

We arrived nice and early before the arena doors opened to the public to collect our passes before anything started happening. This meant we were there early enough to see the Lions warming up and practising before any spectators arrived. It gave us a small glimpse into the pre-game rituals of some of the players.

1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 1600, 50mm

1/200sec, f/4, ISO 5000, 24mm
1/200sec, f/4, ISO 5000, 24mm

The match had all the usual hallmarks you associate with American basketball, including cheerleaders and national anthems.

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 2500, 24mm
1/500sec, f/4, ISO 2500, 24mm

Although there were a lot of us, since we were given such free reign of the arena we never felt like we were stepping on each other’s toes.

For the start of the match I decided to set up by the side of the net the London Lions would be shooting at. Since it was the Lions who had let us have access, and would be wanting to see and use our better images after the game (properly credited of course), it made sense to base myself in an area where I’d be seeing their main plays at their best. I settled on my 24-105mm to start with so I could get a decent mix of wide and close shots.

1/320sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 70mm
1/320sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 70mm

From my spot right on the sideline I could get really close to the action.

1/1250sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 47mm
1/1250sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 47mm

At the other end of the focal range, I could get great full-length shots of the players when they were further up the court.

1/640sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 105mm
1/640sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 105mm

And when the action came to the nearside basket, I could get wide enough to see everything.

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 40mm
1/500sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 40mm

The spot I picked was also opposite the Lions’ bench so I could catch the players in the small off moments shortly after they’d been subbed (if that, indeed, is the correct terminology).

1/640sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 105mm
1/640sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 105mm

Just before the end of the first quarter, I decided to move next the the basket the Lions were shooting at, to get myself a bit more buried in the action.

1/640sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 24mm
1/640sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 24mm

Me being me (as it turns out I am) I also tried for some more artistic shots when the opportunities arose.

1/320sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 24mm
1/320sec, f/4, ISO 1600, 24mm

In a similar vein, I switched to my 50mm f/1.4, partly because that seemed like the sort of thing to not do whilst shooting sports. It actually worked pretty well.

1/1000sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm
1/1000sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm

The only problem? On occasion the primeness of the lens meant that some action sequences were framed a little tight.

1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm

Ultimately, the lens was able to keep up with the action, staying in focus for the most part and giving me some nice sharp shots with a lovely depth of field.

1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm
1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm
1/500sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm
1/500sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm

At half time (or should that technically be two quarter time?), I grabbed a shot of the Lions coach as he walked off the court.

1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 250, 50mm

After half time, when the teams changed ends, I switched to my 70-300mm and moved up to the other end of the court to continue to catch the Lions running at me. On one occasion this led to a perfectly timed shot.

1/400sec, f/5, ISO 3200, 190mm
1/400sec, f/5, ISO 3200, 190mm

The downside with my new position was the background. With me standing near the basket, the seats in front of me were all folded away, making some the images look like they were taken at a training session.

1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 250mm
1/500sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 250mm

Fortunately sometimes things would happen at the right angle for there to be a background.

1/1000sec, f/5, ISO 3200, 150mm
1/1000sec, f/5, ISO 3200, 150mm
1/500sec, f/5, ISO 3200, 150mm
1/500sec, f/5, ISO 3200, 150mm

After a while I grew to dislike the background I was dealing with, and so moved back around to the side in a similar position to the one I was in during the first half, and swapped back to my 24-105.

1/500sec, f/4, ISO 2000, 28mm
1/500sec, f/4, ISO 2000, 28mm
1/640sec, f/4, ISO 2000, 75mm
1/640sec, f/4, ISO 2000, 75mm
1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 2000, 40mm
1/1000sec, f/4, ISO 2000, 40mm
1/800sec, f/4, ISO 2000, 55mm
1/800sec, f/4, ISO 2000, 55mm

Towards the end of the fourth quarter I switched back to my 50mm and moved back behind the basket.

1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 105mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm

In the end, the London Lions ran out winners, never really looking in trouble. And in victory, I had occasion to again grab some artistic shots of the post-game.

1/1000sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm
1/1000sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm
1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm
1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm

With the ending of the game we were allowed onto the court – as were most of the fans – to get photographs of the players.

1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm
1/800sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm

At the very end, many people were keen to get photographs with the cheerleaders. And who can blame them?

1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm
1/640sec, f/1.4, ISO 320, 50mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm
1/250sec, f/4, ISO 1000, 24mm

It was good to go back and do some fast sports photography again. I’ve spent much of the last months shooting long-exposed landscapes and more controlled shots of family and cats. When I’m trying to keep up with action I don’t tend to overthink things too much and just grab what I can. I’m hoping there will be some opportunities in the near future to shoot similar things, but for now I’m not certain they’ll materialise. Watch this space!


Related sports Posts:

England v Wales Women’s Rugby
Saracens v Harlequins
London 2012: Men’s Triathlon
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