Covering NCAA First Round Tennis with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
My theme of doing a post each time I cover a new sport with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, I'm realizing wow, I get to cover a lot of different sports! I'm so thankful to live in the Bay Area where I get to shoot baseball, basketball, soccer, water polo all at pretty elite levels. Let's add in NCAA tennis.
Thanks to Cal hosting the first round, I was able to pick up an assignment from the Northwestern Wildcats to cover them in their match versus Utah State.
Having covered this tournament at Cal before for men and women (and all my years of covering Cal before then) I am very familiar with Hellman Tennis Center. Last year, the officials started a rule that there could only be two photographer/videographers on a court at a time. This became problematic when myself and the Kansas photographer were covering a match and their team videographer wanted to cover as well. While one extra body hovering by the officials chair between the bags and coaches and teammates who have finished their match didn't seem like an issue to me, the official sent away the videographer! This totally changed my strategy of how I would cover to make sure I never ended up being the "odd man out".
This year NCAA added a rule, to the day-of surprise of the staff that NO photographers were allowed on the court. Now normally I would either be gently arguing my case of why there should be an exception or just be upset, but today I took it in stride. While I was able to be down there for warm ups and national anthem, Cal recently added a wonderful bleacher section above the north side of the court.
While some areas were blocked off for student athletes, I basically had free roam, I could move between serves not just between sets and I got to sip on my hot tea from my keen kanteen, be under a sun shade instead of getting sunburned on a scorching court and just take a moment to enjoy the moment!
My favorite thing is shooting backlit where the sun is hitting the back of the subject but also the background behind them isn't bright. Not a blown out silhouette but anything where the background can get a deep blue without subject losing light. At Hellman I basically got that manufacture for me with the deep blue background.
It also worked out well that the Northwestern player won the point needed to advance to the next round while playing on the south side of the #3 court. Though there are bleachers surrounding the #1 court, it wouldn't have been a great angle for the #3 court, and this shot from the back wouldn't have been quite as visual.
Tennis with the OM-D E-M1 Mark was predictably great.
The key reminder for me. Having covered tennis before, I would have just brought my 70-200, or rather my 40-150 (80-300 equivalent) because shooting from the court the 300mm would have been too tight. But because the Olympus gear is so light and compact, I'm often bringing my whole set up. So when told I couldn't shoot from the court, popping on my 300mm (600mm equivalent) was the perfect lens for getting great action.
Though I still opted for my 40-150 for the final play knowing that I could zoom in on the action/reaction but would want to zoom out in the case of players storming the court in celebration. I made the right choice :)
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