Photo By Barnick
The Story Behind the Shots
Shooting University of Michigan vs USC Tennis
This is my first time shooting a tennis tournament at UofM and I really didn’t know what to expect. Luckily, when I got there, a young photographer from UofM (Taylor) told me everything I needed to know. She was very helpful and even went so far as to make suggestions as to what to shoot and where to go. I was very grateful for this information.
I had no idea if I would need my long lens (400mm) because I had no idea from how far I’d be shooting. However, the shooting locations were great. Being able to sit right beside the net and catch two matches going on at the same time (opposite sides of the net) was amazing. I ended up shooting almost 6000 photos in the approximately 4 hours of matches. Of course that’s both good and bad. I’m more likely to get well timed photos but also I will have to eventually go through all 6000 of them.
I found that I did not have enough time to cull images during the breaks in the matches. There was always something else to shoot. Again, that’s both good and bad. All editing would have to be done later.
While a majority of my shots were taken with the Sony A9 and the Sony 70-200mm 2.8 version 2 lens, I did bring out the Canon 400mm F4 DO version 2 lens on my Canon R6 using a monopod to see how that would do. To put it bluntly, I am even more impressed by that combination. The more I use that combination, the more I fall in love with it. While the shots are very tight and you end up getting rid of a lot of shots because of a limb being cut off from the photo, when you get a well composed tight shot with that combination, it is great.
In case I forget in my other blogs to mention this, the Canon R6 is always shot in electronic first curtain. The electronic shutter on the R6, despite what some others may say on youtube, simply doesn’t work well with fast moving subjects. The football or tennis ball would become elongated, and any straight line in the background becomes angled. I still get (I believe) 12fps with the 400mm F4 lens because it is version 2 (earlier versions of the lenses will be reduced to (I believe) 7fps). With the Sony A9 I simply do not have that problem. The stacked sensor of the A9 is great and I shoot in electronic shutter exclusively. That’s 20 fps with the Sony lens! I still am amazed at that.
Regarding the photos:
1. The emotions during this match were on display throughout. It was wonderful to photograph. I did miss some shots because I wasn’t quick enough to catch the emotions right after a winning shot. When you’re shooting a tennis match, you’re not really watching the tennis match. So when a player makes a winning shot, and I’m still focused on that player, I found myself (especially at the beginning) waiting for that player’s next shot before clicking on the shutter. The celebration from winning the point would happen and I’d be a click behind. I got better as the matches progressed, but it’s still something that will take more practice. Luckily there was so much excitement and so many emotional outbursts during the matches that I still got plenty of shots.
2. The eye focus and tracking on both the A9 and the R6 was amazing. It really allows you to “focus” on other items while taking photos. It is simply awesome and a joy to use. If you look at the first three photos of Andrew Fenti, the eyes are in perfect focus. In each of these photos, if I was using a center focus or anything else, a shoulder, racket, or ball would possibly be in focus and not the eye. With the eye focus, I could work on getting the timing and composition right rather than lining up the focus point with the subject’s eye. So much easier than I had it before!
3. Ondrej Styler is very easy to photograph. It reminds me of someone who used to photograph Michael Jordan who said that it was nearly impossible to take a bad picture of him, even when he was just at the foul line. Ondrej is wonderfully emotional on the court and his tennis form is excellent. Many tennis players, when photographed, have their arms or legs in what seem to be awkward positions. Not Styler. I had so many good shots of him that it was tough sorting through them. Here are a few extras that didn’t make it on the website:
4. The final and deciding match with Styler was giving me some great action shots. I was sitting at the side of the net along with four other photographers crouched in there. Right before serving for the match, my Sony A9 ran out of battery. I thought I had another battery for the A9 but I had mistakenly grabbed two batteries for the R6 instead of one for each, so I had to use the R6 instead. Seeing it had the 400mm attached, I could not shoot from the same location. It would be way too tight. Luckily, since the other matches were over, I was able to back up onto the next court. The match went into a tiebreaker and all was shot with the R6/400 combo. The last three shots on the website, among others, were with the 400mm lens. I was able to get really tight in there on the celebration, something I wouldn’t have tried had it not been for the battery issue. It worked out well. The second to last picture on the website is one of my favorites and it is close to full frame. I’ve also included an extra frame of Ondrej Styler collapsing on the court following the match.