Last Tuesday I shot the Orlando Magic vs. the LA CLippers—-my first NBA game shoot of the year (and only my third NBA game shoot ever), and thought I’d share a few shots from the game here.

The Fisheye Strikes Again!
When my buddy Erik Kuna (head of our Video Operations) and I got to the brand new Amway Center arena in Orlando, the doors hadn’t opened yet, so I grabbed my 10.5mm fisheye lens and headed up as high as I could go to capture this view of the arena. I actually took quite a few HDR shots while I was up there, and processed them using three different HDR programs, but I didn’t think any of them looked as good as just the single image with Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 applied using the preset “Tonal Contrast” and that’s what you see above (click on the image for a much larger view).

What a Difference an Extra 100mm Makes
This was the first basketball game I got to shoot with my 300mm f./2.8 lens, and I have to say having that extra 100mm made a bigger difference than I thought. The past two games I just had my 70-200mm, which works pretty well when they’re down at the end of the court where I’m shooting from, but when they were at the other end, I got to the point where I just laid my camera in my lap and waited for the action to come my way.

But with the 300mm, I spent most of my time shooting at the other end of the court, because when I turned the camera vertically, I could fill the screen with the action. Plus, you can’t compare the quality of the shallow depth of field at f/2.8 on the 300mm with the 200mm. There’s just something really special about it.

On my 2nd body: the 24-70mm f/2.8
When the action did come to my end, I mostly shot with my 24-70mm f/2.8 so I could capture wide shots like this (cropped using my Cinematic Cropping technique–link). Of course, I missed a bunch of tight-in stuff around the basket, but I was able to grab a few with my 70-200mm (I switched back and forth between the 70-200mm and the 24-70mm during the game).

Above: Here’s one of those shots caught with the 70-200mm, at 112mm (and even at that I cut off the Magic player’s feet). That’s the Clipper’s 6’10″ star rookie Blake Griffin in mid air shot above.

Above: One of my favorite shots from the game. I just love the expression on Blake’s face.

Above: Orlando’s superstar Center, 6’11″ Dwight Howard jams one during the first period. By the end of the game, I had so many shots of player’s jamming the ball, I intentionally had to look to shoot something else. Thanks to that 300mm I’ve got ‘em hanging from the rim, going up in the air from every angle, and lots of shots along those same lines, like the one you see below shot at the far end of the court.

Above: here’s one more uncropped 300mm shot, and you can see why I love this lens for getting in tight. I shot at 1,250 to 1,600 ISO all night (the lighting in this new arena was really pretty darn good).

Above: Here’s my final shot of the game; of Clipper’s 6’11′ Center DeAndre Jordan (the other famous Jordan basketball player). I actually did get to see Michael Jordan play once in my life, in Orlando, when the Bulls played the Magic many years ago. My brother and I drove over and bought tickets from a scalper outside the arena. We paid quite a bit, because our seats were right down in front. At least, that’s why the scalpers printed arena seat map showed, but once we actually got inside, we learned they had reversed the seat map and our Row AA seats, weren’t down low, but at the beginning of the top section. It was still great (and we got to watch the last period from some great seats down low).

Another Learning Experience
Every time I shoot another game, I learn a lot more. Having the right equipment here helped a lot, but sitting directly next to the guy shooting for AP Wire Service was a bigger education. I paid close attention to when he shot, what he was shooting (I peaked quite a lot while he was chimping), and which lenses he used when (yup, he had a 300mm too, plus a camera mounted on the basket which he fired remotely with a Pocket Wizard). Like anything you want to get good at, it takes practice, and although I felt like I did much better at this game than I had at my previous two, I still need a lot more practice. Luckily, that’s something I’m not afraid to do.

Above: Erik Kuna took this shot of me (shooting out wide at 24mm), from the other end of the court (we got split up on opposite ends because it was unusually crowded with photographers that night). You can see me in the middle, a very nice NAPP member I met shooting the game, and the guy from AP who unwittingly helped me learn a lot that night. Click for a larger view.

One more thing
Nothing makes the game better than a win for the home team, and the Magic did just that, beating the Clippers 101 to 85.

My thanks to my buddy Erik, to the Magic’s Dante Marchitelli, and to all the great folks at the Orlando Magic for having me and Erik, and for how great they treat photographers shooting the game. It totally rocked!