Back in 1988, 2 college lacrosse players from UCI showed up at my high school freshman PE class to give a workshop on the sport of lacrosse. Despite being a hugely popular sport on the east coast, it was absolutely unknown here in orange county. Intrigued by the idea of getting to run around in shoulder pads and a helmet and getting to hit people with a stick, I signed up for the team. On that fateful autumn day, the very first high school lacrosse team in Orange County was born.
Now a days, I do a lot of sports physicals at my clinic for the local high school athletes in the community. Whenever I come across a lacrosse player, my eyes light up with enthusiasm as I mention my story. However, it does make me feel like an old fart to say "when I was a kid..."
Recently, as I drove around town running errands, I have noticed kids carrying lacrosse sticks. With the spring finally upon us, lacrosse season was back in full swing. I felt a strong urge to reconnect with my heritage. I wanted to combine the my passion of lacrosse with photography. Sports photography shares a lot of common elements and shooting styles with wildlife photography. They both focus on action shots and freezing a dynamic moment in time. For this photo shoot, I brought out my sharpest lenses, my canon 400mm f5.6 and my canon 70-200mm f4 IS.
A lacrosse field is about the size of a soccer field. That is a lot of ground to cover photographically speaking. As I have mentioned before, I like to get in tight with my subjects when shooting action shots. I want to capture the moment with National Geographics like sharpness and clarity. A lot of professional sports photographers shoot with a 400mm f2.8, a 300mm f2.8 or a 70-200mm f2.8 lens. Since this is just a hobby for me at this point, I can't yet justify dropping $5,000 on just one lens.
I was very happy with the images that I got from my lenses. The 400mm f5.6 allowed me to shoot the action that was happening way on the other side of the field whereas the 70-200mm f4 was great when the players came in close to where I was standing on the sidelines. I was then able to zoom out. It would have been great if I had just one lens to cover these focal lengths. There is a canon 100-400mm, but I am not convinced that it delivers the same crisp and sharp image quality as my two other lenses. Other photographers may disagree with that last statement though. Hahah.
It was very interesting shooting with 2 cameras. I am now accustomed to the quickness of my canon 7D body. When I switched to my old trusty 20D, I was shocked at how slow and sluggish it felt. I serious stopped shooting one point to check all of my camera settings on my 20D. It was fine and worked properly. There was nothing wrong with my 20D, it was just old and outdated. Ah well, I still love it and will continue to use it on occasion as a back up camera body.
Watching these lacrosse players run around brought back a lot of nostalgia for me. It made me want to suit up and run out there with them. However, I have already had my glory days and now it is their turn. One thing I noticed was that their equipment got a well deserve make over. Back when I was playing lacrosse helmets were quite...oh how should I put it...dorky looking. They literally looked like you had a big white bucket on your head. Now a days, lacrosse helmets are quite stylish and attractive. I also noticed that their gloves are much smaller and sleeker. The image of the lacrosse player is much cooler and stylish now.
I always scrutinize my pics after a photo shoot. I am probably my toughest critic. I always look for ways to improve my photography. The biggest thing that I noticed from all of my shots after I uploaded them onto my computer to view was that there were a vast majority of shots where I had the player's back to the camera. I have no idea why I took so many of those shots because they were pretty much worthless. I ended up deleting all of those shots. I think next time I am going to have to position myself in one corner of the field so that I can get more frontal shots as they players are running towards to goal. That way I can see their faces better.
Luckily I had bright afternoon sunlight to shoot with. This allowed me the luxury of shooting at ISO 200. That gave me clean, noise free images while getting a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action. The only tough part was getting a good exposure with the white jerseys. It was very easy to blow out those bright whites. As I have mentioned before, always check your histograms while shooting so that you can adjust your EV to ensure a better exposure. Nothing worse then coming home with great action shots that are unusable because the exposure was too far off to fix in photoshop.
Lacrosse has grown exponentially since I played. Back then it was considered a club team and despite our petitions, our high school would not recognize it as an official school sport. We had to raise our own funds to purchase all of our equipment and to rent a local field in the park next to our high school to play in. Despite the fact that we never got letterman jackets or any support from the school, we still loved the sport. We did everything we could to continue playing lacrosse and growing the league. To this day, I still consider playing lacrosse in high school as one of the best experiences that I had growing up. There was a camaraderie among my teammates and I that was unforgettable. Even though we have each gone our separate ways in life since high school, I still remember fondly my teammates and what we went through. Back then, we were more than just lacrosse players. We were a band of brothers.
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