Cal vs Oregon/Oregon State

California Golden Bears center Markhuri Sanders-Frison celebrates
after scoring and drawing a foul vs Oregon State.
© Matt Cohen 2011

As I was mourning the end of football season, I figured out that in
order to make it through basketball season, I was going to have to find
a way to make it more interesting. I don't sit still very well, and basketball
is (mostly) a sitting still sport for shooting. So I started out putting a
remote on the column that supports the basket to get eye level coverage
of all the action under the hoop.

I've also been leaving the long lenses at home and in favor of what is
usually thought of as a portrait lens (85mm 1.4). This lens is very slow
to focus, awful at tracking action and simultaneously too short and too
long. But with a bit of patience, it gives a look that can't be duplicated
by standard sports zooms, isolating the action and softening even the
busiest backgrounds, not to mention being able to shoot at 640-800
ISO rather than 3200-4000.

Some examples:

Cal forward Harper Kamp goes in for a layup as Oregon State forward/center
Angus Brandt covers his eyes.
© Matt Cohen 2011

Cal guard Brandon Smith drives through the Oregon State defense. © Matt Cohen 2011

Cal forward Richard Solomon eyes the basket. © Matt Cohen 2011

Cal forward Richard Solomon hangs onto the rim after a dunk. © Matt Cohen 2011

Cal guard Allen Crabbe drives toward the hoop under pressure from
Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham. The true freshman Crabbe has
really stepped up since the start of Pac-10 play.
© Matt Cohen 2011

Crabbe pulls up for a shot. Notice that literally everything but Crabbe
and the ball is way out of focus.
© Matt Cohen 2011

For comparison, this picture was made with a 70-200, a standard
basketball lens. Note that the Oregon player to the right of Cal guard
Jorge Gutierrez is still in focus, something that would not have been the
case with the 85. Subtle, but there if you're looking.
© Matt Cohen 2011

I had the idea during one of these games to do a slideshow with only
pictures of Cal head coach Mike Montgomery's many faces of frustration.
I think I will actually do this at the end of the season. With new crazy
faces every game, I don't want to leave any out. Here are two from a
fairly long series as Montgomery let one of the officials have it:
© Matt Cohen 2011

© Matt Cohen 2011

Here he can barely watch during a run of Cal mistakes. © Matt Cohen 2011

After a few games using the baseline remote, I decided to set up a
backboard remote. The baseline position does well for action that
happens on the floor, but once things go vertical, the action becomes
implied. Shooting through the backboard brings the faces and back
into view, but at a price. You can clamp a remote to the support column
at any time because it's a few feet behind the baseline and not in
anyone's way. But to set up a backboard remote, you need a ladder on
the court itself, and that means getting to the gym four hours before
tipoff so that everything can be set up and checked out before the teams
warm up. For this reason, most people don't deal with this hassle unless
it's a big game.

I'm not going to go into every detail about what generally goes into
setting up a backboard remote, because that's already been done in
great detail here. I will say that being scared of heights
doesn't help, and there's not much difference to me between being
on a ladder 10 feet up with a bunch of cables and several pounds of
gear, and standing on the observation deck of the CN tower. Other things
I learned during setup: controlling reflections from the floor and the
stands is challenging when shooting at 18mm. I used blackout foil, but
it's pretty hard to get every last light source blocked. Also, you need to
make compromises when it comes to focusing. Depth of field is usually
not an issue when shooting at 18mm and f/5.6. But when the action is
taking place only a couple of feet from the camera, it becomes an issue.
I spent way more time on the ladder making self portraits than I would
have liked just to get the focus right. Then when everything was locked
down and safety cables were in place, I turned everything off and walked
around Berkeley for a while.

An then when i posted this picture on Facebook, a couple of photographer
friends said UR DOIN' IT RONG!

And they were right, but there was no time to fix it in time for Thursday's game.

Cal forward Richard Solomon blocks a shot. © Matt Cohen 2011

Oregon State forward Devon Collier lays the ball in. © Matt Cohen 2011

As you can see, too much space above the hoop and not enough below. So
on Saturday, I found a taller ladder and changed up the remote position:

iPhone picture of the remote position (second attempt):

This worked much better, but I still have some issues to work out with
controlling reflections. The other interesting thing about Saturday's
game against Oregon was that there was apparently someone in the
stands messing around with a Pocket Wizard which I discovered after the
game when I took the remote down and saw that there were 1218 pictures
on the cards, many taken during warmups and halftime when I was not
even on the court. All I can say is I'm really happy I don't shoot RAW
because the cards would have filled before halftime.

Oregon forward Joevan Catron shoots under pressure from Cal forwards
Richard Solomon and Bak Bak.
© Matt Cohen 2011

Cal forward Richard Solomon drives into Oregon guard Nicholas Fearn for a shot. © Matt Cohen 2011

Cal forward Bak Bak and Oregon forward Jeremy Jacob battle for a rebound. © Matt Cohen 2011

Cal center Markhuri Sanders-Frison throws up a shot. © Matt Cohen 2011

Not perfect, but with a couple of adjustments, it will be close. Thanks again
to my friend Michael Pimentel for the logistical help.