Sunday, November 29, 2009

Photo Adventure - Squaw Creek NWR

Sunday dawned gray, but the day quickly turned into broken sun and clouds. I decided to take a drive up to Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of the prime waterfowl and eagle watching spots in the midwest during the fall migration. We are far enough south that it serves as an over-wintering spot for eagles.

The waterfowl migration is well underway. Over 80,000 Snow and Blue Geese reported on the refuge. Over 20,000 ducks, dark geese, coots, etc. in addition. The eagle migration is behind schedule. We saw a dozen to two dozen birds on one section of the refuge. There was only one in adult plumage, but the younger eagles were fighting over food which was interesting to watch.

This was just a scouting trip. I've got to work on my wildlife technique as well!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Photo of the Week - Quality Hill

I took a drive into the city to scout some photo locations for possible future use. The day had been overcast, and I didn't expect anything more than shots of possible angles. As usual, the light changes and opportunities may abound!

I went up into the Quality Hill neighborhood of downtown Kansas City. This neighborhood sets at the crest of the Missouri River bluff. It holds a lot of older architecture and views in many directions.

The sun was just at the horizon, and it was illuminating the underside of breaking clouds

The setting sun also shone on the gilded dome of the Cathedral, making for a bright spot in the closing dusk

Sport Shooting - McPherson Bulldogs in the NAIA Playoffs

Saturday November 21 the McPherson College football program reached a new level in it's most successful season on record. The Bulldogs met the Mid-American Nazarene Univ. Pioneers in the first round of the NAIA National Championships.

It was a close game for three quarters, with McPherson leading by one at the end of the third. However four turnovers in the fourth quarter by the Bulldogs led to 17 unanswered points for the Pioneers. The final score was Mid-American Nazarene 40 McPherson 24.

Congratulations to the Bulldogs on a record-setting season. It was a privilege to follow the team and document the seasons successes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Photo of the Week - The Work Train

Several weeks ago I was out, and discovered a string of rail cars on a siding. The cars were obviously a work train, waiting for a crew to arrive or a return to some yard.

It was nearly mid-day and bright out. The deep shadows and rugged and worn nature of the cars made a natural fit for black and white images.

Sports Update - Bulldogs in the Playoffs !!

It has been a busy week for sports at McPherson College. The fall sports are wrapping up and the winter seasons have begun. Since last weekend there have been games in volleyball, soccer, and mens and womens basketball.

The big news is that the Bulldog football squad finished their regular season Saturday with a 44-17 win at home over the Bethany College Swedes. The big plays kept coming for both the offensive and the defensive squads. On defense the team intercepted the Swede's QB's five times, returning three of the picks for touchdowns. With the win the Bulldog gridders finished with a season record of 9-1. This gives the 2009 squad the all-time record for wins in a season.

With this win, and Ottawa's defeat of Friends, the Bulldogs own sole possession of second place in the KCAC and earned the #12 national ranking in the final NAIA regular season ratings.

With a successful regular season the Bulldogs have earned their first trip to the NAIA Football Championship playoffs. McPherson College will meet Mid-American Nazarene University in the first round of the playoffs next Saturday. The game will be at NMU's home field in Olathe, KS. Kickoff is at 1:00 PM. The NMU Pioneers also finished the season with a 9-1 record. The Pioneers were runners-up in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, and hold a #8 national ranking.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sport Shooting - McPherson Womens Basketball vs. Stephens College

McPherson College womens basketball played in an early season tournament this weekend. The games were on the campus of Univ. of St. Marys in Leavenworth, KS. This gave us the chance to go over and see the team play.

The action was good, and the Bulldogs hit a three-pointer with under 30 seconds left to win the game. McPherson is not a tall team, and they struggled all night with being able to get the ball down low. But the ladies play a tenacious defense, and they stepped it up in the last few minutes of the game to cause the turnovers they needed to pull out the game.

The lighting in the gym presents several photographic challenges. First, the main lights were various colors, and there are fluorescent fixtures on the side walls just above eye level. The ends of the court were much darker than the mid-court, and the building is dark overall. Most of these images were shot underexposed by 2/3 of a stop. The 60 hz cycle of the lights can be seen in some of the images too. An advantage of the facility is that it is a multi-purpose building, and there is a running track around the entire perimeter at about the height of the basketball rim. That provides the opportunity for the overhead shots.

All of the images have been corrected for both color and exposure. That helps account for the noise in the images.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sports Shooting - McPherson Football vs. Bethel

On a bright, warm afternoon in November McPherson College traveled down the road to play the Bethel College Threshers. Bethel entered the game with a record of 2-6 and the Bulldogs entered the game ranked #15 in the country with a 7-1 record.

The game was a hard-fought contest. McPherson prevailed 34-16. The 2009 season is proving to be one for the record books for the McPherson football squad. With their eighth win the Bulldogs tied the all-time school record for wins in a season, equaling the famed 1952 squad. Another record on the day for the 'Dogs was reaching 418 points for the season, smashing the record for a single season with one game to go.

The light conditions for photography were great. Shooting at ISO 200 and a f/4 aperture allowed for great shutter speeds all afternoon. It was almost too bright, as the sharp shadows can attest. By the third quarter there was a thin veil of clouds that made photo conditions almost perfect. Another issue that came up was in the fourth quarter the grandstand on the west sideline was casting a shadow over the north end zone, putting the action in that area of the field in deep shadow against a bright background. Those image attempts were basically unusable.

Sports Shooting - McPherson Volleyball vs. Southwestern

My sports photography has been centered on McPherson College football this season. This has been as much due to my personal scheduling as interest. Most volleyball games are either weeknights or on the same day as football, but in another town.

This weekend we got football and volleyball an hour apart in schedule and distance. We took in the Lady Bulldogs vs. the Southwestern College Moundbuilders in a post-season tournament game in McPherson.

The Lady Bulldogs are a young team, and have had their ups and downs this season. They finished the regular season with a 7 - 19 record. This placed them eighth among the ten members of the KCAC. The SWC squad finished ninth, but had beaten Mac in both of their meetings during the regular season.

The Lady 'Dogs started slow, losing the first game 18-15. From that point McPherson stepped up their game, especially their setting, and won the next three games for a 3-1 victory in the match.

McPherson's next match will be against the #1 seed Tabor College at Tabor's gym on Tuesday. Good Luck Bulldogs!

These images were my first try for shooting this sport. I'm really pleased with how they came out. I shot a basketball game in the McPherson gym last year before the upgrade to my equipment. The results that time were pretty disappointing. I'm much more satisfied with these images. To get fast shutter speeds I shot with the exposure compensation set to -2/3 of a stop. The ISO ran 2500 to 3200 to keep the 1/400s shutter speed and f/2.8 aperture I was using. To me the noise is acceptable given the limits of my D90, but I want to look into post-processing options for noise reduction. The lighting is about as the images came from the camera, so they are a little darker than the room appeared to the eye. They are PP'd with black point, white point and contrast adjustments.

There are images that have to be thrown out due to particulars issues of the venue: there is a bright sign at floor level that throws off the automatic exposure, and the camera occasionally captures the 60 hz cycling of the lights.

Volleyball offers different photographic challenges and opportunities from football. Obviously, you can get up close and personal to the participants much more easily, which is one reason I like these images so well for a first try. Inadequate lighting (from a photographic standpoint) and the resulting shallow depth of field make for interesting challenges as well. I would like to experiment with using manual focus, as the auto-focus would seek and find other targets (the net in front, or the crowd or player behind) than the one I was trying to capture.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Photo of the Week - A Chase County Barn

We often travel through a section of the Flint Hills west of Emporia, KS. Coming home from the Mac Bulldogs football game (see Sports Shooting this week) it was approaching sundown. It was a vivid light day. Clear and bright, the "golden hour" approaching sundown was just beginning as we pulled off the road.

This barn has obviously had many years of use. The foundation is build of dry-stacked hand-hewn local limestone. There are portions of the barn of various ages as reflected by the tin roofing over the wooden shingles. I didn't explore the inside beyond what I could see from the outside, but I thought I saw some square nails in the central structure.

I hope you enjoy these images.