Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cricket photography.

Nothing to do with the insects...
...although this is actually a cicada, not a cricket!

I love the game of cricket. I'll watch any game in any format I can find. On TV or live at the ground.

I particularly love test cricket. This is the form of the game where a match can, and ideally should, last for five days, and even after that time it is possible to not get a result. Although it is increasingly infrequent, test match cricket can end in a draw. Note that a draw is not the same as a tie. There have only been two tied test matches, one in Brisbane in 1960 and one in Chennai in 1986. This is a very rare result; the two thousandth test match will commence at Lord's tomorrow (July 21, 2011).

Over the past four years I have been a non-playing* member at the Darley cricket club in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria and I'm just about to start my second season as a committee member.

For the first two seasons I was the official scorer for the First XI side but for the last two seasons I have been attending matches as a photographer. Hence, finally, the reason for this blog post!

Now cricket is played on a large, oval shaped ground and most of the action takes place near the centre of that ground. What we need here is some long glass. I use the Tamron SP AF 200-500mm f/5.3-6.3 usually in the range of 300-400mm. Note that I use a Nikon D90 so the smaller sensor gives some extra telephoto advantage, but that's a story for another post.

You will see that, given the range of aperture of this lens, I am going to struggle to suck in light in low light situations, and to get a nice shallow depth of field to isolate the action from the background. Fortunately cricket is a bit of a fair weather game and is usually played in good light conditions. It does pay to keep shooting when the play stops though.

For the second problem, one of our grounds is on the side of a hill. No, the ground is level, but shooting from one side means that there is nothing on the other side for miles.

So what do you shoot? I have tended to shoot everything. Three to five shots at 4.5fps of almost every delivery, the same or more of catches and run outs, a couple of shots of fielding to make sure I get at least something of every team member.

This is too much! It is a huge amount of wear and tear on my shutter and makes the job of culling prior to editing simply unbearable! I must learn to ease back a little.

I also tend to watch most of the game through the lens. Some people say that cricket is a slow game, but when the action happens, it happens quickly.

And there is plenty to shoot. There is the batting. Sometimes the batsman gets the better of the bowler and scores runs.

Sometimes the bowler wins that contest.

There are catches.

Appeals (I love the triple symmetry in this one).

And the one the bowlers all love to see, wickets with the bails flying in the air.
Played On

Don't forget the crowd, they like to get involved as well.
(Edit: Ok, maybe "crowd" is a slight exaggeration.)

And then there are the "What the ...?" moments. A batsman and the fielders should always keep their eye on the ball. Sometimes you get distracted by a flying, broken bat though! Psst! The ball's on this side, guys.

For those that love both cricket and photography, it is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Of course there are the after-match beers, which always taste better when washing down a victory.

So, do you shoot cricket? What about other sports? Leave a comment with a link to your favourite sports shot.

Special thanks to my Twitter friend Sarah for encouraging me and keeping me supplied with cricketing photos during the Australian off-season. Sarah is the official photographer for Kent County Cricket Club. Check out her work here, or follow her on Twitter.

*For all my love of watching cricket, I have never played the game apart from school-yard lunchtime knocks.

Good Light.

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