Monday, September 19, 2011

All Blacks VS Japan

What was the most embarrassing thing for you?  Wardrobe malfunction at the wrong place and wrong time? Walked in on your housemate while he was "occupied"with the girlfriend? For me, it was none of the above.  For me, it was the fact that i have lived in New Zealand for a good 10 years and i had never been to a rugby game.  All of you must be saying in your head, "Shame on you DK".  Rightly so i guess.  Rugby is such a big thing in this country.  Here in New Zealand, rugby is not just a sport, it is a religion.  A religion that people of all ages and races believe in whole heartedly.  To be honest, until today i still do not understand half of the game but i decided i must go to a rugby match anyway, especially when the Rugby world cup is here in the country and the All Blacks are playing.

I was after the ABs vs France match at Eden park stadium but the tickets for that game were sold out long before i even thought of buying.  So i decided to hit "The Tron" (Hamilton) for the ABs vs Japan match.  A friend of mine got the tickets, front row tickets for $160 each. I was thinking we were overcharged for the tickets but the very moment i saw where we were sitting it all became clear.  We were at the very first row.  $160 suddenly sounded like a bargain.

The stadium was packed.  It was a sold out match.  Most of the crowd seemed to be wearing black, presumably ABs fans.  It was another chilly night in The Tron but the sight of the packed stadium and excited crowd channelled that little bit of warmth to everyone there.  At least that was how i felt.  I was extremely excited, not just because it was the first time i was at a match, not because i was at the front row but because i had my DSLR with me, ready to capture all the actions through the 70-300mm VR lens.  I am not a huge fan of sports photography and certainly have very limited experience in that field of photography.  The only sport event i have photographed in the past was Heineken Cup tennis tournament.  I was quite happy with the images i have captured from that tennis game, giving me a false sense of confidence with this rugby game.  It did not take me long to realise i was wrong.  Very wrong.

I am not about to write an full commentary on the whole game.  There are plenty of blogs and websites for that.  Since this is a photoblog, i will be talking about what i have learnt from my attempt to photograph a rugby game.

The game started with the famous Ka Mate Haka.  Then it was all action from there on, and the beginning of my problems.  The ABs were wearing black jersies, not the easiest colour for the Auto focus to catch.  Then it was the speed of the game.  I was sitting at the side of the field and had to lock focus on players sprinting from my right to my left towards the try line.  Everything happened so fast, i found myself too slow with tracking the players.  I started with a single AF point mode but soon decided i could not cope because i was too slow in tracking players manually.  I then switched to the Auto-area AF mode.  The result was slightly better.  However, when it came to massive tackles where players threw themselves onto each other, locking focus on the right person became a bit of a hit and miss story with Auto-area AF mode.

Another problem was the light.  I did not have a pro lens with f2.8 aperture.  My 70-300mm comes with a variable aperture of f4.5-5.6, not exactly a very bright lens.  I cranked my ISO up to 1600 but still struggled with getting enough light to my sensor.  I was reluctant to bump my ISO any higher due to noise.  I had to compensate with lowing my shutter speed and that certainly compromised the sharpness of some of the shots.  That frustrated me a little.  Later on i was advised that i would have been better off dialing the ISO up and clean up the noise in post-processing.  Lesson learnt.

Here are a few of my shots.  Most of these have been cleaned up a little bit with Photoshop.

Ka Mate Haka

And of course we can't forget about the loyal fans.......

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