Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Marlborough AYF Cheer-A-Palooza - 2017.04.22

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I took another shot at photographing cheer this weekend at the Marlborough, MA American Youth Football (AYF) Cheer-A-Palooza fundraising event at the Whitcomb Middle School. The event included several local vendors, a bouncy house for the kids and an exhibition by four Marlborough AYF squads and one Northborough/Southborough AYF squad. I have not been too pleased with how my previous attempts have gone and I spent quite a bit of time experimenting with different lenses, cameras and settings. I have a better idea of what settings to use on the camera and which lens/camera combinations work best. Ultimately, I would like to upgrade my gear to the Canon 1Dx II and do some more testing with fast lenses like the Canon EF 135mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.8 or the new Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art. I hear that the Sigma is tack sharp and has a consistent focus but I don't know how fast the focus is.

When I arrived at the event I was surprised at how good the lighting was, especially for a middle school gymnasium. The reason that it was so bright is that there were open skylights along one whole side of the roof letting in natural light, despite the cloudy conditions outside. Unfortunately though, the event organizers decided to arrange the mats to have a more "intimate" event. This translates into poor conditions for a photographer because the bleacher seating came right up to the edge of the mats and the skylights in the roof were behind the cheerleaders causing a backlit situation. I was able to convince the organizers to move the seating back 5-6 feet but there still was not enough room to shoot head-on and I had to shoot at an angle at the cheerleaders left side. My bad luck continued into the routines as every one of the teams looked to their right when they were in their pyramids and I was shooting the back of their heads. Is that a thing or do I just have bad luck?

Since I did not have much room to work with and I wanted to get as many of the girls in the shots I decided to use the 7D Mark II with the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. I wanted to use the 5D Mark III but I was also trying to do video and the widest lens I had left was the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art and even this was too wide on the cropped 7D. In the end the video did not work out, mainly because the 50mm lens was not wide enough and people walked in front of the camera, so I probably should have just used the 5D for the photos.

I shot in manual mode, wide open (f/2.8), the shutter speed set to 1/800th of a second, auto ISO limited to 12,800 and auto WB. With the lighting as good as it was the average ISO was 2500-3200 and the maximum was only 6400. Because the 7D has the flicker compensation I only had to do some minor exposure and tone adjustments, slight noise reduction and cropping in Lightroom. Links for the final galleries for each of the five performances are at the top of the page along with a gallery of general shots that I took of the event before the routines began.

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