Volleyball on Full Manual

UK vs. South Carolina

We made it to another UK volleyball game at Memorial Coliseum this past weekend. This time, I found that the camera’s light meter was not quite getting things right.  I don’t recall now whether it was over- or under-exposing the court, but it wasn’t right, so I rotated that little lever over to “M”.

For the first set, I used my Tamron 40A 35-135, but then switched to my Tamron 46A 70-210 f3.8/4 for just that little bit more zoom range.  Both these lenses are fully manual, so my only shooting choices are Aperture (“A”) mode, where the camera chooses the shutter speed, or full manual (“M”).  Plus, they’re both manual focus, but I find that I prefer that for volleyball.

UK vs. South Carolina

A little bit of experimentation landed me at 1/400, f5.6 and ISO 1600.  In hindsight, I probably should have gone wide open (f4) and gotten up to 1/500 or more.  I lost many otherwise good shots due to motion blur either on the ball or the player’s arm.  Even better would be a faster lens, but those are out of my budget.

UK vs. South Carolina

I found that by going manual, I was able to forget about the exposure settings and where the camera was going, and focus more on the action and what the players were doing.  Of course I could only really do this because I was at one location, indoors, with fixed and controlled lighting.  If I were moving around, or if the lighting was changing, I’d have had to be more careful with the settings.  Not that making the required adjustments would be all that hard…

UK vs. South Carolina

I also tried getting shots of the cheerleaders, who were in one corner of the floor, away from the main court lighting.  I discovered that for proper lighting on them, I had to drop the shutter to between 1/200 and 1/250… and to get shots of my family in the stands (which were not lit at all), I had to drop all the way to 1/15 sec.  Unfortunately, I had some focusing problems on the cheerleaders, so none of the photos I took were usable.

UK vs. South Carolina

What I learned is that Manual mode need not be intimidating.  Certainly there are things that could make it more challenging, but for the most part, once I dialed in exposure for the three areas I wanted to shoot, it was a simple matter to adjust as I changed targets.

It was a great game, with UK winning the first (and only) three sets handily, but South Carolina did put up a fight, which kept it interesting.  I’m already looking forward to my next opportunity to shoot the team and practice some more manual-mode shooting.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures…

UK vs. South Carolina

UK vs. South Carolina

UK vs. South Carolina
(this one shows some of the motion blur I was fighting…)

UK vs. South Carolina

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