Last week my office was at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Just 50 feet from the dome’s temporary basketball court, Journal-World photographer Nick Krug and I set up shop in a cold, drafty room to cover the Final Four.
This became our workspace for about eight hours each of our five days there. Even with the French Quarter only a few tantalizing blocks away, we were confined here, documenting press conferences, practices, interviews, open locker rooms and, finally, the actual games.
We weren’t alone. With us were 50-plus additional photographers, each in search of unique photographs of the participating players and coaches. Easier said than done.
For instance, when a team locker room opens for interviews, dozens of writers and cameramen rush in to surround players. It’s like a rugby scrum, and the player is the ball. There is little chance of getting unique images.
It’s a similar situation at game time. About 20 photographers sit at each end of the court on one side of the basket opposite the cheerleaders. The front 10 sit cross-legged on the hard pine, while the second row makes use of stools to gain a little height over the front row. These are important positions, and a photographer’s spot on the floor can mean the difference between capturing a critical play or staring at the back of a referee.
In general, spots are assigned by importance of the media outlet. Photographers for the NCAA, Sports Illustrated and Associated Press get prime seating. The Journal-World is treated well, and our position was in the middle of the front row for the championship game.
In addition to these floor spots, many photographers increase their coverage by setting up remote cameras fired by radio transmitters. When they fire the shutter of the camera in their hand, a remote camera automatically fires.
Multiple remotes are common. One photographer may have a wide-angle floor remote in front of them, one along the side of the court, one up in the stands, and possibly a remote above in the catwalk. One press of the shutter may set off five cameras.
A motor-drive riff of seven-frames-a-second can capture 35 images from one moment of action. Some will hard-wire their remote cameras so images are immediately downloaded to a computer.
There is plenty of skill and luck in setting up and capturing a good remote shot. Finding a position, anticipating action, choosing your lens, and setting the focus point all go to determine your chance of success. Since we didn’t have many spare cameras, Nick set up only one remote. It was at the side of the court, looking across the three-point line and toward the Kansas University bench.
In my opinion, remotes can help increase the variety of coverage but don’t necessarily increase the quality of your coverage. The best shots Nick and I got came from the camera in our hand and to our eye.