Basketball is one of my favorite sports to photograph but also one of the most difficult. The action is longer-lasting than football, baseball or softball, sometimes lasting two or three minutes between breaks like fouls and times out.
The sound of a basketball game is especially pleasing to me, and even more so at small schools with small gyms. It’s hard to talk and hear others amid the din of cheers, but that can be a good thing. In some ways, shutting up and becoming part of a community of fans is very liberating.
Fans who see me on the court mostly associate my coverage with my large, heavy 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom. It’s a great lens and never fails to deliver for me. But it’s also heavy and big in my hands, and as I get older, my bones and joints talk to me, saying I should carry lighter equipment, and I set it down when I can.
I am also social media friends with photographers across the country, and one of them posted to her news feed, “Went to urgent care for my shoulder tonight because it’s been on fire all week, and was super painful to hold my camera up with even just a 70-200 to photograph basketball and hockey a couple times this week.” I’m not in that bad shape yet but feel that I should make efforts to prevent going there.
I have a couple of lighter lenses at my disposal, a 35mm and an 85mm. Both require a different finesse to shoot the action of basketball, but it’s workable. The 35mm needs to be brought quite close to the action, usually at the baseline just behind the basket. The images tend to be a little “loose,” which is photographer-speak for not filling up the frame with the subject. The 85mm doesn’t require as aggressive a location, but I still like to get as close as I can with it.
Sometimes you’ll see me with both of these lenses, one on each camera. Both lenses are sharp, and both have f/1.8 maximum apertures to let in lots of light in darker gyms.
It’s also worth noting that when considering how much gear to carry, people who are in generally better health are generally better able to withstand long sessions with heavy loads. There is seldom a penalty for being in good shape, and I like to keep myself healthy.
I’ll try not to editorialize about medical care for photography-related maladies and say the obvious: If this treatment or that therapy works for you, it works for you.