Photographing Basketball

In theory, basketball should be one of the easier sports to photograph right? All of the action happens in a 4,500 square feet rectangle as opposed to let’s say, a football field which is 57,600 sq ft. The players are also driving at a hoop that is only 18 inches wide. How hard can it be? You would be surprised.  But, with some practice, you can be shooting for the NBA in no time.

I love shooting basketball. There is a quickness and intensity that is exciting and challenging as a photographer. Let me warn you of a few obstacles you may encounter and then I will give you some tips on how to snag great looking action photos.

The number one challenge you will encounter doesn’t even begin on the court. It starts up in the rafters. Blurry, grainy and strange color shifts are the complaints I hear most from first time basketball photographers due to the lack of light. Chances are you are photographing your son or daughter at the local Rec. Center, Middle School or High School Gymnasium where the light is dim to say the least. Although the gym looks bright enough to our eye, your camera will immediately start screaming for more light. Grabbing for your flash? It’s not that easy. You want to go with available light. A flash will light up only what is right in front and everything else will go black. Also, the players and refs don’t like those flashes popping in their eyes during play especially coming from the floor. Do you want to learn how to use the existing light? Head over to the Advanced Photo Tips category. There you will find a whole article about overcoming lighting and color shift problems when photographing indoor sports.

Speed of play
The next thing that will become apparent is how fast the action happens. I remember when I photographed my first college game. I was having a hard time balancing how to look through my camera and look over my camera to find out where the ball went. The main thing is to get quick at looking up, finding the ball and then back through the lens to snap the photo. You will need to learn to be fast on the trigger and do more editing later. Don’t over think it. With basketball, you need to shoot on instinct and be bold.

The angle you choose to photograph the game will dictate the types of shots you can get. The baseline (the out of bounds line beyond the backboard) on either side of the net is a great place to be. The players are coming straight at you and you don’t need a long lens. You can get by with a 50mm, 85mm or 105mm. You can’t say that for many sports that require longer glass. If you are allowed to sit on the baseline, move back 3-4 feet so the refs can do their thing. Oh, speaking about refs, you will most likely get more than you fair shots of referee behinds. Be patient. It is a reality of this sport at any level. If you are in, near, or underneath the net, you can get some nice lay up photos. However, keep in mind they are right on top of you so beware of flying bodies. I also like getting out to the far corner. This allows you to get a great angle of the lay up as well as the passing and defense before the shot. Another great angle is from the stands on either side of the hoop. Depending on the length of your lens, you can get some amazing shots at the net and remember, the higher you go up in the stands, the cleaner your background gets without so much background clutter.

So what are you prime shooting opportunities in basketball? You always have a chance to get some dribbling shots as the team brings the ball down court. There are chances to photograph the strategic positioning around the net both offense and defense. You have a chance to get a shooting shot should the offense shoot from outside and then of course you have the play at the net with dunks and lay-ups. Also watch for scrums on the floor. This is when there is a loose ball and there is a mad scramble. The bench is always full of drama both from the coach and the players as well. Finally, don’t miss the celebration during close games. Is that enough to get you started? Basketball can be an exciting sport to shoot once you learn how to overcome the lighting obstacle and know where to look for the peak action. Have a blast!

Photographing Tips: Football

I love photographing football! There, I admitted it. While any day spent photographing sports is a special treat, the moment I walk on to a football field, my heart races just a little bit faster in anticipation of the game to come. Now just to clarify, soccer is also known as football but in this case, I am talking about American football complete with big guys with pads, cheerleaders and touchdowns. I started photographing football in high school, went on to become the team photographer for the UCLA Bruins and then worked for the NFL for a time shooting professional football. I have to admit those Friday night games at the local High School Stadium gave me the same thrill as a packed professional stadium with 90,000 screaming fans.

So what is it about football that makes it so fun to photograph? For me, it is about the variety of choices on every snap of the ball. Yes, you can follow the player with the ball but there are also amazing moments happening away from the ball. The ongoing battles on the line of scrimmage, the maneuvering of the receiver trying to free himself from the defender, the focus and determination from the defensive secondary, the drama in the face of the coach, the spirit of the cheerleaders, the fans, etc. There is plenty to choose from on each snap of the ball.

So let’s first discuss capturing the action when following the ball. The first player who will get the ball on each play is the Quarterback. By standing on the sidelines just behind the line of scrimmage, you can photograph the QB as he either runs, hands off or drops back for a pass. Ever wonder why there are so many photos of the QB? They have the ball in their hands the most. Now the next bit of action depends on what he does with the ball and this is where anticipation and knowledge of the game comes into play. As you know, the team on offense is attempting to get the ball over the goal line at the end of the field. They have 4 attempts to move the ball at least 10 yards for a first down which gives them 4 more attempts and so on. As a photographer, you can attempt to predict what the team might try on any given down. It is common to see more running plays at the start of each series of downs. Running plays are less risky. Passing plays come with attempts for big yardage of if they need a larger gain to get a first down. For example, it is 3rd down and 8 yards to go. You can expect to see a pass. How does this help as a photographer? Well, if you are on the sidelines and you are guessing it might be a run, you can set up either just behind the line of scrimmage and hope the runner comes your way, or get downfield and watch for him to break through the line of scrimmage so he is coming straight at you. If you think it might be a pass, you want to maneuver so that you have a good angle at around that first down marker because that is where they are trying to get. You might want to lift your eyes above your camera, look for a receiver who might be open then quickly focus and shoot as they attempt the catch.

Whenever possible, I like to get straight ahead of the action so they are heading right at me. That would be in the back of the end zone but you can’t move there until the action gets closer or you have a very long lens. I prefer this angle because there is less background clutter. When you are shooting from the sidelines, you will always see the other sideline in the background of your shot. Remember what I mentioned in our other photo tips, clean backgrounds make for a more impactful photo and you can do that by either eliminating the background clutter with your angle or by using a short depth of field. Check out my other photo tipsabout those subjects as a reminder.  

As I mentioned earlier, there is also plenty of drama happening away from the ball. By pre focusing on any lineman, you will get a fantastic series during each play as they either attempt to block or rush the passer. Great stuff happens in the trenches. I also like to keep an eye on the coach and sidelines. When I was the team photographer at UCLA, I remember a game coming down to a field goal attempt. Instead of focusing on the kicker, I focused on the coach. The kick was good and I got a rare photo of the coach leaping into the arms of his fellow coaches and players. Much better than anything happening on the field. Remember, emotion is as impactful as the action itself.

Technically, I always like to use the sun to my advantage when shooting football. I hate cross light (when half of the player is bathed in sun and the other half is in shadow). That is a no win situation. The bright part is blown out and the shadow is too dark.  I want to find the angle where the sun is either straight behind me or straight in front of me. Now the player is either in full light or full open shade. For night games, check out my photo tip about photographing in low light situations.

One more thing to remember. Be aware of where you can and can’t go on the sidelines. You will normally not be allowed in the team sidelines area which stretches between the 25 yard lines. You will only be allowed from the 25 yard line down to the goal line and behind the end zone. Each school or stadium has its own rules so find out in advance. Also be aware of other photographers. If you are photographing your kid, give the person shooting for the local paper some extra room as they are on the payroll and really need the photos where we are just trying to get some good action photos for ourselves. Be respectful and courteous.

Have a blast!

The Best Healthy Snacks for Kids & Young Athletes

If you want your kids to get out there and play their best, they need the proper fuel. Watch this video and get the lowdown on exactly what they need with Andrea Benton, a mom of two boys from Raisingboys.TV, and Nadia Vidas, a registered dietitian.

If you need snack ideas, this is the video for you. We all know that kids can be picky about their foods, especially when it comes to the essential ones. Hey, if we had to choose between lettuce and ice cream, we would choose ice cream, too!

But not all healthy snacks for kids need to taste bland. Make sure to mix things up. Try combining some of the less exciting options (stuff like carrots, crackers or nuts), with some options kids might get a little more excited about (pasta, cheese or fruits). And of course, a glass of milk with any of those snacks is the bee’s knees.

Another great thing about these foods is how easy they are to put together. We know that when it’s early in the morning before a game, you don’t have time to come up with an extravagant dish. No sweat! A balanced, healthy pre-game snack doesn’t need to be huge, and it doesn’t need to take hours to prepare. The snack recipes in this video are easy to prepare and easy on the wallet, while still being nutritious. It’s a win-win-win.

One important detail to keep in mind is how much time you’re giving your young athlete to digest before a game. For the best results, eating 1-2 hours prior to game time is the way to go. Some kids might even need a little more time or a little less––it varies from athlete to athlete. A good way to determine how much time your young athlete needs is to test it out at practice. Vary pregame snack times, then ask your young athlete when they felt better.

And now for some snack foods to avoid: fatty, sugary and caffeine-packed products. They’re definitely not good after-school snacks or really for any time of day. Steer clear! These foods tend to cause temporary spikes in blood sugar. Of course, what goes up must come down, and blood sugar is no exception; your young athlete’s levels will plummet once the game begins. So your young athlete might start off feeling great, but once you get to half time, they’re out of energy. Don’t let it happen!

Looking to play sports in your college years?

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Learn more about the three divisions

College-bound student-athletes preparing to enroll in a Division I or Division II school need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center to ensure they have met amateurism standards and are academically prepared for college coursework.

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NCAA Statistics


More than 460,000 NCAA student-athletes – more than ever before – compete in 24 sports every year. Member schools support their student-athletes’ academic success by providing state-of-the-art technology, tutoring and access to academic advisors. More than eight out of 10 student-athletes will earn a bachelor’s degree, and more than 35 percent will earn a postgraduate degree.

Part Two of Principal Interview with Eddie


I moved on to the next round of questions after throwing away the container of Walt’s Crawlers. As I said, he had me thinking about Gelato.

Eddie: Olympics are trending right now. What events do you like to watch? Anything specific?

Principal Franconi: The sprinters are really exciting. It’s a lot like the Kentucky Derby without the Mint Julep and the wonderful hats.

The Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, they have conducted thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. One of the long standing traditions is the decorative hats that are worn on race day.

Another tradition is the mint julep. It’s one of Kentucky’s signature drinks at Derby time. Muddling the ingredients brings the mint’s essential oils to the fore, and in Kentucky they tend to prefer spearmint and add it to 1.3 oz. Bourbon, 1.5 tsp sugar, and water to finish up the cocktail. 

Usain Bolt is legit. I love to watch him crush the records. He is amazing.

Basketball is fun to watch to.

I interrupted his thought. “Don’t you think that allowing the professional athletes into the Olympics was a mistake though?

It sort of lost the mystery of the competition in a way.

I brought him back to 1989, through the leadership of President Borislav Stanković, FIBA approved the rule that allowed NBA players to compete in international tournaments, including the Olympics. In the next Olympics in 1992, the “Dream Team” won the gold medal with an average winning margin of 44 points, and without calling a time out.

“It isn’t the same I don’t think. In 1980, the hockey coaches put together a group of men that were the best the country had to offer. They were college men that came together and won gold. Just me thinking…it isn’t the same.”

“Yeah you’re right…I guess I didn’t think about it from that perspective”, said Principal Franconi. “I guess its a lot like watching the NBA Playoffs.”

I said, “No offense to basketball fans, but its like watching paint dry for me.”

What about Phelps?

“Swimming, now were talking. Phelps is a beast. 20+ medals and counting. He is likely going to be the most decorated Olympic athlete in recent times. Maybe all time. He is a joy to watch. Wrestling, track and field, boxing…”

After I interviewed him, a couple of days went by and I ran into him. Principal Franconi followed up by adding to his list.

“Eddie after we talked that day I thought more about the Olympic games. I find myself turning on every TV in the house! I may not be in the room(s) for reasons of packing, cleaning, vacuuming, folding laundry, cooking dinner…

“Hold it right there”, I squawked. “You really expect our readers to believe you do all of that.”

“Of course, don’t you do that around your nest Eddie? I think he winked at me, but it may have just been my imagination. I firmly believe in sharing the household chores. I don’t expect the Mrs. to have to do it all.”

“Ah. Hmm”, I said. I squared my thoughts away. I live in a disposable home. I just build a new nest when this one gets dirty. I think Principal Franconi said that to get a kitchen pass from the wife to watch all the games, because I am sure she is going to read this.

Principal Franconi: Anyway, the more I thought about your original question I have found myself watching everything I can. As I said before I love sports in general. These summer games have been great to watch.”

“I got a question for you Eddie. What do think about the Zika scare and the golfers not wanting to go?”

“Zika”, I said. “I don’t see the big deal. She is a good looking lady who lives in Barecelona Spain and she’s probably married. They shouldn’t be hanging out with her anyway.

“Eddie”, principal Franconi said. “Zika is not a singer. That’s Shakira.”

Her official song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)”, became the biggest-selling World Cup song of all time. With over a billion views, it is one of the most-watched music videos on YouTube.

“Well I thought that couldn’t be right so I figured it must be some sort of Brazilian appetizer. You know, a dip you eat with toast points. Like a hummus or artichoke dip. Do they serve that in Rio? I know besides the feijoada, a popular plate they have variations of grilled bovine fillet, rice and beans, farofa and French fries, commonly called Filé à Osvaldo Aranha. I heard seafood is very popular over there, as is roasted chicken. I strongly recommend staying away from birds though”, as I showed him my claw in a fist.

Principal Franconi roared with laughter. “Eddie, Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters. They can also bite at night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. Haven’t you been watching the news”

“Great Odin’s Raven”, I said. “That’s awful, a virus?” The prinicipal was laughing at me…how rude, but i let it pass.

“News? No, I don’t watch the news. I get my news from the Free Beer and Hot Wings Show. But no wonder some players don’t want to go. I would have to consider the ramifications it would have for my family if I was to get infected.”

“Yeah, but Eddie. Its the Olympics. For me, I would throw caution to the wind. I would want to get my chance to winning a medal for my country.”

“I suppose, besides the mosquitoes down there are as big as baby chicks and they taste like…never mind.”

“Last question, what is your vision for ABVM Athletics?”

Principal Franconi: I hope that our student athletes take away life long skills from our sports program. I hope they understand how to work together as a team. Discipline is an amazing gift to attain at this level. I define discipline as working hard at practice to perform at a high level…giving 100% all the time.

Kids can instill time management practices while playing sports. You have to be conscience of the fact that you have to fit moments in your day. Organizing your life around a busy schedule takes practice. As you grow older you will understand the benefits.

“Hold onto that thought. I need a moment for a movement.” I ruffled my feathers and headed to the bathroom.

After a few moments went by, “Everything okay Eddie?” asked Principal Franconi.

I flew back into position on the chair. I brought my wing across my brow. “Yeah, I’m good now. The worms weren’t agreeing with my stomach. Walking taco’s would have been way better to eat…I miss our cook Mrs. Julie. As you were saying about the athletes?”

Principal Franconi: I wanted to finish my thought by saying it’s important for kids today to realize that there is nothing bad about losing. Kids need to learn how to lose because life is not always about celebration and being the best.

“Its funny you say that’, I chirped in.

“How so?”

“I was just talking to a future 7th grader the other day about losing tournaments. This student echoed the same sentiment. He told me that if you don’t lose now and then, how do you know where your weaknesses are. You can always make adjustments and improvements to your game.”

“Precisely. I think a lot of the time kids just need to go out and have fun. Burn off some energy and enjoy yourself. No stress.”


That concluded my interview with Principal Franconi. As you can see we really had a lot of fun and got to know each other. I expect we will get along just fine this year. Look for more interviews as the year goes forward.

Eddie Eagle out.

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Phelps carries torch to Rio

Michael Phelps, who has never walked in an Olympic Opening Ceremony before, will carry the U.S. flag at the 2016 Rio Opening Ceremony on Friday, August 5. He was selected as the flag bearer by a vote of fellow Team USA members.

Phelps, set to compete in his fifth Olympic Games, is the most decorated Olympian of all time with 22 medals, 18 of which are gold.

Recently, Phelps was voted one of the six captains for the U.S. swim team, another honor he holds for the first time at the 2016 Games.

“I’m honored to be chosen, proud to represent the U.S., and humbled by the significance of carrying the flag and all it stands for,” Phelps said through a U.S. Olympic Committee statement. “For Sydney, I just wanted to make the team. For Athens, I wanted to win gold for my country. For Beijing, I wanted to do something nobody else had done. In London, I wanted to make history. And now, I want to walk in the Opening Ceremony, take it all in, represent America in the best possible way and make my family proud. This time around, it’s about so much more than medals.”

As the flag bearer, Phelps will sport a special illuminated USA blazer created by Polo Ralph Lauren.

Sabre fencer and two-time Olympic gold medalist Mariel Zagunis carried the flag at the 2012 Opening Ceremony in London.

Part one Principal Interview with Eddie Eagle

I, Eddie Eagle, had a chance to sit down with our new principal earlier this week to talk about food, athletics, and the impact sports has on our youth today. We had a great Q & A dialogue and I would like to share his and my thoughts. This is part one of a two part interview.

Below is the first segment.

When I arrived Principal Franconi was in the middle of arranging his office and the place was a disaster. He was settling in, so to speak. He had just finished up his lunch of sloppy joe’s, which when described at how he made it, well let’s just say it sounded like a meatball marinara sub recipe without the meatballs. I promptly moved on to recommend eating some of Miss Julie’s meals. We talked about the wonderful lunches that the school has to offer during the school year from our two great cooks. 

After discussing sloppy joe recipes and proper dieting we jumped into my first round of questions.

Eddie Eagle:  What sports do you favor or rather what do you enjoy watching ?

Principal Franconi: well Mr. Eagle, can I call you Eddie, it seems more informal.

Eddie Eagle: “No!”, I said as I flapped my wings at him. “At this point we don’t know each other that well.” I sat stone-beaked for a few seconds while he re-adjusted himself in his seat. After a few moments of silence I started chirping at him in good spirit and flashed my yellow beak in a big grin. “Of course sir…from one eagle to now, a new one. I am very excited to be your friend.” Principal Franconi is a West Catholic Falcon, I figured it made him somewhat aviary like, being a friend of Freddie Falcon and all. Although, we all know that the Eagle is much higher in the bird pyramid.

Eddie Eagle: so back to my question…favorite sport? I said grinning again.

Principal Franconi: Lions on Sunday doesn’t get any better for me. Tigers baseball is fun to watch right now too.


Eddie Eagle: That sort of led me to my next question. Favorite sports teams in college or professional?

Principal Franconi: Favorite sports teams. He paused for a few minutes on this one sports fans. I love the Detroit Lions for a pro team.

It was at this point I choked on a worm that I was snacking on…I had scrounged around for some Chocolate upon my arrival that Mrs. Kleeves usually has hidden in her desk, but she was not due in yet. Nor had her supplier been in to add to the snack drawer.

I quickly pointed out the Lions have exactly one playoff appearance to their name in the 21st century. They’re even on a seven-game playoff losing streak: Their last playoff win came on January 5, 1992, one day before Ndamukong Suh celebrated his fifth birthday.

That’s a brutal run.  Detroit fans been forced to suffer through the worst stretch of professional football ever.

Principal Franconi: “wow that is rough. But we are Michiganders right? U of M is my favorite college team.

He quickly changed gears not wanting to dwell on the bad choice of the Lions

“Ah, a Harbaugh fan.” I said. “Best thing to come out of California was Joe Montana.” Which I promptly pointed out that Joe was a Notre Dame grad and we all know that Irish Football is the only team to cheer on. At this point I segued into the next question getting him off the hot seat.


Eddie Eagle: What sports did you play growing up?

Principal Franconi: “Well a few I’d say. I played football in high school and college. I ran a little track and wrestled a little too. It kept this Italian boy out of trouble, so I did as much as I could. I just love sports.”

Eddie Eagle: If you could have dinner with any four athletes who would it be and why?

Principal Franconi: “oh boy…what a great question. Going back to my Detroit Lions fav team statement, I would love to hang out with Barry Sanders. No further explanation for that pick. Greatest running back in Lions history…enough said.

“Chris Spielman would be my second choice.”

I recognized the name, but thought he played for the Chicago Bears.

“He was a graduate from Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, where he was awarded the Dial Award for the national high-school scholar-athlete of the year in 1983. He was the first high school athlete to have his picture on a box of Wheaties. He also went to Ohio State University with a degree in recreation education. He was a two-time All-American, intercepted 11 passes, and won the Lombardi Award as the best college football lineman or linebacker. Spielman was drafted 29th in the 1988 NFL Draft, by the Detroit Lions.”

He leaned back in his chair and continued on.

“The trait I admired most of Chris’ was his work hard and play hard attitude. ”

“Michael Jordan would be a great person to have dinner with too. Except he would likely stink up the room with his cigars. Jordan is, in my opinion, the greatest basketball player ever.”

“Finally, I would like to round out the dinner table with ‘the captain’ of the Detroit Red Wings.”

For those that aren’t hockey followers I must interject here. There have been many players that wore the “C” on the winged wheel jersey, but when someone says Steve Yzerman  voted to be the most popular athlete in Detroit sports history, locals often simply refer to Yzerman as “The Captain. Steve is widely considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. Yzerman spent his entire NHL playing career with the Detroit Red Wings and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Prior to the 1986–87 season at the age of 21, Yzerman was named captain of the Red Wings and continuously served for the next two decades (dressing as captain for over 1,300 games), retiring as the longest-serving captain of any team in North American major league sports history. Yzerman led the Wings to five first-place regular season finishes and 3 Stanley Cup championships (1997, 1998 and 2002).

“The tenacity and commitment of Steve Yzerman is astonishing. I would be so lucky to hear from these four gentlemen to talk about life lessons for our student athletes and just to listen to their stories.”

He looked at me smiling as I ate another delicious worm.

“Of course I wouldn’t subject them to my sloppy joe dinner. I’d have to treat them to a nice home-cooked italian meal. A little pasta and toss it with fresh ricotta cheese, a little grated pecorino and salt & pepper. Follow that up with Grilled Chicken with lemony Sicilian Salmoriglio Sauce. Finally a little Chocolate Gelato. Just saying.”

It was at this point the worms weren’t doing it for me anymore. I mean seriously…he had me at Chocolate Gelato. 

That wraps up part 1 of my interview with the new principal Mr. Franconi. I am putting together the rest of the interview which will be ready next week. Please check back.

Eddie Eagle flying away for now.