Rent A Lens For A Sporting Event

The reality is that a high quality lens, combined with a fast camera body, make an extraordinary difference when you’re shooting a sporting event. That’s why you see the pro sports photographers lugging around lenses the size of a fullback’s thigh. Those lenses (and the cameras attached to them) ain’t cheap.

But what do you do if you want to photograph a special sports event? What if you’ve got an opportunity to get down on the field for a pro ball game? Or, you want to get some high quality images from your son or daughter’s big game?

The answer is to rent a lens!

Renting a pro lens, camera body, and other expensive camera equipment suddenly levels the playing field for “weekend warrior” photographers.

Here’s my recommendation: rent one of the following lenses for a weekend and you won’t be dissapointed. You’ll come away with some shots that will make your mouth water. Friends and family will want prints. You’ll have a blast renting a big, fat, pro lens. You’ll be addicted. I guarantee it!

Nikon 300mm f/2.8 or Canon 300mm f/2.8

This lens is fixed at 300mm f/2.8. That’s nice and tight and you’ll be right up where the action is. The shallow depth of field coupled with 300mm means that you’re going to get the subject super sharp and the background nice and blurry – the way you want it. Also, don’t forget, if you don’t have one you’ll also need a monopod, or tripod to hold this monster. The massive lens mounts onto the monopod or tripod, not your camera body!

RENT NOW — Nikon 300mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses (buy the insurance!)

RENT NOW — Canon 300mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses (buy the insurance!)

Nikon 400mm f/2.8 or Canon 400mm f/2.8

This 400mm lens is also fixed at f/2.8. Get ready to submit some shots to Sports Illustrated. The shallow depth of field you’ll be able to achieve is crazy. And talk about being up tight and close. Your friends and neighbors will see the shots you produce and be throwing money at you to buy an image of their kid catching a fly ball in the outfield. You may even recoup your lens rental fee!

RENT NOW — Nikon 400mm f/2.8 from Borrow Lenses (buy the insurance!)

RENT NOW — Canon 400mm f/2.8 from Borrow Lenses (buy the insurance!)

Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 or Canon 70-200 f/2.8

Consider the 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lens if you’ll be closer to the action and need to zoom in and out. You’re still able to achieve f/2.8 all the way from 70 to 200mm so you’re all set with shooting in low light and that sweet shallow depth of field. The 70-200 is a professional photographer’s workhorse and would make an ideal second lens to carry on your backup camera (ha ha).

RENT NOW — Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 from BorrowLenses

RENT NOW — Canon 70-200 f/2.8 from BorrowLenses

The very nature of most sporting events means fast-moving action. And the excitement of the moment is often times focused on one or two players in close proximity. For you, as a photographer, this translates to the following:

Frames Per Second - You need to crank out as many frames per second (FPS) as possible. Make sure you’ve got your camera set to burst mode. If you’re going to be serious about this you’ll need a camera body that lets you pull off 8 FPS. You don’t want to miss that critical moment! Here, rent one of these pro bodies and you’ll be firing off more than 8 FPS. And you’ll get “the look” from people. They’ll be thinking, is s/he a pro??

RENT NOW — Nikon D3S from BorrowLenses

RENT NOW — Canon 1D Mark IV from BorrowLenses

Depth of Field - A shallow depth of field will make your subject pop. Shooting a telephoto lens at a wide aperture (low F-stop) will allow you to keep the subject in tack sharp focus while blurring the background. A long telephoto lens, like a Nikon 400mm f/2.8 will do nicely.

Shutter Speed - While you’re bursting away at 8 FPS you’ll also want to be down to at least 1/1000 of  second to freeze the action. Anything less than 1/1000 of a second and there may be some motion blur.

ISO - The limited light of a gymnasium means you’ll have to turn up the ISO so that you can achieve that 1/1000 of a second shutter speed. The higher the ISO, the faster the shutter speed you can select. Remember, you want to achieve at least 1/1000 of a second. If you’re inside a gym you’ll need to turn up that ISO.

The Sports Camera Settings

If you’re outside on a relatively sunny day set your ISO to 200. Get your big lens mounted on a monopod or tripod. Make sure you’re in Continuous Shooting (burst) mode. Shutter speed shouldn’t be a factor. Use Aperture Priority mode, select f/2.8, and go crazy.

If you’re inside, or dealing with limited light, set your ISO as necessary, up to 1600. Put the lens on the monopod or tripod. Make sure you’re on burst mode. Still set your aperture to f/2.8. Periodically check to make sure you’re achieving at least 1/1000 of a second.


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I was in Tanzania earlier this year. It was a brief trip that no one knew about, until now. You see, I’m disclosing it on my photography blog for the first time. I was just gone. 17 days I was missing.

This is what I saw!

Early one morning I heard a rustling noise and some panting outside of my tent. This is what I saw—a fierce male lion. The king of the jungle. You can imagine how I felt. I’m glad to be alive.

Okay… not really. I didn’t really go to Africa. Only in my dreams.

But I did go to the San Diego Wild Animal Park!

The Real Story

Thanks to the knowledgeable guide at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, I found out that lions make this snarling face, not because they’re angry, but because they’re sniffing. That’s right, they’re sniffing. Have you ever made a funny, crinkly nose face when you’re smelling something in the air and you’re trying to identify the smell? That’s what the lions are supposedly doing. They’re opening up an even better pathway to their keen sense of smell.

I’ve also posted this photo on Flickr.

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Milton watched me leave a friend’s house in San Francisco. When I walked by him he said that he saw me leaving. He said he knew my friend and just about everyone else on the block, but hadn’t seen me before. He asked me if I was my friend’s father, which made me feel old.

This portrait is part of the $2 Portrait series on Flickr.

While they’re usually unpleasant to look at, awkward to talk to, and uncomfortable to think about, these people are part of the urban community. 66% of the homeless have unchecked mental health disorders and/or are substance abusers… and they’re stuck in a rut. You see, they’re a lot like you and me. For an estimated 3.5 million people in the U.S. they are you and me. Milton’s no exception.

More about Milton

Milton is 56 years old and was born in Memphis. Just a tad too young to get drafted for Vietnam he picked up early in life and moved to Colorado, then finally landed in California. His southern roots and time in Colorado make for a pleasing drawl.

He spent 14 years as a janitor, then moved up to becoming a security guard, which he did for 11 years.

In 2004 he severely broke his ankle after falling off a city park roof while fetching a boy’s Frisbee.

The accident set him way back and he wasn’t able to continue his job as a security officer. While he was in the hospital he lost his apartment, was unable to claim disability, and found himself homeless inside of 6 weeks. That’s the way it is for a lot of people. They’re just a paycheck, or so, from homelessness.

He started sleeping under a freeway overpass, and met a bunch of other homeless people who quickly took him under their wing and introduced him to the “art” of panhandling. Quickly, Milton was able to scrape enough money together to rent his own place. He knew he was going to make it.

Now he’s fallen into a rut. He knows he can earn enough panhandling to keep his place, he’s able to draw social security since he worked for 25 years, and he knows a lot of people in the neighborhood. He’s got a routine.

I spent 5 minutes talking with Milton and got this whole lowdown. He didn’t seem like he was delusional, or on drugs, but I could smell that he’d been throwing a few back.

While we were talking, the police walked up and started harassing Milton, asking him to quit panhandling in front of Walgreens and to move on. They used strong language, threatened him with arrest, and discouraged him from being on the street. Milton shrugged it off and said it was a daily occurrence.

Milton pushed his walker two blocks up, set his plastic Taco Bell drink cup on the ground and started over again. He said he normally works until 3:00 when he’s usually done, earning enough to get some food and pay for another week’s rent.

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Photowalk with Marc Silber & Thomas Hawk

On Saturday, June 26, 2010 Marc Silber and Thomas Hawk are leading a photowalk starting at Cafe Zoe in Menlo Park, Calif.

This is a great opportunity to spend some quality time with some accomplished photographers. I plan on being there!

Marc Silber is is the Director of the Marc Silber Show, a show about how to advance your photography. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend it. Marc, himself an accomplished commercial photographer, interviews world-famous photographers and gets the type of insight and tips that help photographers at all levels.

Thomas Hawk is photographer with the impressive goal of publishing 1,000,000 pictures before he dies. Wow. You can read more about Thomas Hawk and see his images on his website.

For more information, check out this post on Upcoming.

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Vincent Laforet HDDSLR Cinema Workshop Review

Vincent Laforet directed a unique and informative primer on HDDSLR. The 3-day workshop was available live, as a free  video broadcast on CreativeLIVE. Thousands of people from all over the world tuned in. Also, there was a small group of workshop participants at the actual studio location in Seattle, Washington.

Introduction to HDDSLR Cinema
An Introduction to HDDSLR Cinema
  • The workshop will be available as a course that you can purchase. If you’re interested in how to take the next step and get serious about HDDSLR film making I highly recommend buying the course. I’m certain that there will be information about how to purchase the course on the CreativeLIVE site.

CreativeLIVE is a 4-year-old online worldwide training classroom. They offer a good variety of courses on photography.

The cinematography workshop was geared towards DSLR enthusiasts who have been immersed in still photography but who are now curious about how to approach “film.”

HD video has become impossible for photographers to ignore. HD functionality is baked into many of the new prosumer DSLR cameras. Photographers are jumping into unfamiliar waters. Laforet’s course lays out a rubric for photographers who want to dabble in making quality HD movies.

The workshop was akin to a crash course in cinematography. Laforet, an accomplished still photographer, methodically introduced the basics of cinematography as he understands them. It’s important to note that Laforet has tons more experience as a still photographer. His role of “professor” in this course on how to do film is something that you’ll have to accept based on his ability to passionately relay what he’s learned, much like this blog, WIDE OPEN. Still, Foret’s an ideal teacher because he has an impressive bio and is arguably the ideal person to serve as an HDDSLR evangelist.

Some of my learnings from the HDDSLR workshop:

  • Making a film is way different from still photography!
  • Editing the film is a “make it, or break it” part of the creative process.
  • The idea of the film is king; therefore, content is king. Compromise on quality, but not content.
  • Motion pictures are all about motion. Go figure! Beware of too many static shots.
  • Audio quality is very important. 50% of the film is consumed with the ear.
  • Using a sturdy tripod (referred to as “sticks” in the film world) is a must, along with a fluid head.
  • The process of concept creation, story boarding, filming, then editing is an extremely time-consuming process.
  • Film making is a team effort, whereas photography can be a very solitary activity.

I hope this review was helpful for you. Let me know if I missed anything, or you have any contributions.

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D-Town TV: Tips for both Nikon & Canon

Link to D-Town TVI think I have watched every online episode of Kelby Training’s D-Town TV. Each free episode features useful tips and tutorials about digital photography. The first season is focused solely on Nikon gear and tips, but all recent episodes contain a less prejudice mixture of both Nikon and Canon information.

The show is hosted by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski. Scott is behind a media group that includes Kelby Training, D-Town TV, and more. Matt is a Photoshop whiz and is probably on track to creating his own fiefdom. The show is typically 15 minutes long, with just a dash of advertising. It’s easy to watch and professionally done. I learn something every time.

If you haven’t yet checked it out, it’s worth a visit!

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The 70-200mm Lens – A Workhorse

Any professional photographer will have a few lenses that are his/her “money makers” – lenses that are used frequently, for a variety of different shooting situations. The 70-200mm lens is one of them – one of the most popular professional lenses in the world. And if the pros rely on it, it may be worth checking out!

The 70-200mm is a great choice for:

Low light sporting events (perhaps an indoor volleyball game); indoor event.

Events (a concert at the park, a wedding, a parade); indoor events; challenging lighting; without flash.

Portraits – Because of the f/2.8 you can get a continuous shallow depth of field at any focal length, which softens the background and makes for a nice portrait. Read my blog post on depth of field if you want to know what that means.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Canon 70-200 f/2.8
Canon 70-200 f/2.8

How to get your hands on one

Rent one – This is by far and away the easiest, lowest-cost-of-entry method of playing around with this beautiful lens. You can rent one for the better part of the week for less than you would spend on a good dinner for 2 at your favorite local restaurant. So what are you waiting for? Get one for the weekend. You’ll end up with some photos that your friends and family will love.

If you’ve got a Canon DSLR, click here to check rental pricing

If you’ve got a Nikon DSLR, click here to check rental pricing

Sample taken with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
Sample taken with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

Buy one – This is a natural, albeit dangerous next step, to renting one. After renting it, you’ll surely fall in love with this lens and beg, borrow, or steal to get one in your camera bag. But you’re going to faint when you see how much these buggers cost. Sigma and Tamron make a comparable 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, so they’re also a good choice, especially if you want to save more than 50%.

Click here to price one. And remember, these are relatively low prices from B&H.

Talk to your local photo store salesperson – Many professional photography stores that sell nice D-SLR cameras and lenses will also have a rental department. And many times they will discount the sale price of your lens by the amount you spent on the rental of the same type of lens. Ask nicely if they’re willing to do that. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s a win/win arrangement and makes you feel more comfy about the purchase. Also, you’ll be more likely to return to that same store and buy lots more stuff. But beware of the hidden costs of owning a D-SLR.


There’s no arguing that both the Nikon NIKKOR 70-200mm and the Canon “L” series 70-200mm lenses are superb and perhaps unrivaled, except by maybe Tamron and Sigma. If you’ve got either a Canon or Nikon D-SLR do yourself a favor and at least rent the 70-200 f/2.8 lens. Switch your camera tot aperture priority mode (A) and ensure you’ve got that aperature at f/2.8 most of the time, unless you need more depth of field for something.

Take it to sporting event where you can relatively close – like a volleyball or soccer game; take it to a family gathering where you know you’re going to be taking lots of pictures in challenging lighting situations. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll enjoy the results of what a high quality piece of glass can do for your images.

Nikon NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VR IF-ED

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM

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