It’s a Girl Thing

As thrilling as the advent of Web-accessible, high-definition video may be, I guess I’m old fashioned. I still prefer the moment-captured, visceral impact of a good photograph. Better yet that the photograph is set on top of good audio, not only making the picture worth even more than a thousand words, but imbuing an I-was-there kind of feeling. I also think the still-audio combination engages the viewer’s imagination a lot more than the video version of talking pictures, which is too literal, in both production and consumption, for my taste.

The industry standard format of this sort of presentation is called Soundslides, a creation by Joe Weiss that is so pervasive, it is to audio slideshows what Xerox is to copying or Kleenex is to tissues.

Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 1250, 1/500th at f2.2.
Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 1250, 1/500th at f2.2.

Joe makes creating Soundslides much easier (in fact, Joe by his lonesome redefines the term “personal customer service), but that isn’t to say that creating a presentation is easy. On the contrary, I’ve heard plenty of newspaper photogs, for example, say they have to change their way of shooting. Accustomed to finding “the” moment, they now have to shoot even images to produce a usable set of a dozen, 20, sometimes many more, to tell a story. I’ve also heard many print shooters grumble that too many photographers throw a bunch of mediocre images together, thinking they have created a worthy presentation.

What got me to this post is Florangela asking me, a few Soundslides projects ago, whether one could tell by the audio whether the girl’s basketball event I was documenting was different than a boy’s. I think the answer undoubtedly is yes, but the question got me thinking more about what does make the presentation distinguishable from both an audio and visual perspective.

(As an aside, I have done, and will continue to do, stories in my Soundslides. The following about the final games of a high-school star with her hall-of-fame coach, is one example:

The Long Goodbye

I mostly do reports, showing interesting players or things that happened, with audio that tries to enhance or illuminate the photos).

So I am breaking down my latest Soundslides presentation, It’s a Girl Thing, from the Washington State Class 4A championships, in an effort to show what distinguishes the girl’s event from a boy’s event and, in the process, illustrate how I go about thinking through and collecting components for a Soundslides presentation.

Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 1250, 1/500th at f2.2.
Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 1250, 1/500th at f2.2.

First of all, I don’t have the same problem that some do with shooting volumes of images. I started out as a Web photographer, for one thing, and am accustomed to shooting for inventory to provide fresh images on ESPN HoopGurlz throughout the year. It’s important to me to get good basketball action shots because girls constantly are breaking down old stereotypes and should be shown being athletic or tough, for example. But with girls, it’s equally important to try keeping equal focus away from the ball — in the female version of basketball, that’s where so much of the action is.

Generally, one also needs to think in sequences, which many tend to think as beginning, middle and end, which is true, but visually it’s also far or wide, medium and closeup. The action photo above is about as far away as I’ll shoot. I think that one works because it’s packed with information — one girl is reeling, another is covering up, while the bench erupts in the background. An example of an even wider shot might be one of the court and stands from a high perspective, or even of the outside of the arena. The purpose of such a shot would be establishing place.

Nikon D3, 85mm f1.4, ISO 1000 1/500th at f1.4.
Nikon D3, 85mm f1.4, ISO 1000 1/500th at f1.4.

Some would think of this shot of Kelsey Callaghan and Alyssa Charlston (which I’m using to show some of the wild size disparities in girl’s basketball) as a medium shot, but it, too, could be a far or wide shot. I tend to think of the first photo in this post of Emily Harris as a medium shot, though some would consider it a closeup. But a closeup, to me, is something really close. Maybe just Emily’s face (though I wanted the “hair” shot as an example of something “girlie” that happens in girl’s basketball). Or the closeup of Kylie Huerta splitting defenders (see the presentation for that one and think about what you expected to see versus what I showed).

Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 1250, 1/500th at f2.
Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 1250, 1/500th at f2.

Or this one. This is Alysse Harris of Garfield. Are there many players wearing argyle socks in boy’s basketball? I doubt it. I could have gotten closer yet on Alysse’s shoes, to better show how she and a lot of other girls personalize their sneakers by drawing or writing inspirational notes or names.

I like getting bench shots, though I didn’t get any for this particular presentation. I also try to watch the cheerleaders some. They’re part of the game, too.

Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 1250, 1/500th at f2.
Nikon D700, 200mm f2.0 lens, ISO 1250, 1/500th at f2.

As for the audio, the first thing I’d say is avoid skimping. People will tell you audio quality doesn’t matter, but do you notice that my sound is clear and in stereo? The users at ESPN HoopGurlz sure do, which is why I use a high-quality recorder and microphones. I love using ambient sound from games, but not just any random sounds. Sometimes I’ll break up the “ambi” with interview clips.

In the case of this particular presentation, I went off-ball, the way I did for some of the images. I took a shotgun mic behind the benches and stayed there until some state-association Nazi kicked me out. Then I took the shotgun down on the baseline and aimed it at the benches. Sometimes I’ll get the chanting and rhythmic clapping that is fairly unique to girl’s basketball. In this case, I caught some chatter and encouragement. It’s a little subtle, but it’s something that distinguishes the sport.

In the end, it’s the combination of the images, which provide the pow, and the audio, contributing some underlying definition, that make this a “girl thing.”

For the complete presentation:

It’s a Girl Thing

3 thoughts on “It’s a Girl Thing

  1. glennnelson

    That, and the D3, really changed my professional life (since I basically take photos in caves — ie., dimly lit high-school gymnasiums). And as you can see from my 4A photos, when the lighting is decent, everything really pops.

  2. Pingback: Visual Inspiration: Posts on “detail shots” and sequencing « Supraprint

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