Summer Volleyball Tournament

The Cambridge Volleyball Club was arranging a Summer Tournament this weekend so I went there to photograph Christiana and her friend Alice. As usual, if you want to see a photo bigger, click on it.

Alice Hsieh and Christiana Smyrilli take to the court. The matches were played on grass. Here I photographed them from a low angle to try and silhouette them against the beautiful sky. In addition to my usual tweaking of the curves I have also darkened the blues. Another option would be to invest in a polarising filter which is commonly used in landscape and other outdoor photography.

I did not feel like carrying a lot of stuff so only brought my new 35 mm lens with me, this meant that I needed to get in close on the action to get good shots. I spent a good deal of the time sitting underneath the net, which placed me centrally and gave me an interesting angle. The good light meant I could shoot at a fast shutter time (1/1000) and a smaller aperture f/8 or f/9, ISO was kept at 200. This meant I could freeze the action, and still have a good deal of depth of field in case the focus was not spot on due to movement. As I have mentioned before I use the AF-ON button at the back of my camera to focus, which means that if I hold down that button it will track the person I’m focusing on. I wrote a bit on the AF-ON functionality before (it is hidden away in this post).

I like this shot as it conveys a bit of the action on the field. Composition-wise you have a line from the lower right corner going up to the ball, forming a triangle with the line of people. These lines entice the eye to explore the photo.
A close-up of the ball. I liked how the logo echoes the composition.
I watched a TED talk by Benjamin Zanderabout about how classical music is often constructed (watch it if you have not seen it before). The main point was about building tension, and having the listener wait for the resolution. What I have tried to start doing now is to capture an event before the resolution, creating a bit of tension and anticipation. Here rather than capturing the clap of hands, I take the photo a moment before.
Here I am shooting through the net to try to use it as a frame for the players. I made the photo into black and white, and added an inverted vignetting (made the corners slightly lighter and less contrasty) to draw the viewer into the picture.
Action shot, with the arm providing a clear direction pointing at the ball. I cropped the picture since just right of the net were a group of people watching the game on the neighbouring court. If they had been watching the game on our court then their eye-lines would had lead the viewer back into the photo, but with their backs turned they did not provide much support. You can also see that I played with a texture on top of the photo here.
I like this shot, it has a sense of movement and also depth in the picture. Two comments to myself, one I cut off the legs of the right girl, and two there is someone just behind her hands making her form not completely clear. If I had paid closer attention then I might have photoshopped the latter.


When I started photographing volleyball there were a lot of shots without the ball in it. I have since become better at including it, as it provides a purpose to the players’ actions. This time around I got the idea to start gathering ball-less photos such as this one, which looks funny. Maybe I will even start photoshopping out the ball just to focus on some of the interesting poses the players find themselves in sometimes.
Not entirely convinced by the positioning of the net in my shot, but other than that I am happy with how it came out. Can you see the triangle?
“Ok Alice, you stand still Christiana, you jump… wait, let me just focus first”. This is the focusing shot that turned out better than the actual jump shot. Notice the strand of hair that goes down to her mouth. I cropped out the ear to emphasise the semi-circle it makes. Yet another guide for your eyes in the photo.
Alice diving for the ball. I desaturated the background to put the focus on her. This is staged, taken after the games finished.
Another ball-less photo, but I liked the pose. Was tempted to photoshop in a ball, but been sitting here at the computer too long already today.
This photo makes volleyball look like a martial arts kata. Block!
Last photo of the morning. Getting up early makes the day appear so much longer.

If you are into sports photography, have a look at the other volleyball photo sessions I have done before (Oxford, training and beach).

That is it for this time. Yet again the camera gets me out into the sun doing fun stuff. Hope you also had a good weekend!

– Johannes

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