Archive images of GB Gymnasts now online

1 01 2011

New additions to the  Gymnastics library include archive photos of GB #Gymnasts #Lisa Mason and #Rhythmic gymnast #Debbie Southwick.  The gallery will largely contain images scanned from transparencies taken before the launch of the Nikon D1.It is a project I have been looking to do for a long time.I have about 10,000 images both in colour and B&W waiting to be scanned and archived. The earliest photos date back to 1984. The first of the photos can be viewed and purchased at the  following link

GB Gymnast Lisa Mason

Alan Edwards    Official Photographer to British Gymnastics

Juniors join world-class Seniors in 2011 National Squad

15 12 2010
PDF Print E-mail
bglogo2Men’s Artistic National Squad Selections 2011 – The majority of Britain’s Junior European Team Champion gymnasts, now make the move up to the Senior Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Squad announced for 2011. 

The selection sees gymnasts such as Junior European All Around Champion Sam Oldham (Huntingdon), Junior European Pommel and Floor Champion Max Whitlock (South Essex) and triple Commonwealth Silver medallist Reiss Beckford (South Essex) unite with World Pommel Silver medallist Louis Smith (Huntingdon), World Floor Bronze medallist Daniel Purvis (Southport), Commonwealth Games All-around Champion Luke Folwell (Huntingdon) and 2009 World All Around Silver medallist Daniel Keatings (Huntington) together in the British Senior Squad.

The depth of talent in the British Men’s programme is clear to see as Kristian Thomas (Earls), Sam Hunter (Unattached), Ruslan Panteleymonov(Hinckley), Yevgen Gryshchenko (Hinckley) and Theo Seager (Bury), all of whom have competed on the World stage for Britain, along with new Seniors Cameron Mackenzie, who was part of the Junior European Champion Team in 2010, and Ashley Watson who has recently returned from injury, make up the remainder of the Squad.

Olympic Performance Director Tim Jones said: “We now feel the time is right to promote some of our outstanding Juniors into the Senior ranks, but also start providing a comprehensive package of support to some of the young gymnasts who will form the backbone of our 2016 Olympic Team in Rio. This list of selections shows a remarkable depth of talent and is testimony to the progress that has been made in the Men’s Artistic Programme in recent years.”

Men’s Technical Director Eddie Van Hoof said: “What an exciting time to be involved in the Men’s Artistic programme. The commitment and depth of talent in the Squad, shown by the gymnasts and coaches at all levels, is a tribute to the level of high performance that has come to be expected. Gymnasts are now fighting for the right to gain international selection. This has extended down through the ranks to the new TOP Juniors (2016), who have the tough task of following the success of previous teams. I am positive that they will meet the challenge ‘head on’ and succeed.”

The Senior gymnasts will be looking ahead to a crucial year of competition in 2011 with the European Championship held in Berlin (GER) April 6 – 10, and then the World Championships in Tokyo (JPN) Oct. 08 – 16.

From British Gymnastics website

Luke and Cameron win in South Africa

6 12 2010

Luke and Cameron win in South Africa
The new Commonwealth Games All-around Champion Luke Folwell rounded up the most successful year in his career by winning the victories on Rings and P. Bars, Silver on High Bar and Bronze in the All-around and Pommels at The Bumbo Cup in Johannesburg (South Africa), Saturday, 4 December 2010.

Further photos of Luke can be found at


Luke Folwell in action at the Mens British Championships

Glasgow Grand Prix Gymnastics 2010

21 11 2010

Photos online at

Hannah Whelan in action

Kuksenkov of Russia on High Bar

2010 Glasgow Grand Prix
Kelvin Hall – November 20th

The British gymnasts finished with a magnificent 5 medals at the Glasgow Grand Prix World Cup Event.

Hannah Whelan Silver on Beam, Jenni Pinches Bronze on Floor, Imogen Cairns Silver on Vault, Theo Seager Silver on Vault and Louis Smith Gold on Pommel.

Louis Smith fresh from his recent World Championship Silver medal once again produced the goods to take the Pommel Horse Gold medal scoring 15.550 ahead of great rival Kristian Berki in second -15.300.

Louis said: “I’m really pleased with my routine today and the Gold medal against a truly World class field in Glasgow, including the two former World Champions. This year I’ve achieved everything I set out to do and next year I will be unleashing a bit more difficulty and continue to progress towards my goals at London 2012.”

Theo Seager, the powerhouse of the Men’s Team took the Vault Silver behind Chile’s Gonzalez, Theo scored 15.875 on Vault and also made the Rings Final.

Imogen Cairns, Commonwealth Vault Champion and recent World Vault finalist took the Silver on “her” piece, with 13.875.

Hannah Whelan, 2010 British Champion took Australian Lauren Mitchell on in the Beam competition and came a very close second with 14.500 behind Lauren’s 14.675.

Jenni Pinches then took her first ever Grand Prix medal with the Bronze on Floor scoring 14.150.

Daniel Purvis failed to medal but produced solid routines in his 3 Finals, whilst debutant Ashley Watson competed in the High Bar Final.

Overall, Australian Lauren Mitchell was the star performer in the Women’s events, taking the Beam and Floor titles along with the Asymmetric Bars Bronze; Lauren said: “It’s been an amazing few months, not only for me but for the whole Australian Team. The Commonwealth Games was a great chance for us all to compete in a big event and get experience ahead of the World Championships, which were the big aim for the whole Team. To qualify for the next step of the Olympic Qualification was key so we were really happy with that and then of course for me to win the Floor title was just the icing on the cake – the day just went perfectly for me and I was amazed to get the title! Since the It’s been really hectic traveling to lots of events which have given me great experience. Here in Glasgow I’ve been really happy with my performance and winning the two title,s as the equipment wasn’t what I was used too so it show that I can adapt and work in a range of environments, which is important and shows I’m developing.”

The Men’s events were more evenly split with apparatus specialists battling it out on each separate piece.


1  KURBATOVA Ekaterina RUS 13.912
2 CAIRNS Imogen GBR  13.875
3 PINTO ADASME Makarena CHI 13.762
1  WU Liufang CHN 14.750
2 LOPEZ Jessica VEN 13.800
3  MITCHELL Lauren AUS 13.725
1  MITCHELL Lauren AUS  14.675
2  WHELAN Hannah GBR 14.500
3 LOPEZ Jessica VEN 13.975
1 MITCHELL Lauren AUS 14.800
2  PIHAN-KULESZA Marta POL  14.250
3 PINCHES Jennifer GBR 14.150

2 SEAGER Theo GBR  15.875
3 WAMMES Jeffrey NED  15.775
1 BALANDIN Aleksandr RUS 15.825
1  LIAO Junlin CHN 15.825
3 PLUZHNIKOV Konstantin RUS 15.625
1 SMITH Louis GBR 15.550
2 BERKI Krisztian HUN 15.300
3 BERTONCELJ Saso SLO 15.225
1 PETKOVSEC Mitja SLO 14.450
2 BERBECAR Daniel ROU 15.350
3 SABOT Hamilton FRA 15.325
1 SHATILOV Alexander ISR 15.375
2 GONZALEZ SEPULVEDA Enrique Tomas CHI  15.275
3 WAMMES Jeffrey NED  15.250
High Bar
1 MOZNIK Marijo CRO 15.225
2  KUKSENKOV Mykola UKR  15.150
2 WAMMES Jeffrey NED 15.150


With Yurchenko 1 1/2 twist and Yurchenko half on piked front off Imogen vaulted to a Silver medal, 13.875. Jennifer Pinches scored 13.337 with the Gold medal won by Ekaterina Kurrbatova of Russia, certainly the most accurate vaulter with Yurchenko 1 1/2 and Yurchenko half on piked front half off, 13.912.

Liufang Wu of China confirmed her qualifications dominance of the Bars with 6.1 difficulty and 14.75 to take Gold. Jessica Lopez, 13.8  and 13.725 for Lauren Mitchell of Australia were a league behind in difficulty and precision.

Lauren Mitchell of Australia found herself in a real battle with Britain’s Hannah Whelan with just 0.175 sending the Gold “down-under”. A great result for Hannah establishing her as a competitor on the World stage.

2 British gymnasts in such a quality final was a great inspiration for the audience. Jennifer Pinches held the Bronze medal with 14.15 as World champion Lauren Mitchell made a positive Gold performance. Hannah Whelan finished 5th.

As World Floor Champion Eletherios Kosmidis of Greece bombed, out Alexander Shatilov of Israel won the days first Gold medal with 15.375. For Dan Purvis of Great Britain 14.925 for 5th, not as precise as he can be.

Head to head once again, World Champion Kristian Berki and Louis Smith. Extreme elegance versus extreme difficulty.
For Louis 100% improved form to convince the judges that his outrageous difficulty takes full credit. 15.55 was an awesome target that no other could match. Berki straddled his Wu and 15.3 scored for Silver. An interesting Bronze went to Saso Bertoncelj of Slovenia who just may be the heir apparent to Smith and Berki.

Alexsander Balandin was the most convincing in shapes and holds, a pencil thin Maltese with 15.825. He was separated from Junlin Liao’s 15.825 by the complex countback rules using the E jury scores. Theo Seager, 13.7 for 8th; Rings is a very exclusive club.

Gold for Gonzales of Chile, he took a big risk with double piked Tsukahara and it was a good decision. For Theo Seager a hard won Silver with Roche and 2 1/2 twist for 15.75. Theo has the tenacity and single-mindedness to keep firing on all cylinders even when there is no petrol in the tank; born to succeed.

Mitja Petkovsek of Slovenia knocked Dan Purvis off the podium with the last routine of this final. His clarity of technique and elegance were outstanding.

Gold to Manjo Moznik of Croatia, whilst the youngest of British stars Ashley Watson enjoyed his first Grand Prix Final.

World Cup winners-

As the final event of the 2010 Grand Prix series the World Cup winners for the year were also announced-

Men’s Floor – Eletherios Kosmidis (GRE)
Pommel – Krisztian Berki (HUN)
Rings – Alexandr Baldandin (RUS)
Men’s Vault – Jeffery Wammes (NED)
Parallel Bars – Mitja Petkovsek (SLO)
High Bar – Mariji Moznik (SLO)

Women’s Vault – Tijana Tkalcec (CRO)
Bars – Liufang Wu (CHN)
Beam – Liufang Wu (CHN)
Floor – Jessica Lopez (VEN)

From British Gymnastics

Photos online at

Mens British Gymnastics Championships 2010

7 11 2010

Purvis and Hunter share the British title!

Sam Hunter & Courtney Tulloch

Kristian Thomas

Daniel Purvis

Sam Hunter


Daniel Purvis (Southport) and Sam Hunter (Unattached) both scored 86.250 to dramatically share the 2010 Men’s British Senior All-around title.

Arguably the most consistent performers in the historically successful British Team throughout the year; it is a fitting end that they share the title. World and European Floor Bronze medallist Dan Purvis has shown he can handle the pressure in the big competitions but it was Sam Hunter, back from injury in 2010 who had the pressure going into Rings, his last routine where a 14.550 score left him in a dead heat with his British teammate.

Ruslan Panteleymonov of Hinckley also a member of the British Team, competing in his ‘home gym’ took the Bronze with 85.900.

Daniel Purvis: “It’s been an incredible year and this is definitely one of the highlights, I had to pick myself up a bit after the excitement of the World Championships and I’m really happy I could pull out a clean competition and take the title. Me and Sam have battled all year and so to come joint 1st is a fitting end really. 2010 has been great, the Team Silver at the Europeans was maybe the happiest moment as it was for everyone but then the Individual European and World medals were just a dream as was the World All-around, hopefully its something I can repeat next year.”

Sam Hunter: “It’s been a great year for me. I have always had my eye on winning the British title as I felt I had the ability, today went quite well and the fact that it wasn’t perfect shows that the talent is there I think. We have some amazing gymnasts who are all competing at a great standard. I hope to now increase my difficulty before looking ahead to the next European Championships.”

All Around

HUNTER Sam – Unattached 86.250 1
PURVIS Daniel – Southport 86.250 1
PANTELEYMONOV Ruslan – Hinckley 85.900 3
THOMAS Kristian – Earls 85.100 4
FOLWELL Luke – Huntingdon 83.350 5
FIRTH Matthew – City Of Leeds  82.200 6


1 SEAGER Theo – Bury 15.725
1 FOLWELL Luke – Huntingdon  15.725
3 PANTELEYMONOV Ruslan – Hinckley 15.325


1 FERN Samuel – City Of Leeds Gym Club  14.700
2 PANTELEYMONOV Ruslan – Hinckley  14.650
3  HUNTER Sam – Unattached 14.550


1 SMITH Louis – Huntingdon 14.550
2 THOMAS Kristian – Earls  13.800
3 PURVIS Daniel – Southport 13.550

Parallel Bars

1 PANTELEYMONOV Ruslan – Hinckley  14.850
2 HUNTER Sam – Unattached 14.800
3 PURVIS Daniel – Southport  14.650

High Bar

1  SEAGER Theo – Bury 14.200
2 THOMAS Kristian – Earls 14.100
3 HUNTER Sam – Unattached 14.050


1 PANTELEYMONOV Ruslan – Hinckley 15.250
1 PURVIS Daniel – Southport  15.250
3 FOLWELL Luke – Huntingdon  14.800

07/11 – Under 18’s (Junior)

Sam Oldham (Huntingdon) firstly took Europe by storm at the 2010 Junior European Championships, then became a Champion at the Youth Olympics and has now sealed a superb year by being crowned the 2010 British Men’s Junior Champion.

With the final routine of the competition, on Parallel Bar, Sam dismounted to a big smile and 86.500 point to take the All-around title to add to his Junior European All-around crown. In second place was Max Whitlock (South Essex- 85.200) another gymnast who enjoyed his place on the medal rostrum at the European Championships; Ashley Watson (City of Leeds 83.550) took the Bronze.

Sam Oldham: “2010 has been an incredible year for me, capped of by this title. I started of with a few injuries at the beginning of the year and wasn’t even sure I would compete at the Europeans, but I did and it went brilliantly for me, (All Around, Team and High Bar Gold) and gave me the opportunity to compete at the first ever Youth Olympics in Singapore which was an awesome experience (High Bar Gold). The next thing I know I came back to Britain and was selected as reserve for the Senior World Championships Team! I traveled to Rotterdam and got to train on the podium along with the best gymnasts in the World, which was a really good learning experience. Then finally the British Championships title just seals the year, I went clean today on all 6 pieces, the next big challenge for me is to pass my driving test!”

07/11 – Under 16’s (Youth)

Courtney Tulloch (Pegasus) followed his victory at the 2010 UK Schools Games by taking the British Under-16 title in Leicester scoring 79.350.
Dominick Cunningham of Earls took the Silver (77.100) and Thomas Gibbs of Heathrow Bronze (76.100)

Courtney Tulloch: “I’m really pleased with today, last year I came 2nd and to now become British Champion is really amazing. It’s been a great year; I was UK Schools Games Champion and now this. I think I’m learning a lot and particularly how to perform under pressure, which is very important. Looking ahead to next year I want to keep progressing and hopefully make British Teams for Internationals.”

06/11- Under 12’s

Hamish Carter (Notts School) took the Boys Under 12 British title on the first day of competition at the 2010 Men’s British Championships in Leicester his score of 73.650 enough to take top spot ahead of Giarnni Regini-Moran (Waveney -72.950) and Tom Nicolaou (Pipers Vale – 72.850)

Photos from the event can be viewed and purchased  at


Mustafina and Uchimura World Champions

23 10 2010


China’s Kohei Uchimura dazzled the Rotterdam crowd to comfortably take the Men’s All Around World title scoring 92.331 a whole 2.283 points clear of the chasing pack.  Germanys Phillip Boy (90.048) took Silver, despite problems on his last piece, High Bar, meaning he had a nervy wait to secure a medal.  America’s Jonathon Horton (89.864) finished in Bronze, with Russian gymnast Maxim Devyatovskiy ruining his podium chances by falling twice on Pommels, his last piece of apparatus.

For Great Britain, once again two men in the top ten in the World, Dan Purvis (88.965) finished in a sensational 5th place with Sam Hunter (88.365) in 9th – Britain very firmly established in the World elite.


Russian sensation Aliya Mustafina (61.032) took the Women’s World All Around title with a superb display of consistency proving too good for China’s Yuyan Jiang (59.998) in Silver and America’s Rebecca Bross (58.966) who dramatically fell from Beam, her third piece of apparatus.

Britain’s Hannah Whelan put up a great fight but tired towards the end finishing in 16th with teammate Nicole Hibbert improving two places on her qualification ranking to finish in 22nd.




China’s Kohei Uchimura

China’s Kohei Uchimura

Aerobic Nationals

6 10 2010

Travelled down to the Rivermeade Sports Centre on Sunday to cover the Aerobic National Championships for British Gymnastics .Having said I would never drive for 400 miles in one day and cover a major Championship again! Still leaving at 6.00am on Sunday the traffic down to Reading was light although the rain was torrential. Arrived at 10.50am at the Rivermeade Sports Centre with just 5 minutes to the start of the competition.

The competition was dominated by  the outstanding success of the local Club Bulmershe who swept 13 out of the 16 National titlesfor the year.The remaining three titles in the FIG categories went to Weston AGC.

Chloe Farrance Photo by Alan Edwards

Photo by Alan Edwards

Emily Frost of Heathrow Gymnastics

Kayleigh Silva Photo by Alan Edwards

Laila Ladek of Aero Gym

Laila Ladek of Aero Gym

More photos available to view and order at

Media Day at British Gymnastics

21 09 2010

Photos now online at from the Media Day at Lilleshall NSC the home of British Gymnastics.

Becky Downie trains on beam

The British Womens Senior Team

More photos added UK School Games

21 09 2010

I have added more photos to the UK School Games Gallery. Some training and presentation shots.

Angel Romaeo of Wales

Gallery can be viewed at

Sports Photography Insights

9 09 2010


Light, in terms of its quantity, quality, and colour, is also the most important thing that affects the technical quality of sports pictures. Unfortunately, in most cases for sports action photography, there is not much you can do about any of these factors.

• Quantity – The amount of light illuminating our sports event plays a critical role in our ability to use a high shutter speed to freeze the action. At one extreme we can have an abundance of direct sunshine and plenty of light. At the other, we might have only a little light from a few dim bulbs in a poorly lit sports hall.

• Quality – This describes the light’s nature in terms of direction and softness or hardness. An example of hard light would be direct flash or noon sunshine where the light makes harsh shadows. An example of soft light would be an overcast sky on a cloudy day.

• Colour – Although our eyes are very good at adapting to light sources of many different colors, our cameras are more objective and will record colors accurately for the most part. Late afternoon or early morning light can be a beautiful warm red-yellow color. Light from the sky in open shade on a clear day can be a very cool blue color. Indoors, different light bulb types produce different colors. Tungsten bulbs produce red-yellow light, and some fluorescents can produce green. Different colour light sources can produce different colors in our images and this is why it is important to set the color balance correctly in a digital camera.

Adjusting the Exposure

Exposure is the amount of light that hits the sensor in our cameras and creates an image. In most cases, there is only one exposure that is correct. The amount of exposure must be adjusted to match the sensitivity of the sensor.

Photographers talk about exposure in terms of “stops”. A stop is simply when the amount of light changes by a factor of 2. If the exposure changes by a stop, then it either doubles or is cut in half.

We have two ways of controlling the amount of light that reaches the sensor in our cameras and determines the correct exposure. The shutter speed and the F/stop.

The camera’s ISO setting can also be adjusted to give further control over the exposure.

Shutter Speed

The shutter is a device in the camera in front of the sensor that opens and lets light hit the sensor. The amount of time the shutter is open is called the shutter speed.

Under conditions of low illumination, longer shutter speeds can be used to let more light into the camera to achieve the correct exposure.

Fast 1/1000th sec. shutter speed

Slow 1/40th sec. shutter speed

Shutter speeds are usually given in fractions of a second such as 1/1000th of a second, and full seconds, such as 5 seconds. Short shutter speeds are needed to stop movement and action in the subject. For example, 1/1000th of a second is considered a short exposure and will stop most movement in a fast moving subject. In longer shutter speeds, the shutter is open for a longer period and the subject can move in this time, causing motion blur.

F/Stops and Focal Ratios

The F/stop is essentially an adjustable hole in a diaphragm that is located inside the lens and in front of the shutter and sensor. As the hole gets smaller, it “stops” some of the light from getting in. A larger hole lets more light in allowing a shorter shutter speed to be used, but making focus more critical. For most sports photography under available light conditions, such as night games outside, or games inside gymnasiums, we will end up using the lens “wide open” at its widest F/stop. Lenses that have large apertures are said to have “fast” focal ratios.

The F/stop numbering system is defined by the focal ratio. This is the ratio of the lens focal length divided by the size of the aperture of the lens, or diaphragm when the lens is stopped down to a smaller F/stop. The aperture is simply the effective size of the glass at the front of the lens. Bigger apertures gather more light.

You can have two lenses with the same focal length and different apertures and maximum focal ratios and F/stops. For example, you could have a 300mm f/2.8 lens with an aperture that is twice as big as a 300mm f/4 lens. In this case, you could use a shutter speed that was twice as fast with the f/2.8 lens as with the f/4 lens. This is very useful for sports photography under conditions with poor illumination. Of course the f/2.8 lens will be heavier and much more expensive.

Focal ratios and f/stops can be kind of confusing to beginners because they are counterintuitive and because apertures are never marked on camera lenses. For example, a lens with 300mm of focal length, and an aperture of 75mm would have a focal ratio of 300 divided by 75 which would equal 4, so this lens would be said to be an F/4 lens. These are the numbers used to specify the attributes of the lens: focal length and f/ratio, and are what you can find written somewhere on the lens. Note that F/4 is the specification for when the lens is used wide open at its maximum aperture.

Almost all lenses also have a diaphragm inside of them that has a hole that can be made smaller, effectively making the aperture of the lens smaller, and the focal ratio slower. What is confusing is that F/stop numbers are in inverse relation to the aperture. In other words, a smaller F/stop number indicates a larger hole. F/stops usually run in 1/3 of a stop increments. Whole f/stops can run from f/1 to f/1.4 to f/2 to f/2.8 to f/4 to f/5.6 to f/8 to f/11 to f/16 to f/22 to f/32. Also confusing is that every other number doubles the numerical value, but is actually two stops difference which really changes the amount of light by a factor of 4x.

All you really need to know about F/stops is that they need to move in step with shutter speeds. If you stop down a lens one stop letting less light in, then you have to increase the shutter speed by one stop to let more light in to keep the exposure equivalent.


ISO stands for “International Standards Organization” and in photography, ISO is a term that refers to the sensitivity of a sensor as defined by this organization.

ISO can be thought of as the relative sensitivity of the camera sensor to light. A camera with a higher base ISO would be more sensitive to light. Technically, the ISO standard only refers to the base sensitivity. Sensors really only have one level of sensitivity. Sensor output, however, can be adjusted to give the effect of adjustable ISO sensitivities. This is a complicated subject that is beyond the scope of this article, but you can cheat and think of changing the ISO as changing the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor.

ISO settings generally run from about ISO 50 or 100 to ISO 1,600, 3,200 or even 6,400 on the high end. Every time an ISO doubles, that is the equivalent of one stop in F/stops or shutter speeds. Higher numbers allow the use of shorter shutter speeds, although there is a heavy price to be paid, and that is higher noise in the image.

Ideally we want to use the lowest ISO that gives us the highest shutter speed that will stop the action.

In situations with plenty of light, the F/stop can also be adjusted to give the correct exposure. In situations with little light, the lens is used at its widest aperture (lowest F/stop number such as f/2.8) and the ISO is adjusted to give a shutter speed high enough to stop the action.

The Facts About Available Light

In available light situations, such as night football games, or indoor gyms, the amount of light is fixed. You can change the shutter speed, f/stop, or ISO to achieve the correct exposure.

Your primary goal is to use as high a shutter speed as you can because slow shutter speeds won’t stop the action. That leaves adjusting the f/stop and ISO to get a high shutter speed.

At some point, you will not be able to open the lens up any more once it is at its maximum aperture. That leaves only adjusting the ISO.

Increasing the ISO increases the noise in the image. You may reach a point where you find this noise objectionable. What else can you do? Slower shutter speeds result in motion blur and the lens is already wide open.

Your only options at this point are to get a faster lens with a wider aperture to let more light in, or use a camera that has better noise performance at higher ISOs.

For example, if you are using a 70mm to 300mm F/4 to f/5.6 zoom lens for night football, you could get a 300mm f/2.8 lens. If you are using an older camera model, such as a Canon 1D Mark II or Nikon D2H, you could get a Canon 1D Mark III or Nikon D3, both of which have much better noise characteristics at high ISOs.

Unfortunately, these are the facts of available-light sports photography under dim-light conditions. To get good quality, you either need expensive fast lenses, or the latest, most expensive camera bodies. Otherwise you get pictures with motion blur from slow shutter speeds, or noisy images from cameras with high ISO noise.

If you can’t use a faster lens, or a camera with better high-ISO noise performance, you can use a high ISO and try noise-reduction software like Noiseware’s Community Edition (freeware), or Noise Ninja (commercial software).

Focal Length

The focal length of a lens determines its magnification. Longer focal lengths give more magnification and allow you to be farther away from the action.

For some sports, such as cricket and soccer, lenses with focal lengths of 300mm, 400mm or even 600mm may be necessary.

As the focal length of a lens gets longer, the aperture must increase to give the fast focal ratios and f/stops that are necessary for high shutter speeds under low light conditions.

F/Stops and Depth of Field

Depth of field refers to the distance in front of, and in back of, the subject which appears to be in focus.

Depth of field increases as the lens is stopped down and smaller F/stops are used. For example, you will have a larger depth of field for a given lens at f/16 than you will at f/2.8.

Increased depth of field can make focusing seem less critical, but with long focal lengths, it is still very critical. Professional sports photographers usually use very fast lenses with maximum apertures of f/2.8 under available light conditions, and they usually use them wide open. This is done for four reasons:

1. A fast, wide aperture makes higher shutter speeds possible.

2. Fast apertures make the use of lower ISOs possible, resulting in lower noise in the images.

3. Fast apertures with very shallow depth of field will blur distracting backgrounds and make the subject separate more cleanly from the background. This can really help add aesthetic impact to the image.

Focus is extremely critical in super telephoto lenses. The minimal amount of extra depth of field that you get using a 400mm f/2.8 lens at f/4 is not going to help you much if you do not nail the focus in the first place.

ISO and Noise

We have already mentioned how digital cameras really only have one sensitivity. Increasing the ISO speed allows the use of a higher shutter speed by taking advantage of the sensors large dynamic range. Increasing the ISO essentially intentionally underexposes the image and moves the critical image data closer to the noise present in the camera.

Image quality is dependent on the signal-to-noise ratio present in the data. Intentionally underexposing an image by increasing the ISO naturally reduces the amount of signal present and lowers the signal-to-noise ratio. This is the tradeoff we accept for adjustable ISO settings in digital cameras.

White Balance

The colour of light is characterized by its “color temperature”. Color temperature is based on the temperature in degrees Kelvin of a theoretical “black body” that begins radiating light when it gets hot enough.

The lower the color temperature, the warmer the light, that is, the more red it appears. A high color temperature source gives a very bluish light. Some common examples of the color temperature of various different types of light:

• 1,000K – Candles and oil lamps

• 2,000K – Tungsten lamps

• 3,200K – Tungsten studio lights

• 5,000K – Average daylight, electronic flash

• 6,000K – Sunshine with blue sky

• 7,000K – Light overcast

• 8,000K – Hazy sky

• 9,000K – Open shade on a clear day

• 10,000K – Heavily overcast sky

In some cases we will want to preserve the color cast in the image because of the color temperature of the light, such as the beautiful warm glow of the light just before sunset. In other cases, such as with open shade, we may want to change the blue color cast to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

Digital cameras are very good at accurately recording the color of the light. That is why it is important to set the correct white balance in the camera. If you use a daylight white balance setting and you shoot under green fluorescent lights, your images will have a very nasty and ugly green cast to them. Likewise, if you use the daylight setting under tungsten lights, the images will have a red cast.

The latest generation of digital cameras have an automatic white balance setting that does a pretty good job of adjusting for the ambient light color temperature. However the automatic setting usually gets less accurate as the color temperature of the light goes down and gets warmer.

For lighting conditions in situations where the light is not changing, such as in a gym or stadium at a night football game, it is possible to set a custom white balance using a gray card so that the white balance will be accurate.

Colour and Exposure Flicker

Many indoor sports halls and stadiums use mercury vapor or sodium vapor lighting that flickers and changes in both intensity and color as the power cycle goes up and down. This happens too fast to be seen by the eye, but the camera will record it.

If you suspect this is happening, you can test it by shooting a high-speed motor drive sequence of ten frames or so at a high shutter speed. Examine the images on the LCD on the back of the camera and scroll through them quickly and you may see both the exposure and color balance changing.

If this is the case, there is basically nothing you can do except pay your money and take your chances if you must shoot available light. Using a custom white balance will not work in this situation, nor will automatic white balance in the camera. Your only other option is to add artificial light in the forms of strobes as your main lights.

Automatic Exposure

Today’s digital cameras offer a variety of methods for setting the exposure. The most basic is manual exposure where you pick the ISO, shutter speed and F/stop. Once you set them, the camera stays at those settings until you manually change them again. Manual is the best setting to use if the light is not changing.

Other exposure modes are also available such as Tv (Time Value), Av (Aperture Value), and P (Program Mode). In Tv mode, you set the shutter speed and the camera adjusts the aperture to what it thinks is the correct exposure. In Av mode, you set the aperture and the camera picks the shutter speed. In program mode, the camera picks both the aperture and shutter speed.

In most cases you will find that it is better to use manual exposure. Determine the correct exposure and set the shutter speed and aperture yourself. Even though these cameras have sophisticated metering systems and computer analysis, they still can’t tell the difference between a black cat in front of a white wall and a white cat in front of a black wall. Automatic exposure will underexpose the black cat in the first example, and overexpose the white cat in the second.

There are times when automatic exposure can be useful, such as under constantly changing lighting conditions like when the sun is in and out of the clouds and the game action is so furious that you do not have time to manually change the exposure, or when you have a remote camera set up that you cannot access. Another time I sometimes use automatic exposure is when part of the field is in shadow and the other part in brilliant sunshine. This can happen over the course of a football or baseball game as the afternoon progresses. If the quarterback drops back in the sunshine and throws a pass into the shade, you are not going to have time to manually change the exposure.

Some prosumer and amateur model digital cameras also have additional automatic settings. Canon calls them “creative zones”. One is for sports where the camera’s computer will try to use the highest shutter speed in an automatic mode that may also change the aperture depending on how much light there is. In general, you are better off determining the correct exposure yourself and setting it manually. I never use any of these creative zones.

Determining the Correct Exposure with the Histogram

Determining the correct exposure with a digital camera is easy because you can see the results of a test exposure immediately on the LCD on the back of the camera and because you can examine the histogram of the image.

A histogram is a bar graph that represents the distribution of pixels in the image by brightness. The darkest pixels are on the left hand side of the graph and the brightest pixels on the right hand side.

You want to expose your image so that the brightest pixels in the image are as far to the right of the graph as possible without overexposing parts of the image that have important highlight detail.

As with any rule of thumb, there are exceptions. If you are shooting in a back-lit situation, then shadow detail may be more important than highlight detail, and you may have to overexpose the highlights and lose detail in them to record sufficient detail in the shadows. It is up to you to determine what is more important, but it is easy to check with a test exposure.

Raw vs JPEG

Raw preserves all of the original data from the sensor in a high-bit depth. Ideally this is the best way to shoot your images and archive them. JPEG is a lossy format that actually throws image data away to achieve high compression ratios. JPEG is also an 8-bit file format. Don’t let this scare you too much though as the JPEG algorithm does a very good job and most of the data that is discarded is not perceptible visually. I use JPEG every day.

If you get your white balance correct and nail the exposure so that large tonal adjustments are not necessary, you should have no problem shooting JPEG images.

If you are shooting on deadline you are probably not going to have the time to edit hundreds of images and then take the time to do the raw conversion and color and tonal adjustments. Most photographers who work on deadline shoot JPEG file format in the camera.

If you have the luxury of not working on deadline, and you have plenty of memory cards, you can shoot raw file format in the camera, or even raw and JPEG concurrently.

Even if you shoot raw, you should still take the time to get the correct exposure. Even though you have a bit more exposure latitude with raw, your images will be better if you get the exposure correct.

Colour Spaces

Colour management and colour spaces are another subject that is frequently misunderstood and consequently ignored by photographers.

If you really know what you are doing, you should know what color space to use in your camera. If you don’t totally understand colour spaces and color management, then keep it simple and shoot sRGB in the camera and make sure you have your working colour space set to sRGB in Photoshop.