FIRST Photography: How do YOU cover it?

Film vs Digital? the answer is simple: how many people on this forum still use an 8mm movie camera (which is all we had when I was a teenager) and how many used camcorders?

Digital wins in all aspects: Hands down. A 35mm photo on 100 ASA film as an approx pixel level of 10M pixels. Switch to ASA 400 or 800 to shoot indoors and you are down below 5M pixels (easily).

Film is still used professional, and it has some unique characteristics that are hard to duplicate on a digital camera. For example, I have done a lot of night photography, where you set your camera on a tripod and hold the lens open (shutter on B) for several minutes. All the digital cameras I have gotten my hands on so far will only hold the lens open for several seconds at the most.

The real difference is cost of operation. Practice overcomes almost everything else, and you can shoot a digital camera all day, and it cost you $0 to see the results on your monitor screen. For example, if there is a thunderstorm coming through at night you can set your digital camera on a tripod and hold the lens open for its max exposure (several seconds) and do this over and over to catch lightning bolts. The frames where nothing is captured you delete. If you did this with film you could spend $100 on film and developing just to catch one bolt of lightning!

How prominent is your role as a photographer on your team?
I’m an animator, but since I don’t do that at the competition, I can take film and/or video.

What do you use?
Canon Powershot A80
Canon Optura 60 (video)

What subjects are you good at shooting? (Robots on field, Candids, group photos, etc.)
I’ll shoot anything (thank goodness I can shoot 100s of pics).

What subjects do you prefer to shoot?
I love to shoot action pictures, catching a ball in midair is hard though.

When at competitions, where do you shoot from?
Sometimes there is a “Team Viewing Area” right next to the field. It’s nearly impossible from the stands, Powershot A80 cameras don’t have great zoom, even with a zoom lens.

Anything you’d like tips with?
There is no solution to a camera with only 3x zoom (6x with a zoom lens).

Yes, but not on Thursday.

If I get another camera, it needs variable aperatures/exposure, better than 6x zoom. Pretty hard to find in a decent, but not overly expensive camera.

How prominent is your role as a photographer on your team?

Well since I dont live anywhere near the team I am part of I havent been prominent in any way except at lone star, but i did help with scouting since i was documenting what every robot looked like.

What do you use?

Nikon d50

What subjects are you good at shooting?

I think I get pretty good shots of everything, I particularly enjoy using depth of feild and focus to make interesting shots.

What subjects do you prefer to shoot?

I like when you have a person with the robot in a candid manner.

When at competitions, where do you shoot from?

Luckily at Lone Star they had a media pass for every teams so I was able to be relatively close to the feild, but I also took some pictures from the stands. Houston has a great venue with lots of room. But pretty much I just go wherever I can to get the shot.

Anything you’d like tips with?

Not really, I like that Monopod/remote idea though.


Maybe, probably not.

If you wish to look a my pictures from Lone Star Click over to my Flickr set:

How prominent is your role as a photographer on your team? Pretty large, I’m one of 3 that take pictures, the other two being Doug and Kyle.

What do you use?
Canon FT QL 35MM Camera with normal lens and Telephoto zoom lens. I usually pack higher speed film, with at least 400, but going for 800 for larger and more prominent shots.

What subjects are you good at shooting? (Robots on field, Candids, group photos, etc.)
I mostly take pictures of the robots on the field and the guys in the pits/booths on field, and have taken only a few candids and groups.

What subjects do you prefer to shoot?
On field competitions and robots

When at competitions, where do you shoot from?
I try to get the best vantage point usually from the stand and get a telephoto lens which allows for more coverage of the field and less light disruptions

Anything you’d like tips with?
Probably focusing. That’s about the hardest thing, but I’ve got it down to an almost exacting science.

Heck yeah!

I am usually volunteering so am not the “official” photographer, but I did get some good shots this weekend at Philly. I use a Canon Rebel SLR Digital which I am still learning to use. To get shots of the stands was very hard; I set the camera to ISO 800 (no flash) but they were still somewhat blurry - the first attachment is when the Volunteer of the Year Award was announced (Bill Enslen - a mentor on the team) and is reduced in size in order to get it to upload.

The second is my favorite and was taken from the sidelines with the camera on Auto - the flash went off but I don’t know if it had any effect. I took several in a row to get the balls right at the goal (again, reduced to fit as an attachment.)

Any hints on how to get the low light shots and not get blurry?

Another question - how do you get the pictures pasted into the note?

Tripod would be your best solution. Things that move will be blurred, but that will be part of the action.

Letting the flash fire for shots like that comes out good sometimes. The flash will freeze the subject, but if the shutter stays open you will also get some blurring from the frozen-part showing the motion along with the detail.

Edit: Oh wow. Ken posted a quick and easy answer while I was writing this guide! Tripod works, but is a pain in the neck on field. Usually. If you can get one and don’t mind hauling one around, tripod is the best solution. Use the below guide for handheld shooting

I can’t tell from your reply if you’re using the original Rebel or the Rebel XT. There were some (very useful) options that were locked out in the Rebel, and could be unlocked through downloading a hacked firmware. The XT has all of these features unlocked. I don’t know if ISO was one of them.

Arrgghh… the problem with CD is that you don’t know how much experience a person has in photography. Carol, If I make you look like an idiot, I apologize now. I’m just starting from square one. Heck, might help others anyways.

With that matter out of the way, I would suggest setting your ISO to 1600. If you’re using the XT, 1600 isn’t that bad, as long as the exposure is good. Secondly, I would suggest taking a little more control of your camera in shooting, rather than leaving in automatic.

I assume you’re using the kit lens. Not to rub it in your face that you don’t have fancy lenses or anything :o . The kit lens is actually quite nice, and is often underrated and laughed at. It’s got a decent range, it’s lightweight, and has surprisingly good glass for a kit lens. As a matter of fact, I should probably use it more often, since at the moment all it does it rot on my bookshelf. Anyways even though it’s not nearly as fast as most people would want to use in such dim lighting, but evidently it’s still usable, seeing as I shot VCU mainly with a f/3.5-5.6 too.

Back to the task at hand, you can probably try doing what I did for VCU.

Seeing as everyone’s lenses (unless you happen to own the $5k 50mm f/1) won’t have a wide enough aperture to effectively use shutter-speed priority (“Tv”), set your camera to aperture priority (“Av”). Then, open your aperture all the way up or stop it down a notch for a (usually dramatic, not sure about kit lens) increase in image quality.

This should give you a somewhat usable shutter speed. As a coup de grace, if you can under the lighting on field, set your exposure compensation to -2/3 or -1/3. This will not only reduce the glare from the excessive lighting, it will also give your shutter speed a rather hefty boost. Note that so far, I’ve yet to mention flash. With my 420EX and the above settings, I was getting about 1/125 for most of my shots on field. With the built-in flash, I’d guess anywhere from 1/60 to 1/100 would be your result.

In case you got lost, heres a checklist.

  1. ISO 1600 (or highest you’re willing to go)
  2. Aperture Priority.
  3. Open the aperture up, wide open (smallest number).
  4. Ehhh… I’m not sure about built-in flash. Experiment and see.
  5. Experiment! That’s the great thing about digital! Shots not working? Play with exposure factors like shutter speed and shooting angle!

Oh, and this hastily written guide can be used for any DSLR. Needless to say, the better equipment you’ve got, the better result’s you’re going to get. Still, almost anything can be used to counteract a slow shutter speed. If you’ve got an SLR, you can play with many factors. Together they all add up.

Well, covered shooting on field. Now, onto getting the crowd.

Unfortunately, I had lots of trouble with this too. Even a full-power blast from my flash wasn’t that good. All it did was blind the people in front of me and dimly illuminate the crowd a little more. What I discovered you can do is get a more general shot of the crowd, perhaps walking as far away as you can, and then getting the entire field and as much of the crowd as you can in a single shot. This helps also create a sense of atmosphere. As for individual teams and such in the stands, this is very difficult. If I couldn’t do it with decent gear, then no one can with insane gear. That’s the way light works.

Man, this is a huge post. I hope it helps.


How prominent is your role as a photographer on your team?
I really do not have an assigned role as a photographer

What do you use?
Canon Powershot s80
Cannon Rebel G (35MM)

What subjects are you good at shooting? (Robots on field, Candids, group photos, etc.)
People, robots

What subjects do you prefer to shoot?

When at competitions, where do you shoot from?
stands, pits, floor level

Anything you’d like tips with?
In my opinion my top of the line point and shoot digital camera will never meet the quality and greatness of pictures than that of 35mm camers.


You’ve gotten some good advice on this from others, but here’s one more: try using the sequence mode if you have one. I use one of my sequence modes a lot (my camera has 3) while photographing the robots in action and while it gives me a lot of similar photos to weed through, I almost always get a good shot. Here are examples of sequence mode: sequence photos taken on an overcast day. I get the same results with robots zooming around the field.


This thread has gotten a bit off the starting subject, but doesn’t matter:

  1. I’ll be teaching a class on digital photography and editing on Thursday in Atlanta as part of the FIRST conference.

  2. For low-light hints and tips:
    – Almost all digital cameras have some sort of a “manual” mode which allows you to override the aperture and shutter speed (even though digital photography really neither).
    – Try setting your camera to 1/30 second shutter speed (no slower to avoid jiggly pics).
    – Hold your elbows FIRMLY in at your sides; press the trigger slowly
    – In your camera’s menuing system, also look around for settings of the 'film speed" and change it to “800”. This sometimes gets you photos that are clearer in low light but also may be a bit grainier (digital film noise)

lastly, make-up some “business cards” with your team number and e-mail address and ask one of the other team “media” photographers to e-mail to you pics of your team, robot, etc. Most people “graciously” will do this, or in my case, we park a lot of pictures of ALL teams in our field of play onto for you to see and download yourself…

I agree with heidi on that I use the sequence mode esp, in a situation where its really hard to get the perfect moment (i.e robot shooting, Pushing match, Human player…) I made this from a sequence i did of our autonomous…

Although I have other duties when at competitions, I have a photography hobby that I have not had much time for this semester. In high school I took volunteer pictures for the local newspaper, and was on a photjournalist for my school newspaper my sophomore year, and head photographer for the yearbook my Junior and Senior years. Last semester I volunteered my services for the Harmony High yearbook for sporting events in their transition of replacing me.

How prominent is your role as a photographer on your team?

I now hand off my camera to another student, I am too busy mentoring and coaching. However, last year I went to Houston with team 1083 to be their photographer, it was fun. I went to Atlanta the past two years without my team and I just took as many pictures of the Florida teams as I could.

What do you use?
Nikon D100 and telephoto lens

What subjects are you good at shooting?
What subjects do you prefer to shoot? (Robots on field, Candids, group photos, etc.) Sports is my favorite subject, especially football. (Yes, I have been run over once. Fun story behind that one) But I have taken photojournalism on most all topics.

When at competitions, where do you shoot from?
Stands, Sidelines, Pits

Anything you’d like tips with? Don’t be afraid of what others think of someone there with a camera, and (Off the record especially for FIRST events) for the best pictures you may need to sneak past a couple security guards…


Yes, I will mostly be in the 1604 pit, if not check the 1390 pit.

[quote=geeknerd99Man, this is a huge post. I hope it helps.

Daniel, thanks a lot. I’m going to play around with it some more. I am reffing at the Championships so don’t know how much I will get to use it (although the striped shirt lets me take pics from positions most people can’t get to :smiley: ). But on Thursday during practice runs I can snap away. Come say hello if you see me and I can admire your camera…[/quote]

taking pictures and videotaping the competitions is one of the biggest pains in the neck ever! nobody wants to do it on my team because they all want to cheer…so i get stuck with 3 video cameras and a stills camera…talk about lame!

it is definately a sacrifice. When you tape or photograph an event you only get to see one small part of it, and that only through a camera viewfinder. You really do miss a lot of whats going on around you. Its almost like you are not really there, you are seeing it remotely on a tiny little screen.

Yes, tis the role of the “fly on the wall”…But, at the end of the day, you get to choose what footage goes into the highlight reel and who gets the credit. So, try to engage your teammates to take still photos if nothing else and then promise to put their name into the photo credits in the highlight video.

Also, I typically walk around with at least two cameras and point blank say to someone, “Hey, take this camera and go take about 20 close-up shots of our fans in the crowd”…or “Hey, take this video camera and keep it centered on the entire field for the whole match and then bring my camcorder back to me…”

That will get more people involved in the video/photo sub-team.

Not only that, it’s extremely difficult to both do your job and participate at the same time. Besides drivers, I’m most likely going to be alone on the field for a majority of the time, so my championship experience this year is going to be very different than last year’s.

The solution, a coalition of media people as proposed in this thread. The thread is effectively dead right now, perhaps due to lack of interest. But, it seems we’re a little more into it now. I’m not sure where to hold yet seeing as we could potentially have plenty of people, or a just a few.

If we can, we really should coordinate something to make coverage of Atlanta a lot easier. It’s up to us to represent our teams and FIRST to the outside world, so everything that can be done to help this would be very helpful to all parties involved. Of course, newspapers usually don’t think of us as “photographers” in the way they use the term, but when it boils down to it, we’re the ones that have to do their job. I don’t think any of the local newspapers around here want to attach a photographer and a journalist to the team for 4 days just to cover Atlanta. They’d much write an article with our guidance and use photos that we’ve taken.

Really, having a buddy or two during competiton would be quite helpful while “on the job”. I could go on rambling about how nice it would be to have someone else there while you’re shooting, but as of now, I have no clue whether or not we can hold a media meeting. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be like a second webhug! Perhaps right after the webhug? Wait, when is that? How’s lunchtime, Thursday sound for people?

Brandon, we are having another webhug, right?

How prominent is your role as a photographer on your team?
As prominent as I make it; I am the only real “photographer”, but I typically hand off the video to others. Robot comes first though; I’m on pit crew, so fixing breaks is more important than taking pictures.

What do you use?
A bunch: Most standard are my Nikon D70 DSLR with an array of lenses and my N65 for 35mm. I also have a point and shoot 4MP digital cam and a leika SLR if I decide to bring them. Currently am working on getting access to a friend’s digital backs, in which case I’ll be photographing atlanta at 20+ megapixels.

What subjects are you good at shooting? (Robots on field, Candids, group photos, etc.)
I’m pretty good at everything, really; strongest point is probably candids/portraiture, but I’ve got a good eye for most of the varied subjects mentioned above.

What subjects do you prefer to shoot?
Canidids- Video is for robot images, I like to document the experience that everyone has.

When at competitions, where do you shoot from?
Depends on my time/energy-I’ll probably mostly do field-side at atlanta, assuming we get a press-pass again; the ability to help work on the robot on the way out is valuable.

Anything you’d like tips with?
Not really- I’m pretty adept with my equipment. I can answer questions if anyone has them, though.

Sure will- feel free to swing by 1394’s pits and say hello.

How prominent is your role as a photographer on your team? I offered to do it and I’m the one who usually is in charge of it (I often delegate the task to a student who has nothing to do).

**What do you use?**Kodak Easyshare DX6490. Currently very busted and possilby costing $225 to fix. :ahh:

What subjects are you good at shooting? (Robots on field, Candids, group photos, etc.) Mostly we have shots of the team at work at the site and the competition.

What subjects do you prefer to shoot? I like candids of people being themselves.

When at competitions, where do you shoot from? At FLR because Mike is there I don’t bother shooting photo because I am busy with video and taping from the feed. Plus Mike takes such great shots there was no point in me trying to compete with that. He mostly takes shots of the X-Cats anyways (he was an X-Cat in 2003 and 2004). The kids take shots of one another.

**Anything you’d like tips with?**I am no expert so I have nothing to offer.

I would like to make a call out to a gracious photographer and videographer that would be willing to take pics and video of our robot and team in Atlanta during our matches for me to use in the promo videos I make. I was scrolling through what we have assembled thus far, and its not a whole lot to work with. Thanks for the help, please PM me and I’ll give you my phone number so we can keep in touch when we get our match schedule. THANKS!