Commack High School Boys Varsity Bowling
This post has some tips about photographing high school bowling. If you're just here for the photos skip down to the bottom of the post and click on any thumbnail image to open the gallery.
If at all possible, I try to photograph a practice rather than a match. That way, there's less stress on the bowlers and I can pretty much move around wherever I want as long as I stay behind the fowl line. Just make sure you check with the coach and tell him/her to have the bowlers wear their team uniforms.
The first thing to do is clear your shoot in advance with the general manager of the lanes, especially if you intend to use flash for some of your shots or expect to venture out onto the ball return past the fowl line. Most lanes won't have a problem with this, especially since high school teams usually bowl at time slots when the lanes are pretty empty. When you get to the lanes ask the font desk if you should rent bowling shoes or not. Some lanes would rather have you wear your street shoes if you're going out on the ball return because they're less slippery. Just make sure your shoes are dry before walking anywhere on the lanes and never walk on the lane past the foul line unless you're on the ball return.
As you can see from the first group of shots, I'm out on the ball return sitting down with my legs in the gutter opposite the lane the bowlers are using. If you have the luxury of getting two lanes side by side have the righty bowlers on the lane to your left and the lefties on the lane to your right. This helps avoid there hands blocking their faces after they release the ball. If you do go out on the ball return make sure you only walk in the gutter or on the ball return; the lanes are waxed and are extremely slippery plus you don't want to mess them up for the bowlers. I generally position myself next to the arrows and shoot with a 24-70mm equivalent lens (in my case, a 16-55 on my Fuji XT-2). I have a flash on my camera set to manual mode 1/2 power and I'm bouncing it off the ceiling in front of the bowler. This makes the light from the flash look more natural and avoids the "deer in the headlights" look. This also assumes the ceiling of the lanes is white or close to it. If not you're going to have to aim the flash directly at them or correct the color cast in post. In any case, you want to be at least 2 stops above ambient light with your flash in order to stop the motion. Here, the 1/2 power flash got me ISO 1600, 1/250 sec. @ f/5.6, which gave me enough depth-of-field for any minor focusing errors. While we're on the subject of focusing, I'm focused manually on the left most corner of the foul line as I'm facing it. I have each bowler roll at least twice just in case.
After the flash shots are done and I'm basically crippled from sitting in the gutter for all that time I take off my flash and 16-55 and replace it with a 50-140mm (a 70-200mm equivalent). I'll use this to get bowlers from the side and behind them as they bowl. I also try to get shots of them interacting with each other and the coach. For these shots my ISO is increased to 6400 and I'm shooting at 1/320 sec. @ f/2.8. This may seem like a slow shutter speed but once they release the ball they don't move much. One thing to keep in mind is that the area near the fowl line is usually much brighter than the area near the seats so you'll need to adjust your exposure accordingly,
That's about it. Thanks very much to the great folks at AMF Smithtown Lanes for putting up with my acrobatics for this shoot and the following one of the girls team.