Vantage point

St. Mary’s High School has built a shiny new tennis complex at its Stockton campus, but it wasn’t quite finished when I shot the tennis team’s match against Lodi High. Instead, the match was played at St. Mary’s temporary home court of the In-Shape health club at the Lincoln Village West Marina in Stockton.

Tennis is one of those sports that pretty much requires a long telephoto lens to shoot well. I had brought with me one of our 200-400mm zoom lens (combined with a 1.7 tele-extender for an effective focal length of 650mm). To help support such a big lens it helps to have a monopod, but on this occasion I had forgotten mine.

Most tennis courts are surrounded by a chain link fence often with a windscreen that obscures vision, which precludes photographing the match from directly behind. One usually has to shoot from one side of the court or the other. It isn’t much of a problem, except you can only get a decent forehand or backhand shot of a particular player (depending on what side you’re on). Movement of non-players on the court is limited, so changing sides is not a realistic option. You have to wait until the players change sides after every odd-numbered game. That means you have to wait through several games of a set to get a variety of shots of both players.
I got ready to shoot the match between St. Mary’s Christiana Ferrari and Lodi’s Audrey Simon from a wide bleacher area to one side of the No. 1 at the health club. I sat down and brought my leg up so that I could balance the lens on my knee. It was a bit awkward, but it would save my arms from getting fatigued.

Waiting through the players’ warm ups, I looked around and saw that to the south of court was a two-story building that houses its fitness equipment. On the second floor is a large balcony that overlooks the court. I thought it would get me a different perspective, so I climbed up a flight of stairs, walked through the gym and out onto the balcony.

It was high enough that I could see well over the fence. There was a set of metal patio chairs that I could sit in and even a wide-gapped railing that I could rest the end of my lens on as a makeshift monopod.

The balcony and railing were nearly over the rear fence. I aligned myself with the court’s center line, and the match began. From my vantage point I could easily get forehands, backhands and even serves and overheads with ease. By the end of the second game I had more than enough shots of the Ferrari and Simon.

I’ve yet to visit St. Mary’s new tennis complex, but I’m sure it’s bright and shiny and a vast improvement over the old courts. But I’m guessing that it won’t have a balcony and railing to shoot from, which means I’ll have to remember to bring my monopod next time.

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