In it for the Money

Australian Open Badminton, Men's Singles Semi-Final
Sydney, 2012

My initial interest in the sport of badminton was motivated by Money. Elizabeth Money. Her dad was a minister of religion and his church ran a badminton club: every Saturday afternoon – just one court – so the chances of getting a game were fairly slim. But at the age of 13, the possibility of seeing Elizabeth leaping about in a short skirt was all the motivation I needed.

My interest in badminton grew from there and I played for my school. So did Elizabeth. Then my family moved to a different city and my new school didn’t have a club; so I started one; and as far as I know it’s still going.

When we migrated to Australia, badminton seemed not to be played at all except by children at barbeques and on the beach; with $2 racquets and plastic shuttlecocks; and it wasn’t until 14 years later, when I went to work at a university with a sizeable student population from badminton-playing countries, that I rediscovered it.

In the end, I met my wife through badminton, in a set of coincidences that required the collaboration of four different metropolitan universities to bring us together. But when our son was born, new priorities relegated the sport to the status of an occasional pastime.

I don’t play anymore. But I enjoyed watching the Australian Open, marvelling at the skill and athleticism of the elite players in the fastest of all racquet sports, reliving my own memories, modest though they were; and wondering if, these days, there is any Money in badminton.

Notes on my camera

I didn’t take my DSLR to the badminton competition because Australia has some absurd rules and restrictions on spectators  photographing sporting events and I wasn’t sure if I’d be admitted carrying a big camera with a telephoto lens. But I always carry a compact camera with me, just in case I happen on something worth recording.

These photographs were taken using my Canon G12. My first compact camera was a Ricoh GRD III but it has a fixed wide-angle lens and regardless of what Mr Capa says, it isn’t ideal for sports photography because you often cannot GET close to the action – burly security guards see to that.

At the badminton competition, I took these photographs from the stands, using indoor lighting (no flash, of course), with the ISO set to 1600, and the f-stop set at f5.6, speed 1/60th and I am pretty happy with the results.

Apart from the advantage (over the Ricoh) of having a (fairly modest) zoom, the viewer is plenty bright enough. But compared with the GRD III, there are some downsides. First of all, I find the manual focus on the Canon almost unusable. Maybe its just my clumsy fingers but the focusing ring is so close to other controls, I find myself often inadvertantly switching the flash on or the MF off instead of adjusting the focus. That’s really annoying.

The other downside, from my point of view in comparison with the GRD III, is the time lag on the shutter. With the GRD III (as with my Nikon D300s), the shutter releases the instant I press the button; but with the G12 there is a noticeable delay.  This is okay if I’m photographing buildings or mountains, but badminton is known as the fastest racquet sport of all and by the time the G12 gets round to taking the picture, the scene has completely changed. And unlike tennis where the ball travels a greater distance (from baseline to baseline), it is almost impossible to anticipate the next shot in badminton.

One day, I hope I will find the perfect camera. In the meantime, as the saying goes down here in Australia, it’s still a question of horses for courses.

Deftly done !!

Down but not out
Chen, Jin went on to win the Men's Singles title for China

Mixing it
Japan -v- Chinese Taipei




Flickr: the journey so far

On this day in 2009, inspired by what I had seen on Flickr, I dusted my camera off and set out to take some new photographs. In the two years that followed, there have been highs and lows, successes and failures, breakthroughs and brick walls; and some images that might not otherwise have been captured. So, thank you Flickr, for the journey so far…