When a colleague approached me in September about shooting a charity golf tournament I was both excited and apprehensive. Up until this point, most sports shooting I had done was focused on faster paced action sports such as football (soccer to us Americans), basketball and running events. Covering a charity golf tournament was a a whole new undertaking for me, but also a good chance to test my comfort zone and besides, I had acquired a Sigma 120-300 F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport lens during a recent trip to Japan and I was looking forward to putting it through its paces, shooting in a variety of situations.
Put on by the Rotary club of Johor Bahru Sentral and co-sponsored by the Els Club and Excelsior International School, the event was held at the Oceans Course of the Els Club Desaru Coast. The tournament benefitted Rotary’s continued fight to eradicate polio (only 3 countries in the world have yet to eliminate it: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Through continued efforts though, we hopefully will one day have a world free from polio).
In the days leading up to the event, the weather had been all but co-operative. At this time of year, in southern Malaysia, you can usually count on an intense rain shower coming through in the early afternoon. This week in early November though, the thunderstorms had been coming through in the morning…at about the same time that the tournament was scheduled for. Luckily, the day turned out to be beautiful and clear with a slight breeze, the perfect combination for a morning on the course.
A few weeks prior, my wife, daughter and I had been to the course so I could get a feel for the venue, determine some shooting strategies and spend a day out playing a round with friends. The tournament was held on the “Academy Course” which is a 9 hole par 3 course designed to present a variety of challenges to the player, yet small enough that one can get around it in an acceptable amount of time.
From the initial visit, the idea was to use one central vantage point. Originally I was planning to mostly use the Sigma 150-600mm Sport. From this position, the 150-600 on the crop body of the 7D MKII would give me an effective range of 240mm-960mm and allow me to cover a majority of the course from a designated and relatively protected spot (with golfers on the move and balls flying around this seemed like a good thought at the time).
After leaving home at 6:30 that morning, my daughter (who was to be my assistant for the day) and I arrived at the course just after 7:30. Once we got the layout and order of events, we went off to grab our cart for the day, get loaded up and head off to the course.
We got set up and shortly afterwards the golfers began to arrive. In order to keep things moving and get everyone around the course within a couple of hours, golfers were broken into groups and then divided amongst the 9 holes. The vantage point did provide a good perspective and I was able to cover a wide range of the course with relative protection. What it didn’t provide though was variety.
When shooting soccer, basketball or volleyball etc., I had been used to moving around the court and field. By using a singular spot on the golf course it did provide security in relation to flying balls, but it didn’t provide variety and a true feel for the event. If there was one thing I had learned in shooting sports so far, it was that the ability to move around (which I had taken for granted in many situations) was key to good coverage. By staying in one place on the course I was providing myself with protection, but I was robbing myself of the opportunities for a variety of shots.
In the end I opted to abandon the 150-600mm and its longer reach for the 120-300 and began moving around with the group rather than staying in one place. This not only gave me the ability to shoot a variety of contexts but it also gave me, that creamy blurred background that only the shallow depth of field of the 2.8 could provide.
By shifting to the 120-300 and becoming mobile I freed myself up to capture a wider variety of the emotions and actions involved in the event. Overall, the use of the 150-600 from a more stationary position did provide coverage and protection, but the move to the 120-300 provided mobility and visual emphasis that would not have been possible otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong, the Sigma 120-300 Sport is almost a pound heavier that the 150-600 so trading one off for the other was not a choice based on weight and mobility. The internal focusing of the 120-300 though does give it better overall balance though than the 150-600 which shifts weight and center of balance due to the extending and retracting nature of the zoom.
With the 120-300 mounted on the monopod I was able to cover a lot of the course in a more informal manner. Had there been more barriers set up and a defined spectator area it would have been more difficult to cover the event and I may have stuck with the 150-600. Overall though is was nice to have the freedom to manuver throughout the course even if I had to dodge a ball or two.
I was very happy with the performance of the Sigma 120-300 Sport. I had always heard very good reviews and opinions of it and I was not disappointed. Overall, the autofocus was snappy and accurate, although I am planning to set the custom AF mode for increased speed using the USB dock when I have a chance. I am looking forward to utilizing it in a faster paced situation such as soccer or swimming, where the movement of the subject is either more unpredictable or at a faster pace.
Overall though it was a stellar day for a great cause. I was happy with how both lenses performed and also happy to give a shot at shooting something new. There is plenty more to learn in shooting sports like golf, and I am certainly looking forward to more opportunities in the future to do so. A big thank you to the Rotary Club of Johor Bahru Sentral and to the Els Club Desaru Coast for brining me on board. If you would like to check out the rest shot from the day you can find the gallery here or click on the photo below.
–Scott M. Williams