This installment kind of piggybacks off of “Photographing Sports (Part III – the light)” hopefully with a little more detail so as not to appear to be blatantly plagiarizing myself.
I think of the conditions under which I’m photographing a sport in the terms of what light I get from those conditions. If you’re concerned about rain or snow buy a coat and hat for yourself and for your camera something like this. Photography is always about the light whether it’s abundant or low, hard or soft. Everything else takes a back seat.
When outdoors (as I’ve said before) I opt to have the sun at my back or at least flanking me. There are (always) exceptions to that “rule” if you wanted a silhouette effect, blown out backgrounds, or the sun as a “star-burst”. As a beginner have the sun work with you as best you can.
What sun conditions are the best to shoot in? I guess the best conditions for most sports shooting would be an infinite, thin, and even layer of clouds that would allow enough sun through for a low ISO and some specular highlights but create beautiful diffusion (it could happen). For golf and sports where the sky is shown I’d order a cobalt blue sky with exactly 15% of the puffiest cumulus clouds possible.
The brighter it is, the faster your shutter speed can be and there nothing better than seeing action frozen at 1/8000th of a second. A clear mid-summer day will get your shutter speed in high gear. An overcast day will allow you to get a better look into a helmet because the difference in light levels are far less drastic. How heavy the cloud cover is will dictate your settings.
If it’s a night game the lights are usually pretty evenly spread. Indoors I look for the best background (ideally full stands) and try to position myself accordingly.
A last note about conditions, specifically the cold. In extreme cold your batteries will not last for long. They’ll still have a charge but the power will stop flowing. I use a multiple battery rotation with hand warmers in a bag or large coat pockets. When the battery in the camera starts to fade I swap it out with a hot one. Just remember to “swap it like it’s hot“. Groan, sorry.