Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wednesday Q&A: A Tip For Shooting Sports

What!  The title says “A Tip For Shooting Sports” and today’s image is a couple of flowers.  Trust me, it’s only there to illustrate a point.  Doris has her pet orchid.  She tends that little plant zealously.  She has a special place it has to sit.  It’s sort of like Sheldon (The Big Bang Theory – US television) explaining why he has a designated place to sit on the couch.  Just the right amount of sunlight (we’re back to discussing the orchid), not so much as to overheat the plant but enough so it can thrive.  At the right height and distance from the window to maximize the rays.  A slight breeze from walking into and out of the bedroom.  A reasonably constant temperature in all seasons.  Just the ideal (or as close as you can get in our house) spot for its needs.  I stole the sucker.  I wanted to play with an 85mm macro.  Only problem was the tripod was in the trunk of Doris’ car.  Oops!  Oh well.  Shoot hand held and see what happens.  One thing that comes to mind is that the depth of field is going to be severely limited due to the large aperture needed to let in enough light.  To see how these flowers relate to sports photography, hit the “Read More”.

You can see that the image on the left is considerably sharper than the one on the right.  Both were shot Aperture preferred at F8.  The image on the right is at 1/30th of a second.  The left shot was taken at 1/500th of a second.  There a little difference in the distance from the lens between the two, but not enough to make a four stop (1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500) difference in exposure. 

Every time I shoot a local high school game I see parents blissfully snapping away.  Because outdoor school sports are fall, winter and spring activities we usually run into fading light situations.  So, snap, snap, snap equals blur, blur, blur.  Almost all of the parents never touch the settings on the cameras.  As a result, the ISO is typically at 100 or 200.  The shutter speeds range around 1/60th or maybe 1/125th of a second.  Really tough to hand hold when a person is braced properly and is firing some sort of a cannon (a 200mm, 300mm or 400mm lens).  (That’s cannon, not Canon.) 

If your camera has it as an option, let the ISO float.  The way to freeze the action when shooting sports is to make sure the shutter speed is up there.  About 1/500th or 1/1000th second does the trick.  By letting the ISO float you can pick up those four stops in speed.  Normal for a Nikon ISO is 200.  Four stops greater would be and ISO of 3200.  (400, 800, 1600, 3200)  Most cameras today can handle an ISO of 3200 without creating too much noise (grain in film camera parlance).

Today’s image wasn’t even taken with a camera noted for low noise.  It was taken with a Nikon D300.  A model just before the in camera noise reduction was improved.  The noise was minimized in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5. 

So, if it’s available, and you’re shooting sports, let the ISO float.  You’ll find it in the Menu system of your camera.  Just another way to use your camera more fully.