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10-30-2011, 05:49 AM   #1
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Sports Photography, Which Gear?

First off, we're not discussing the SuperBowl, World Series or any World Cup Championship. Just plain ol' sports of any kind.
So, here's the story, somewhat long, but please bear with me.
I happened to go by a "Bantam League" football game (boys 8 years or younger) last weekend. It looked like fun and since I had my camera with me, I stopped and grabbed my bag. The gate guard saw my camera and kindly let me onto the field.
What I quickly found out was that I was woefully unprepared and under-equipped to take any good photos!
My DA 16-45mm f4.0 and selection of (fairly) fast M lenses didn't come close to getting the job done. Oh, the K10D tried mightily but the glass wasn't up to the chore.
Leading off, my ISO was set to a nice 100. Fine detail, good colors, etc. Always worked great before....
The 16-45 was OK for group shots, but you'd have to be IN THE HUDDLE to use it for anything more.
My favorites, the 50mm f1.7, 85mm f2.0 and 100mm f2.8 are all M/F lenses. But these little kids really scoot around and I had absolutely NO CHANCE of getting any focus lock before they went OOF. I fared slightly better with the M 135mm f3.5, for some reason this lens yielded the highest percentage of in-focus action shots.
Which is faint praise indeed.
Out of more than 200 photos, I count 5 that are in-focus, with fast enough shutter speed, have reasonable composition and are visually interesting.
The rest are crap.
Not to be deterred, I went back yesterday to the second round of playoffs and brought all auto focus lenses. HA! (I thought).
But they're slow. DA 50-200 f4.0-5.6 and FA 100-300 f4.7-5.8, plus the 16-45mm. You see the problem immediately, don't you? Well, I didn't, but soon had my eyes opened, pardon the pun.
Forgot to change the ISO, so shutter speeds went into the tank, along with my goodshot/bad shot percentage. Out of 355 photos (yes, I did!), 4 useable photos. Not great, more like....passable.
ARGGG!
Repeat after me; f2.8 Auto-Focus Tele Zoom. Check ISO, if it is yielding less than 1/500s shutter speed due to prevailing lighting, raise ISO. Leave M/F lenses home, leave f5.6 lenses home.
Hopefully you won't be too hard on this "Sports/Photography" novice, I'm learning!
At the very least, this should provide a chuckle or two.
Ron

10-30-2011, 06:49 AM   #2
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Shooting moving subjects can be extremely difficult, especially if they're moving towards or away from the camera, and even more so if they are relatively close to the camera.

I've had some good results with my K-x using 300mm zooms, as well as the Sigma 170-500mm, when subjects were far away, such as at a football game or a basketball game. But at close quarters, forget about it. When I go to my daughters' dancing classes, I can almost never get an in-focus shot when the girls are walking or dancing around, except perhaps for when they're moving parallel to the camera. And this is true even with my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX HSM II, a lens that is known to be a very fast autofocus lens.

I've often wondered if other people, perhaps with more expensive cameras, are able to get autofocus (and sharp photos) at close quarters with a subject moving energetically towards the camera.
10-30-2011, 07:00 AM   #3
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Maybe time to let us see those 4 pictures, then we can give advise according to your work.
10-30-2011, 09:35 AM   #4
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Here's The OK(?) Photos

Thanks to Edgar + Ron for the replies. I wasn't able to add the photos here, but made a new album "Bantam Football" with 4 photos here;
rbefly's Album: Bantam Football - PentaxForums.com
These are from yesterday and there's one other on my first album I added last week;
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/members/rbefly-albums-rbefly-photos-picture32895.html
As you can see, I needed more shutter speed, perhaps raising the ISO would do it. That, or a $1000.00 lens!
The one from the first week is done with the 135mm M f3.5 and appears (to me, anyway) to be much sharper.
In case anyone's wondering, the team in black uniforms (Montbello Giants) won the game and advances to the Bantam Football "SuperBowl" next Saturday. Yes, I'll be there! This is a Police Athletic (PAL)-sponsored and funded league.
Any suggestions, critical comments or recommendations welcome.
Ron


Last edited by rbefly; 10-30-2011 at 09:41 AM.
10-30-2011, 09:58 AM   #5
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A camera with usable high iso (k-x k-r k-5) combined with a 2.8 70-200 sports zoom should get you the shots you want.
10-30-2011, 10:14 AM   #6
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With any sports, shutter speed has to be up there. Think a minimum of 1/250 and you still might get a little motion blur. Sometimes, that isn't a bad thing if you're trying to show movement. You CAN shoot sports with the lenses you have although faster f 2.8 AF lenses like the Tamron or Sigma 70-200/2.8's will perform better. ISO 100 isn't going to do it if you need fast shutter speeds. I have used a relatively cheap SIgma 70-300 for years and got some very nice shots. I know ISO 800 is noisy on the K10D but you have to live with it. If you're in daylight, you can get very fast shutter speeds at 400. The rest is just practice. Get a monopod, it will make a big difference. Use an ISO that will let you stop the lens down a little (for more DOF) and still have a fast shutter. The photo's you posted are a good start. In those conditions, ISO 400 will allow a much faster shutter. Try the TAV setting and use the free Noiseware (if you don't have another option) if your shots get up into the ISO 1600 range. Overexpose a little at high ISO and reduce the exposure in PP to help with the noise.
10-30-2011, 10:19 AM   #7
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Hey Ron,

I can sympathize with you trying to take sports shots with the K10. We have similar gear and we both use manual focus at times to shoot sports. I’ve been trying for 4 years now with sporadic success for my efforts. The K10 is a fine camera, especially at ISO 100, but it has its limits. It is not great beyond ISO 400 and AF is not overly fast either. Don’t even bother trying to shoot under the lights at night as disappointment will surely follow.

I find I get the best results with the K10 and manual focus lenses when:

1) I shoot with the sun at my back either mid morning or late afternoon. The low angle light is good at this time. You need some bright sun for the best results. Dark overcast days won’t yield great results. Sadly, our kids don’t always play in perfect light but here you have it.

2) I use a monopod for support. I find tripods are too bulky and slow for this environment and this combined with the SR in the K10 will help a lot.

3) Under these lighting conditions with your lenses (M 50/1.7, M 85/2, M 100/2.8) you should be able to use an action stopping 1/800 or better still 1/1000 sec at f11 or so. This will give you enough depth of field to overcome minor focusing errors to and the ability to freeze the moment. I used to own a M 100/2.8 it think it would be would be the best lens in your collection for football.

4) Try to predict where you think the action will be and prefocus in that general area. (see the catch below) The action isn’t so fast in midget football that this can’t be done with a little trial and error – OK a lot of trial and error. Manual focusing of action sports takes a lot of time and effort and you can expect a lot of failures. That said it can be done.

5) Practice, practice practice. Did I mention practice a lot. I do a lot of bird shooting with a manual focus M 400/5.6. If you think football players move fast try capturing a Blue Jay or hawk. It is a great way to sharpen your MF skills.

6) My go to lens for this sort of action is an old SMC Pentax K 200/2.5. It's really fast for a 200mm and stopped down razor sharp. The images below are from this lens with the K10.

For what its worth that's my take on manual focusing with the K10 at sporting events. I've had a lot of failures and a few successes. There is something pretty cool about getting a good football shot with MF. Its a challenge.

Football





Rugby


Last edited by 8540tomg; 10-31-2011 at 04:11 AM.
10-30-2011, 10:21 AM   #8
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Well right off the bat, I can think of three items that certainly would be large contributors to success. Also, I really do not, nor have ever shot sports, so you have been warned.
  • Shutter speed sufficiently fast enough to freeze the action. There is a rule of thumb, and right off hand I can't remember it. Google search came through at 1/250 second or faster. Since your images show daylight shooting, this should go in your favor.
  • In order to get the 1/250 sec shutter speed, adjust the ISO up. I think you are going to have to move off the ISO 100 up to something like - and I am guessing here - ISO 800 or above. In order to counteract this, a good noise reduction utility in post processing would certainly help. In order to get the most out of this, I would tend to shoot in RAW format. Yes, I am somewhat ignoring aperture - but that is handled in the next item.
  • Focusing - There are two way around this. A body and lens combination that focuses really fast, and operates in continuous focus - really fast. Not Pentax's strong suit. Or you can cheat, and widen the depth of field that will be in focus. This is done by stopping down. This is something of a trick, because depth of field is a combination of the distance to the subject and aperture (stop down the aperture to open up the depth of field around the plane that is in focus). So to figure this out before hand, you are going to need some what of a guess of the distance that you will be shooting at. I am going to guess probably 50 feet. Then there is this photographers calculator....
http://www.tawbaware.com/maxlyons/calc.htm
Now I am going to make some assumptions here:
You are standing on the side lines, so the dimensions of the football field is here - http://www.sportsknowhow.com/images/diagrams/football-high-school-field-dime...iagram-lrg.gif and right in front of you there is a maximum of 160 feet of playing depth.

So you are interested in the area / distance of 160 feet. Now if they are up field and/or down field, then this will increase proportionally.

I am assuming here that the focal point is 50 feet away. Obviously this can change (just twist the focal ring on the lens).
Lens - Aperture - DoF min - DoF max
50mm - f4 - 34' - 92'
50mm - f8 - 25' - 600'+
50mm - f11 - 22' - infinity
85mm - f4 - 43' - 59'
85mm - f8 - 37' - 73'
85mm - f11 - 35' - 90'
100mm - f4 - 44' - 56'
100mm - f8 - 40' - 64'
100mm - f11 - 37' - 73'
So what this tells me is that you probably need to start out with the 50mm lens at f8, with a fixed shutter speed of 1/250, and then see where the ISO floats to. This would give you a very large depth of field, just float along the side lines in order to keep the action somewhat near. Grossly focus, since the hyperfocusing - depth of field will widen the sweet spot for you and there by give you very good (but not absolutely perfection) focus. Just remember that there is a pretty fixed minimum distance that you are locked into at around 25 feet.
The other aspect in this is that your 50-200 lens is just right. You really do not need fast apertures since that will kill your depth of field. So, essentially keeping the aperture at f8 (maybe even f9 or f11), shutter speed of 1/250 or faster, and letting the ISO float, you will be able to concentrate on the action by zooming with the lens.

The other thing that I have not touched on that may work in your favor is the autofocus mode, especially on the 50-200 lens. I would put it in AF.c to take advantage of what ever continuous focusing that the body can muster.

The other thing is 1) a large sdcard (or multiple empty sdcards ready to go), so that 2) you can shoot in burst mode. Taking a quick sequence of 3 to 5 shots, should give you maybe 1 good shot. So I can see burning through 1000 frames per game to pickup maybe I would guess 100 to 200 acceptable frames with say 50 really excellent images. Also, a fully charged battery.

Hope that helps...




Last edited by interested_observer; 10-30-2011 at 10:49 AM.
10-30-2011, 10:21 AM   #9
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for this range, any 70-200 would be great ! either it's Sigma, Tamron.

And you need to be able to bump a bit the iso to 400 it's way easier to get high speed shutter.

Sport photographie is ungratful and require some practice. Be prepared to be frustrated like you can be now, because, even with good gear, you can/will do some mistakes at the begining.
But in the end, you will be able to get such great shot !

edit : owned ! you are fast, guys !

Last edited by aurele; 10-30-2011 at 10:28 AM.
10-30-2011, 01:30 PM   #10
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Great Replies, Thanks!!

My sincere thanks to everyone who took the time to offer suggestions, it's helped me feel less discouraged.
Crewl1, Would the K-X body be suitable for the higher ISO I need? That's the only one that's near my budget. I'm not unhappy with the K10D, but most of my photos (until this latest try at sports) had been slower-moving or static subjects.
Reeftool, Good advice, I do own a Bogen Monopod but didn't bring it. Shooting in TaV sounds like a great idea and I'll look up some noiseware for higher ISO's. As I mentioned above, haven't needed it 'til now!
8549Tomg, Great photos!!! That's the kind of results I want to try for. They're all fine shots. The slanting light, monopod, prefocusing are all great suggestions. I think next week's game is at noon, but as you said, we can't always control the conditions. And I certainly need practice!
Interested Observer, I'll boost the ISO up, your ideas about D.O.F. and the chart are amazing, that's what I need to learn. I did have extra sd cards and had to change batteries 1/2 way through the game. Luckily I had another charged one.
Aurele, you advice is good and confirms what others have said. Better technique and practice, a good fast zoom and more practice.
Thanks again to all, this has been a very helpful place!
Ron
10-30-2011, 01:39 PM   #11
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Did a fieldhockey game this afternoon, from a local team:

HTC - Horst - a set on Flickr

Good light, but no sun and on my K-5 I just let the iso go a little up. Used my Sigma 70-200 from f2.8 to f5.6 (or so) just some variations. Sometimes it works and sometimes you just have to trow things in the bin.
10-30-2011, 03:01 PM   #12
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Don't be too disheartened, it's not easy, with a little practice and timing you can get reasonable results with a K10D.

I just looked back to when I did some sports coverage with a K10D and I found a few quick examples which I post here for you to see (reduced quality jpegs to meet 1024 x 700 size requirements). I'm not saying particularly great shots or compositions, but just something quick for you to see.

All were taken with K10D at ISO400 with a SMC Pentax-A* 300mm F4 @ F5.6, the first shot @1/750, second shot @1/2000, third shot @1/4000 & fourth shot @1/1000.

Keep going at it, you will get results, I remember at least a couple of these were used by local papers at the time.

Last edited by Kerrowdown; 09-15-2013 at 03:44 PM.
10-30-2011, 08:55 PM   #13
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Great shots in this thread, folks!

QuoteOriginally posted by rbefly Quote
Crewl1, Would the K-X body be suitable for the higher ISO I need? That's the only one that's near my budget. I'm not unhappy with the K10D, but most of my photos (until this latest try at sports) had been slower-moving or static subjects.
Yes, the K-x was the first Pentax body with very good high ISO performance.
These samples from a dance competition in an indoor gym with poor lighting are with the K-x and a Sigma 70-200 HSM II non-OS.

The settings are 3200 ISO @1/400 sec.
The kicks and twirls are frozen by the higher shutter speed and noise is minimal due to the sensor IQ.






Last edited by crewl1; 10-30-2011 at 09:08 PM.
10-31-2011, 01:04 AM   #14
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Another thing to consider if you're stuck with the equipment you have to to try to capture moments that aren't fast moving. The pitcher taking signals from the catcher, the huddle, the guy that just got laid out by a massive hip check. The things aren't moving fast and make for interesting subjects.

This might be the most famous sports photo of all time:



You could take that with a camera with half the capabilities of a K10.

Just something to consider before going out and dropping 3 grand on lenses and a new K-5.
10-31-2011, 05:00 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by rbefly Quote
My favorites, the 50mm f1.7, 85mm f2.0 and 100mm f2.8 are all M/F lenses. But these little kids really scoot around and I had absolutely NO CHANCE of getting any focus lock before they went OOF. I fared slightly better with the M 135mm f3.5, for some reason this lens yielded the highest percentage of in-focus action shots.
Which is faint praise indeed.
Out of more than 200 photos, I count 5 that are in-focus, with fast enough shutter speed, have reasonable composition and are visually interesting.
The rest are crap.
It's perfectly possible to capture sports with MF lenses, I've done it often with the Vivitar 70-210 f3,5 (used at f4 or f5,6). Anticipation is key.

QuoteOriginally posted by rbefly Quote
Forgot to change the ISO
THAT is mandatory

QuoteOriginally posted by rbefly Quote
Repeat after me; f2.8 Auto-Focus Tele Zoom. Check ISO, if it is yielding less than 1/500s shutter speed due to prevailing lighting, raise ISO. Leave M/F lenses home, leave f5.6 lenses home.
I generally agree, a reliable AF system is faster than me doing MF most of the time. The advice on shutter speed is good too. I've also got good shots with the Pentax 100-300 f4,7-f5,6, but it's harder. A monopod is also a great help.
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