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02-04-2014, 08:27 PM   #1
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best setting- indoor sports photography

Hi all,
I just got my K-30 a couple of months ago and I have been pleased with the results, however, I do have a question in regards to shooting sporting events indoors. I have been using my Tamron 70-300mm 1: 4-5.6 lens to shoot my sisters basketball game. In most gyms the lighting isn't ideal so I typically set it to sports setting with a shutter speed of 1/500,
F 5.6 and ISO of 8,000 or 10,000. I would appreciate any feedback.

Thanks

02-04-2014, 08:37 PM   #2
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It depends on the quality levels you find acceptable. It would help if you could post 2-3 of your better shots. It would also give me an idea of how good--or really mediocre--the lighting is at the venues you shoot at. Generally you need to shoot between f2.8-f4.5, continuous AF.C, fastest frame rate setting as possible, and try to hit 1/1000 second shutter speed. I favor center point AF in general. I also prefer using AV mode, but I'll use M sometimes, and a few Pentax shooters use TAV. Without seeing any of your shots, my guess is that your ISO range is pretty OK, I never go above 12,800 these days and that was using a K-3 and now a Canon 5DMK3. At those relatively high ISOs, the key is having good post-processing skills to balance noise reduction with necessary sharpness and exposure.

M
02-04-2014, 09:03 PM   #3
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Original Poster
As much as I would like to post photos for input, I can't because the girls on my sisters team are minors and I don't have their permission to post photos of them. Though the settings you listed will be very helpful, and I will try applying them next time I shoot her basketball game.
02-15-2014, 01:13 AM   #4
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@Miguel -- you answered a similar question I was going to post, about the best K-30 settings for soccer. Starting to learn, practicing on high school games. It's hard! The game moves all around the field quickly -- and the field is very wide.

So far, I've used AF.S, spot focus, no continuous shooting. Next, want to use the AF.C setting -- should I keep keep AF.A turned off? The action happens so fast, I don't want the camera to get confused.

Learned so far -- on TAv, definitely need at least 1/1000, and the brightest aperture setting, like f/4.5 on my 55-300mm zoom when it's at 190mm. I stand on the sideline down near a goal.

I've made two mistakes -- taking pictures of action way off at the other end of the field -- where sometimes the autofocus misses the player and locks on the background. Even if sharp, I have to crop way too much later. Second, as the play comes toward me, widening the zoom to see what's going on... but by the time I tighten up again on the action, I've missed the shot.

The good news? it will be baseball season soon -- much more time to pre-focus... much more predictable action!

02-15-2014, 04:08 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
for soccer ... definitely need at least 1/1000
How did you determine that? Only the fastest male sprinters can exceed 20 mph, but lets assume your high school soccer players are running at 16 mph perpendicular to you, that's a quarter of an inch (7mm) in 1/1000 of a second. But you must want pictures of players with the ball and not even Messi can dribble that fast. If you are positioned near a goal line, the players' sideways movement relative to you will be a fraction of their movement in the direction they are running. Outdoors, poor illumination shouldn't be a problem, so if you feel the need for fast shutter speeds, you can still get usable photos, but in the film era, 1/250 was fast enough for shooting foot-powered sports. The real action takes place when someone stops to kick the ball, tackle the player with the ball, or move around another player. Your main concern should be depth of field, especially if you want both the forward and the defender in the same shot. Using your example of 190mm focal length and f4.5, at 20 meters (66 feet) away from you, your subjects have to be less than 2 meters apart to be clearly focused.
QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
time to pre-focus
You are right, it's the wrong sport for that, the players will move in and out of your depth of field in less than half a second.

QuoteOriginally posted by t.manning Quote
In most gyms the lighting isn't ideal
At 1/250 and f5.6, I've needed anywhere from ISO 3200 to 12,800 in high school gymnasiums. It depends on where your camera is pointed, what's painted on the walls, how old the lighting shields are, how shiny the floor is, etc. At 1/500, you have half as much light to work with, and if you follow the advice provided above to shoot at 1/1000, you have one quarter of the light. The last thing you want to be worrying about while the game is in progress is getting the right exposure. Auto ISO is the easiest way to concentrate on operating the shutter and software can make noise at ISO 12,800 disappear, unless you go to 1:1 magnification to look for it. Yes, with a different lens, you can widen your aperture to f2.8 but that only admits double the light as your f5.6 lens, and the extra speed comes with a cost. Not only are fast zooms more money, they are bigger and heavier, so more difficult to handle (when you are following the action), and your depth of field shrinks to the point where the player's torso can be in focus and the end of their arm isn't.
QuoteOriginally posted by Miguel Quote
continuous AF.C, fastest frame rate setting as possible
Definitely, especially in basketball, where the players are supposed to move all over the court and the ball changes directions all the time. Try to anticipate what focal length will work best once the action gets to where you want to take pictures (top of the key, crossing from back court to front court, under the basket, etc.) and once the player involved in the action is clearly visible, press the shutter and don't release it until the ball has gone to someone else.
02-15-2014, 07:55 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
@Miguel -- you answered a similar question I was going to post, about the best K-30 settings for soccer. Starting to learn, practicing on high school games. It's hard! The game moves all around the field quickly -- and the field is very wide.

So far, I've used AF.S, spot focus, no continuous shooting. Next, want to use the AF.C setting -- should I keep keep AF.A turned off? The action happens so fast, I don't want the camera to get confused.

Learned so far -- on TAv, definitely need at least 1/1000, and the brightest aperture setting, like f/4.5 on my 55-300mm zoom when it's at 190mm. I stand on the sideline down near a goal.

I've made two mistakes -- taking pictures of action way off at the other end of the field -- where sometimes the autofocus misses the player and locks on the background. Even if sharp, I have to crop way too much later. Second, as the play comes toward me, widening the zoom to see what's going on... but by the time I tighten up again on the action, I've missed the shot.

The good news? it will be baseball season soon -- much more time to pre-focus... much more predictable action!
You are making good sense from your experience. Shooting fast moving games with balls is hard! Once you get to the high school soccer level, the players move so quickly and kick the ball with so much authority that 1/1000 is towards the minimum shutter speed; I am more confident at 1/1500. I'd stay away from AF.A--its level of intelligence is far down from ours. I'd go with center focus and meter off the players' faces. It's the faces and the emotions they reveal that makes a good sports shot. One thing that took me a long time to learn--and I still fight it--is to limit what I focus on. A 300mm lens is really optimal for 20-25 yards on a crop sensor, so if you are shooting on the end line between the goal and the corner, your effectiveness is action in the box, though you can see stuff happening at mid field. Depending on the rhythm of the match, I find myself moving around trying to capture good defensive plays by backs or passing or interceptions by the mid-fielders. That gives a more complete picture of the whole game and some camera love to neglected defensive players.

Yeah, baseball is less stressful and more predictable. I try to talk my way onto the roof of some dugouts which allow good angles for covering plays at home and action either between 3rd/2nd or 2nd/1st.

M

---------- Post added 02-15-2014 at 07:08 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by RGlasel Quote
How did you determine that? Only the fastest male sprinters can exceed 20 mph, but lets assume your high school soccer players are running at 16 mph perpendicular to you, that's a quarter of an inch (7mm) in 1/1000 of a second. But you must want pictures of players with the ball and not even Messi can dribble that fast. If you are positioned near a goal line, the players' sideways movement relative to you will be a fraction of their movement in the direction they are running. Outdoors, poor illumination shouldn't be a problem, so if you feel the need for fast shutter speeds, you can still get usable photos, but in the film era, 1/250 was fast enough for shooting foot-powered sports. The real action takes place when someone stops to kick the ball, tackle the player with the ball, or move around another player. Your main concern should be depth of field, especially if you want both the forward and the defender in the same shot. Using your example of 190mm focal length and f4.5, at 20 meters (66 feet) away from you, your subjects have to be less than 2 meters apart to be clearly focused.
Based on my experience shooting 100,000 frames of soccer under all sorts of conditions over the past five years, I'd say that 1/1000 is close to the minimum; the older they get, the faster the capture needs to freeze action. I also disagree on your generalization about outdoor shooting. Spend a winter in Puget Sound shooting soccer in the rain, or even a typical depressing grey day, and you will see where ISO 3200 can be a tad too slow.

Regarding film-era competence for sports shooting, sure the best got great shots then, but they had nada to compare their performance with, except 4x5 Speed Graphics cameras. Compared with today's captures which allow for a greater number of "keepers" because of the greater number of shots taken, what was considered good then is generally a notch down from today's output on many levels. I'm not talking about historic or famous shots, like of Ali standing over Liston, but rather nuts 'n bolts daily sports shots from professional leagues. My perception is based on my professional experience as an editor with the world's largest sports image licensing agency--I was there during the transition from film to digital and the results blew us away daily. Truly exciting times.

M
02-15-2014, 09:41 PM   #7
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Miguel, the OP has a personal interest in photographing a high school basketball game, and there simply aren't the lighting conditions necessary for getting lots of usable photos at 1/1000 (even at ISO 12,800). The basketball court is less than 1/10 of the area of a soccer pitch, the play is all stop and go and you can't throw a basketball as fast as you can kick a soccer ball. Motion blur isn't a problem. The real problem is getting the subject in focus and filling the frame when the play constantly changes direction and moves from 15 feet in front of you to 50 feet away every time a different player gets the ball. At 1/250 you can freeze the player's expression and uniform, assuming the shot is properly focused, and you don't have to worry about EV being outside of the camera's capabilities.
QuoteOriginally posted by Miguel Quote
nuts 'n bolts daily sports shots from professional leagues
They don't print EXIF data in Sports Illustrated or my local newspaper, but it seems to me that the main criteria are a clear view of the superstar's face and his jersey. If the vanquished opponent is laying on the ground/ice/floor or falling down, it's Pulitzer material. If high end equipment and television lighting allows you to get those shots at 1/1000+, great, but for amateurs like myself, the kinds of photos that will make a son or daughter jump up and down in excitement can't be obtained with those kind of shutter speeds. The absolute worst thing for shooting amateur sports is to wait for carefully set up shots that never happen. Instead, keep it simple, take a couple of hundred shots per game, and when you realize that you never got to actually watch and enjoy the game, convince someone else to take the pictures next time.
02-15-2014, 11:07 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by RGlasel Quote
At 1/250 you can freeze the player's expression and uniform, assuming the shot is properly focused, and you don't have to worry about EV being outside of the camera's capabilities.
As I noted in my original response to the OP, "It depends on the quality levels you find acceptable." Without seeing any samples that may show the specific lighting conditions the OP has to deal with, we are driving to generalities here, and I'd say that I disagree with your analysis of what can be done at 1/250. And I mean consistently, not a randomly good shot here or there. In looking over recent indoor soccer shots (indoor is really similar to basketball both in patterns of action and court dimensions, though indoor's lighting is probably worse) I wasn't happy with most I shot that had a shutter speed below 1/1000--maybe a couple at 1/750, but 1/1500 worked better. This was with a K-3 and a DA 70mm Ltd at ISO 6400.

That said, I'm a big fan of all good sports shots, so I'd welcome you posting a few action-filled keepers taken at 1/250. Perhaps I could learn something.

Thanks,

M

02-16-2014, 12:58 AM   #9
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To all -- thanks guys for the advice re soccer and basketball! I really appreciate the time you are taking on this thread. Regarding shutter speed back when, I had a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic in the '60s, which had a spring-wound rear shutter that could do 1/1000 sec. The lens, I think, was f/5.6, and had a 1/400 leaf shutter. That was one rugged camera. It also had a wire frame sports finder, that you could pull up and look through. It also used flash bulbs -- and you could get massive flash bulbs that would put out insane amounts of light. I never took sports pictures with it though... just stuff that stayed still.

@rglasel -- I landed on 1/1000 sec after copying some soccer pix from the Guardian website, and then looking at the EXIF data. In those English pro games, with superb stadium lighting, they were all using mostly f/4; some at f/2.8, and all at 1/1000. There's another thing -- theoretically, if you go to 1/1500 sec or faster, you'll totally avoid camera shake and blurring caused by the faint hand tremors that even the best of us have. Impossible of course for a dimly lit high school night game, where your 1/250 would be about the limit, and would probably work well enough to get some pictures. I will ask my Tea Party friends to further slash teachers' salaries, and repurpose the savings for better lighting!

@Miguel -- on a rainy foggy misty gray day, does continuous autofocus still work if you are tracking a play
about half the field away? Also -- I'm also making the mistake of taking pix of action too far away. Read recently that Sports Illustrated photographers handle this by having more than one photographer. Nothing like a pro budget! That D4! The f/2.8 400mm lens! The field pass for pro stadiums! Well, we'll show them -- particularly on rainy days with our WR lenses...

Last edited by jon404; 02-16-2014 at 01:17 AM.
02-16-2014, 10:25 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
on a rainy foggy misty gray day, does continuous autofocus still work if you are tracking a play about half the field away?
It should, provided you have a fast enough lens (f4-5.6 should be sufficient), and a really good AF system that's configured right. I should also add that it's the combination of lens+camera body that is on a practical level the whole AF system. I have found that third-party lenses perform a notch below those from the camera manufacturer. This helped move me from Pentax to Canon for sports and birds five years ago, and again recently I found the K-3 to be seriously lacking for this kind of shooting (even though the AF is fairly good,) as Pentax has dropped the ball with fulfilling the capabilities of the camera. A real shame, as the high-ISO performance and capability rivals that of my 5DMK3.

QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
Also -- I'm also making the mistake of taking pix of action too far away. Read recently that Sports Illustrated photographers handle this by having more than one photographer. Nothing like a pro budget! That D4! The f/2.8 400mm lens! The field pass for pro stadiums! Well, we'll show them -- particularly on rainy days with our WR lenses...
Yep, trying to do too much I am guilty of as well. Most larger entities will have teams cover sports events. When I was a corporate photographer I was part of a small group that covered a team we sponsored, so it was nice to divvy up the place including crowd shots and sideline shots. Even now I have a shooting partner for outdoor matches; we switch around some after the halftime break. Those five-figure 400mm f2.8 lenses are amazing but weigh so much. I also like to attempt to photograph birds and encounter guys lugging those things around on a tripod. When we BS In the parking lot you can see the permanent back and shoulder disfigurement humping those things over the decades has caused--maybe if I was really really good I'd sacrifice my body, but as a wannabe bird shooter, no thanks. Plus you can rent them

I see minimal advantage of WR lenses. I use an affordable rain cover that also gives my hands some wind and chill protection. The bigger challenge is keeping the front elements dry when the wind is blowing, regardless of the size of the hood.

Might as well post some samples from indoor soccer under lousy lighting conditions:

K-3, DA 70mm Ltd. 1/1000, f2.8 @ ISO 6400




K-3, DA 70mm Ltd. 1/1500, f2.8 @ ISO 6400



K-3, DA 70mm Ltd. 1/1500, f2.8 @ ISO 6400



This is my favorite shot over the past two months, taken at a different venue with terrible lighting (1.5 stops worse than the above "warehouse"), certainly imperfect but a real crowd pleaser. . .

EOS 5D MK3, 135mm L f2 @ f2.8, 1/2000 @ ISO 12,8000



M
02-16-2014, 11:18 AM   #11
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@Miguel -- I like the idea about renting the long lens. But maybe, for your birds, there's a simpler way -- rent a stuffed one from a taxidermist, like an eagle, and pose it with a deceased salmon. After all, we are taking stills -- so why not cook up something like the dioramas in natural history museums? And, for what it's worth, I think the crows here are smarter than the people -- they always show up on Mondays, when the garbage truck comes by.
02-16-2014, 12:46 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
I think the crows here are smarter than the people

M
02-16-2014, 01:50 PM   #13
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If they ever evolve an opposed thumb, we're out of luck. It'll be like that Hitchcock movie around here. Might not see it in my lifetime, but there will come a day when we'll be able to communicate with crows. Like:

"Oh, I'm so glad I can finally speak with you! Now -- next time you fly by, will you come closer and go real slow so I can use continuous focus?"
"For what?"
"What do you mean, for what?"
"For what, for what, for a hamburger, for a taco, for some fresh fruit, maybe a mouse or two... what's it worth to you? That's for what, you idiot!"

As it stands now, I don't think crows like us very much. Probably pissed that photographers ignore them in favor of more colorful alternatives, like the rare rosy-breasted pushover. I mean, a jet-black bird is sort of like a flying inkblot.

Back to soccer -- For educational purposes, here's a Guardian photo by Tom Jenkins from today's Arsenal-Liverpool day game, Nikon D4, f/4, 1/1000, ISO 1600, pattern metering, Looks like, as usual, he's getting sufficient DOF at f/4. And, he's shooting from low down, which puts the players against the blurred darker background. If I did that at a high school game, they'd be against the sky. But still, it looks very dramatic.
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Last edited by jon404; 02-16-2014 at 02:28 PM.
02-16-2014, 04:03 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Miguel Quote
a few action-filled keepers taken at 1/250
I don't consider these keepers, but they do involve action. I decided to give my K-30 a spin at a recent high school tournament and after that experience I certainly appreciate how difficult it is to capture the right moment in a well-composed photo. This game was played in the brightest of two gyms and the first and third pictures required ISO 8000. All of these pictures were shot at 1/250 and f5.6. No post-processing has been applied, so excuse the high ISO noise and dull colours. I experimented with shutter speeds from 1/160 to 1/320, but other than obvious motion blurring of fingers at 1/160, faster shutter speeds didn't produce sharper pictures. The fourth picture has the least amount of movement, I included it to show the biggest problem I had, which was focus. The focus motor in the DA 18-135 DC WR is quick, the camera was set to AF.C and in the next shot the shooter was in focus, but I had lots of shots spoiled by having AF pick a different object to focus on than I wanted.
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02-16-2014, 04:34 PM   #15
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You can shoot at 1/500, or even 1/250 if you can predict the peak moment. That takes both knowledge of the game and practice, practice, practice, practice.

If you look at how the serious amateurs and pros shoot the sport, you will see that the frame they publish is at the top of the jump, not while the player is still moving up or down. Or when the arms are fully extended in making the pass, and not as the arms are at the in between point. Or as the player has caught the pass but not yet started to dribble. These are all peak moments where the body momentarily pauses. This is when you shoot. And it helps to have your camera set to shoot multiple frame bursts - I happen to like 3 frames, but to each his or her own preference in this regard.
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