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01-26-2013, 09:46 AM   #1
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Shooting Gymnastics Photos

Looking for a little advice. I have a Pentax K-r and I would like to shoot some photos at my daughters gymnastics meet tomorrow. The competition will be in a convention center probably with less than desireable lighting. I will be using my
50-200 kit lens. I won't be super far away, so the distance should be ok for this lens. The last time I tried to shoot, her competition was in a high school gym. I experimented with both the auto setting as well as trying to shoot in manual. Seems like whatever adjustments I made, the pictures came out very grainy - lots of blur and noise. I would welcome any suggestions you m ight have for settings if I shoot in manual?

01-26-2013, 10:01 AM   #2
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Shoot in TAV and make sure you are fast enough to stop the motion. Let the ISO float. The lighting in most non-Pro arenas and gyms is just plain horrible. When I was shooting my son's basketball in the local gym I found myself using the fastest lens I could, even if I had to crop later, and doing as I have said above - keep the shutter speed up, let ISO float, and take lots of shots.
01-26-2013, 10:02 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by detroitfan Quote
Looking for a little advice. I have a Pentax K-r and I would like to shoot some photos at my daughters gymnastics meet tomorrow. The competition will be in a convention center probably with less than desireable lighting. I will be using my
50-200 kit lens. I won't be super far away, so the distance should be ok for this lens. The last time I tried to shoot, her competition was in a high school gym. I experimented with both the auto setting as well as trying to shoot in manual. Seems like whatever adjustments I made, the pictures came out very grainy - lots of blur and noise. I would welcome any suggestions you m ight have for settings if I shoot in manual?
I would recommend shooting in TV mode. You're probably getting blur because your shutter speed isn't set fast enough. I would start at 1/250 and adjust from there. If you're still getting (motion) blur, then go faster than 1/250 (Maybe 1/400). Experimentation is your best friend. Settings are going to change from gym to gym. Not all lighting systems are equal. Also, don't be scared to increase ISO. I used to have a Kr and was always scared to go above 1600 ISO. One day I accidentally set it to 6400 (no idea how that happened) and the results were very surprising. They had grain, that is to be expected from almost any camera, but the shots were very usable. Grain you can work with by using noise reduction software or converting the image to black and white. Motion blur is a lot harder to deal with. That will ruin a shot more than grain. I've actually grown to like grain in the last few months.

Last thing, are you allowed to use flash? You mention you won't be too far away. You may want to look into that as well.
01-26-2013, 10:10 AM   #4
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If you can't use flash and you are shooting with a 55-200mm kit lens unfortunately the results are likely to be poor (noisy/blurred) in poorly lit spaces

This is why you see pros with 70-200mm f2.8 lenses which cost an arm and a leg AND are the size of one too!

You'll have to trade off ISO related noise with motion related blur. Raise the ISO, reduces blue, raises noise which looks like blur!)

Sorry to be perhaps a bit negative, but just trying to be realistic. I would recommend you use auto ISO mode and a tripod, min shutter 1/60th see how you get on. Try to "forecast" the movement I.e as with dance you'll get moments of natural pauses. Try to capture those as the gymnasts are not moving.

01-26-2013, 10:13 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Docrwm Quote
Shoot in TAV and make sure you are fast enough to stop the motion. Let the ISO float. The lighting in most non-Pro arenas and gyms is just plain horrible. When I was shooting my son's basketball in the local gym I found myself using the fastest lens I could, even if I had to crop later, and doing as I have said above - keep the shutter speed up, let ISO float, and take lots of shots.
Kr doesn't have TAV mode. It was the main reason I switched to a K-30. I do agree with letting the ISO float. I usually do this but stop it at 6400, I wonder if I should let it float even higher. How high do you let it float?
01-26-2013, 10:31 AM   #6
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6400 is about as high as you should go unless you're going black and white.

Like Pheo mentioned, the 70ish to 200ish 2.8's are the only real way to get great results in those conditions. They are big, they are heavy, and they are expensive, but you can't compete with the results.

SMC Pentax-M 100mm F2.8 Reviews - M Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database
SMC Pentax-A 135mm F2.8 Reviews - A Prime Lenses - Pentax Lens Reviews & Lens Database

If you're on a budget, I'd try to find one of those. You'll have to learn manual focus and aperture, and you'll have to deal with cropping, but you'll get infinitely better results from those lenses than the kit lens in those situations. I have the M-100 and it truly is fantastic. If you're shooting it wide open you won't have to deal with the green button for exposure which is good for that, but since lighting won't change, you should be able to get away with stopping down in M-mode with everything set prior to the shots. The A135/2.8 would be a great option as well. I use this one more, but either are completely usable for this type of setting. I use my tokina 80-200 much more, but that lens is 6x the cost of the ones above. IQ isn't any better on the Tokina, it's just more convenient

Go to your local craigslist site and search for pentax. You should be able to find one of those old telephotos.
Camera Pentax Me Flim type - $150 (Shelby Township)
May be worth looking at if you're in Detroit, but you can find deals like that all the time
01-26-2013, 10:47 AM   #7
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Gymnastics

Yeah, you are right Pheo, I cannot use flash. So that definitely does complicate it. Thank you all for the suggestions, I will definitely give them a try. Luckily I will be able to take some experimental shots while the team is doing there warm ups. So hopefully playing around with some of the settings you guys are suggesting will help me come up with some decent shots. I will let you know how it turns out!
01-26-2013, 11:14 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
Kr doesn't have TAV mode. It was the main reason I switched to a K-30. I do agree with letting the ISO float. I usually do this but stop it at 6400, I wonder if I should let it float even higher. How high do you let it float?
Thanks, sorry I forgot about that.

01-26-2013, 02:13 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by reivax Quote
Kr doesn't have TAV mode. It was the main reason I switched to a K-30. I do agree with letting the ISO float. I usually do this but stop it at 6400, I wonder if I should let it float even higher. How high do you let it float?
It depends on how good you are with noise removal software.

Tv mode is a good place to start. In practice, I would set auto ISO and allow it to go wherever it wanted at first. Then you want to find the slowest shutter speed that can capture motion without blur. This will vary a bit depending on the action and where you are. Tv mode will probably force the lens to be close to wide open, which you want, f4 to f5.6. If the aperture goes higher, it probably means the ISO has gone up too. You can use your practice shots to set an upper ISO limit so the camera doesn't decide to run it way up when you're not looking.

Now you can take regular shots. If the performer is moving fast, turn the e-dial to the higher shutter speeds you chose earlier. If they aren't moving that fast, you can use a slower speed. The lower speed limit will depend on how still you can hold the camera. At maximum zoom, you'll have to use a faster speed than at 50mm. You can help this with a monopod or convenient railing.

Look at your histogram and make sure it's not way over to the left side. That means underexposure. Later on your computer, you might want the shots brighter, which will just all lots of noise. Exposure is more critical at higher ISOs.
01-26-2013, 04:22 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by detroitfan Quote
...grainy - lots of blur and noise.

Reduce blur by using a faster shutter speed. This requires a larger aperture. The 50-200 is pretty slow especially at 200mm, so that requires raising the ISO, which produces grain. It's a vicious circle. The answer is either add more light, or use faster glass. Since you can't change the lighting, the answer is faster glass. That will give you 2 more stops to play with. You can go one stop faster on the shutter and reduce the ISO one stop.
01-26-2013, 05:41 PM   #11
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Another suggestion is to select the view-point, firstly get as close as possible to use the widest focal length, secondly to photograph subjects moving towards the camera as far as possible.
For example I had trouble with even slow moving ice skaters going across the frame with a long lens.
When the skaters are moving directly towards the camera, the image is mostly sharper even with a slow shutter.
Here is an example of bad cross frame blur taken today of Pinewood race cars in a Michigan school gym: no panning, 28 mm iso 800 f/5.6 1/90th (sorry I cropped heads for privacy)
Attached Images
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX *ist DS  Photo 
01-28-2013, 05:52 AM   #12
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Remember you can always intentionally under-expose with a lower ISO and then increase exposure later when editing. Depending on the software/how much you push it, this can result in less noise than you would have had at a properly exposed, but higher ISO, photo.

Don't forget that it's not always about fast-action shots. Try some slower shots when the gymnast isn't moving as much - e.g. before a run up, holds, landings.

Hope it goes well Good luck.

EDIT: Did a mimi-guide similar to this on an older post - more about using manual mode, but might help a bit. Scroll down a touch from here: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-beginners-corner-q/180256-fight-sh...ml#post1889605

Last edited by Tom Woj; 01-28-2013 at 05:57 AM.
01-28-2013, 07:24 AM   #13
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I was recently taking photos at a dog show with the 50-200mm lens. Other than at the end when they stepped on the 1,2,3 podium, the lights were pretty poor. My ISO was between 1000 and 3600, but I was trying to keep the shutter speed fast enough to freeze motion and avoid camera shake blur. The photos did not come out perfectly, but they were "good enough." I recommend you shoot raw and fix them up later (especially white balance and noise reduction). Also, you might want to use MF and pre-focus your lens, just because AF with the 50-200mm can take so long you miss the action.
01-31-2013, 09:20 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by detroitfan Quote
Yeah, you are right Pheo, I cannot use flash. So that definitely does complicate it. Thank you all for the suggestions, I will definitely give them a try. Luckily I will be able to take some experimental shots while the team is doing there warm ups. So hopefully playing around with some of the settings you guys are suggesting will help me come up with some decent shots. I will let you know how it turns out!
How did you make out?

Cheers
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