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03-15-2010, 11:03 AM   #1
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Bad pics abound - K-x - taking photos of horses jumping indoor (can't use flash)

Hi there - so I bought my new camera and as the name says - i am a bit of a moron when it comes to getting it right.

I am using the k-x with the 50mm 200mm lens. I really can't use a flash becuase it may spook the horses. So I have it in the "p" mode (per the online chat pentax folks). All the photos are very blurry. I also (and I think this is more hand eye coordination than the camera) keep missing the mid jump shot. I keep getting it right at takeoff.

I have been using the viewfinder not the screen. Also - to add to the exitment - I don't have access to get the camera (left it at a friends house) for a few days so I can't check settings in person but I will take really good notes for any forum mates ready to advise...


Last edited by abitofamoron; 03-15-2010 at 11:25 AM.
03-15-2010, 12:02 PM   #2
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set the iso for 1600.... and remember, that when you hit the shutter release... it takes a fraction of a second for the shake reduction to do it's magic.... also, i don't know if you're trying to zoom in tight on the horse... try using the wide end of the lens, at 55mm ... see how that works....
also, this lens needs plenty of bright outdoor light to work well... (assume this is an outdoor event).... this is less than scientific, as i myself just try to make it as simple as possible...
like me..lol... dave m....best of luck...
03-15-2010, 12:49 PM   #3
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Consider using aperture priority. Stop down only one or two steps- that will give you the most light possible for your situation.

Also, try out the burst mode. With that kind of action you need a lot of pics to choose from. Use a smaller file size when taking multiple pics if you have a small chip.
03-15-2010, 12:56 PM   #4
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Unless you're really far away, your lens seems too long for horse work. You're much better off going wider and cropping later.

Also, for jumping, start with images of the horse coming TOWARDS you, and not passing by laterally. Shooting horses in action is a heck of a challenge, and for a beginner, REALLY tough. So don't feel bad at all.

You should be shooting AF-Continuous.

03-15-2010, 12:57 PM   #5
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In your case show jumping shot from mostly the side...you might need to shoot the majority using Tv (shutter priority@>1/125) or "P" using "Catch-in-Focus" via menus otherwise full manual meter of the palm of your hand to get an estimation of where you should start from choosing the best speed/iso combo that gets you the image.
03-15-2010, 01:52 PM   #6
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Thank you all - I hope we get there. Once the horse shows start running outside it should (I hope) get easier. I will read through these suggestions and try them all.

Many of the photos are taken from far away so I thought the big lens would be best. Will keep you posted and if the photos are worthy I will share them. Most of the photos you can buy professionally from horse shows are $40 - 100 a pop so hopefully I can master it .
03-15-2010, 01:54 PM   #7
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I do own the 18mm - 55mm lens. I will try that one too.
03-15-2010, 02:28 PM   #8
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i just said your pentax name aloud... and lol..... you are not!!
forgot to mention... it might be the best thing to spend some $$$ (easy to say because it's not from my wallet)...... it would be a good idea to buy a lens with a constant f2.8.... one that will capture not only action pics well, but also useful in low light without a flash....
for closer shots, the tamron 28-75mm f2.8 is pretty darn good...(fully auto)
for a telephoto lens, it gets more expensive... but a sigma 70-200mm f2.8 can be had for about 800 u.s. new.... or check here on the forum in the marketplace for a used one in perfect operating condition... or in the wanted section... post that you're lookin' for one...
(for what it's worth.. a used tamron or sigma might be a better price and quality option, because quality control from these manufacturer's can be a bit iffy, could front or back focus... meaning what you shoot ain't what you'll get.... ask the seller first)
best of luck, dave m

03-15-2010, 03:27 PM   #9
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Indoor sports are very difficult to shoot with either of those lenses -- because they don't let in enough light.

There are two ways for a camera to get enough light to make a good exposure.
  1. Increase the size of the hole that lets in the light (called the Aperture)
  2. Increase the amount of time that light is let into the camera (i.e. Shutter speed)

When your lens doesn't let in enough light for a given circumstance, then the camera has to leave the shutter open longer to gather more light. That's what causes the blurry pictures -- the shutter is staying open for a long time and the moving horse just becomes a blur.

Increasing the "ISO" setting amplifies what light does get through. This increased sensitivity to light allows the use of a faster shutter speed in a given situation. So increasing the ISO is definitely good advice.

The other recommendation (to get a lens that lets more light in) is also good. It's the best quality solution. Remember, the smaller the F/stop number, the more light is let in, and the faster your shutter speed can be. The f/2.8 lens that someone recommended might not even be enough for your needs. You may need the speed of a non-zoom lens. For example, the Pentax FA 50/1.4 lets in four times more light than a 2.8 lens.

To contextualize this --- if your current zoom is shooting at f/5.6, requiring a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second, then an f/2.8 lens will let you shoot at 1/60 of a second. The f/1.4 lens will let you shoot at 1/250 of a second. All just because of the ability of the lens to let more light in.

I hope I haven't insulted you by going right to photographic basics -- but they are worth knowing. Now that you have a digital SLR, any good Introduction To Photography book will help you see how f/stops, shutter speed and ISO ratings are interrelated.

Best of luck! I know that you will soon be shooting great looking photos of those horses.
03-15-2010, 04:45 PM   #10
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Thank you!!

and you can't possibly insult me because I am clueless (just smart enough to reach out to camera guru's). Glad you like my "handle", it came naturally

Keep the basics (really basics) coming. I keep saying that "I need to read the instruction book" but 2 months later...nada.
03-15-2010, 06:15 PM   #11
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Unfortunately, your lenses don't let as much light get to the sensor at the long end as they do on the short end. For that reason, I would use the 55-200 lens, but I would try to keep it at or close to the 55mm end.

If you look at your lenses specifications, you should be able to see something like:
18-55 f:3.5-5.6.

The first two numbers are the focal lengths covered by the lens. The second set of numbers indicates the opening of the lens at 18 and 55mm. Those numbers are a fraction of the focal length. The smaller the number, the wider the lens opening, so you can see that your lenses will let more light in at the shorter focal length than the longer.

Your 55-200 lens lets about twice as much light in at the short end than it does at the long end, so that's what you should use while inside if you are not too close to the action.
03-16-2010, 01:01 AM   #12
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It may help if you learn to "pan" while shooting. That is, keep the horse in the viewfinder by moving the camera in synchronization with the horse.


The moving subject will be in better focus than the background. The streaked background gives a nice feeling of dynamic motion to the photo.

Practice with automobiles & people on bikes.
03-16-2010, 04:28 AM   #13
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Sadly you need more light.

Everything people have said is unfortunatly true.

You need to have a shutter speed of say 1/200 (minimum) to freeze jumping horses, 1/250 or 1/500 would be far better.

I've shot jumping dogs indoors, but never houses, though I'm going to say there are a few similarities.

1. Don't use autofocus. Manual focus on a jump, this is easy the house is going to come to you.

2. Set your shutter speed to 1/200, and your lens wide open (for your lens this is f/5.6). Turn on the extended ISO range. See what ISO the camera thinks you need.

If this is at your highest (12800) and it still wants more, see how under exposed the image will be. One stop is ok, you can fix that later (sort of).

You may need a faster lens. If I were you I would look for a manual focus 135mm lens. These are about what I found I needed for dogs (but I think with horses you are farther away) and they can be found for cheap. You can frame by moving to a different location.

I'd look for a copy of the Vivitar 135mm 2.8 or the Pentax-A 135mm 2.8. There is a 3rd party version of this lens with the electronics "A" setting for about $30 on the Bay and the Vivitar is even cheaper.

I'd get a lens with the Pentax-A setting as it will allow you to let the camera control all the exposure details. The Vivitar will save you some money, but isn't really as easy to use.

Both will produce better images than your current 50-200mm for this type of shot. (plus make a dandy portrait lens).

You can also look for a 100mm/105mm f/2.5 or 2.8 MACRO lens (except these will set you back alot more).

Hope this helps.

Good luck

Last edited by omega leader; 03-16-2010 at 04:31 AM. Reason: Screwed up the K-X highest ISO setting.
03-16-2010, 05:12 AM   #14
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I think some folks here may be overestimating the size of the arena and recommending lengths that are way too long. I'm not so sure you can use the example of someone sitting in the 20th row of Madison Square Garden; I think the venue is probably a heck of a lot smaller.

For an indoor ring, sitting a few rows back, and trying to get the full horse and fence in (what they're jumping), I say a 50 tops on a DSLR. (If you want to zoom in on the horse's head and the rider hugging neck, that's a different story.)

Former almost-jockey here. Wasn't good enough, and I valued my LIFE too much.
03-16-2010, 06:01 AM   #15
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If 135mm is too long

My advice still holds for a shorter lens. If you can get away with it look for a Pentax-A 50mm 1.7.

Personally I like the subject isolation that a longer lens will give and be willing to move further away.
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