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09-29-2007, 08:26 PM   #1
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Learning to shoot fast action with a Pentax

After all the complaints about difficulty shooting action with a Pentax vs a Canikon brand - I tried shooting stuff that is small and really moves fast. I documented a Radio Control car race. I learned a LOT about capturing action. It was quite the opportunity - hundreds of model cars running about all day. I'm SO much better with action focus now. Here are the results:

RC Pro Series Omaha Qualifying - a photoset on Flickr

An Example:



09-29-2007, 08:33 PM   #2
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Another: They really fly off the jumps!
09-29-2007, 08:59 PM   #3
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Nice shots buddy. I like to shoot r/c too. Would you share any tips that you have discovered? What lens too? Any info apprecaited, thanks.
I looked at your other shots too, very well done.

Peter
09-29-2007, 09:19 PM   #4
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Thanks!
Biggest tip - giving up on continuous autofocus!

I'm a video guy by trade. NO pro video cams have autofocus, and we are expected to be in focus at all times. As soon as I started using the still camera like a video rig - I started getting many more shoots in focus.

I'm was using a Pentax-M 135/3.5 early morning and late evening on tele shots. Its my fastest tele. Once things got bright I used a Sigma APO DG 70-300. Kept it stopped down to f8 to keep sharpness and easier DOF. The wide angle stuff was the kit 18-55 lens.
Tomorrow I want to slow the shutter down and try more panning with blurred background. That gets REALLY tough with these fast models as I'm sure you know.

09-29-2007, 10:31 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by JasonS Quote
Biggest tip - giving up on continuous autofocus!
I'm a video guy by trade. NO pro video cams have autofocus, and we are expected to be in focus at all times. As soon as I started using the still camera like a video rig - I started getting many more shoots in focus.
I like that - very well done!

So are you waiting for the shot with pre-focus by
holding auto-focus
or
manual focus?

Would you please be kind enough to give us a description of what you did?

Thanks,
09-30-2007, 07:51 AM   #6
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When you shoot pro video, you constantly roll the focus so you are in focus all the time. For video lens, clockwise (right) is for subjects closer (tight) to you. Counterclockwise (left) is for subjects further (loose) to you. Thus you can use the same numonics that mechanics use for bolts. Righty tighty, leftly loosey.

What i've found, some photography lens focus this way, some are opposite. Its REALLY hard for me to focus this way when its opposite of my video experience. I've got 20 years of muscle memory that runs righty tighty.

Also, I developed two techniques for shutter release. As fast as these cars travel its extremely hard to keep in focus all the time as you follow them around. Its hard enough just keeping them in frame! Well, if you are trying to capture them around a corner or on a straight - it isn't that critical exactly where the frame is. I just trained my brain to wait for focus and framing and then release the shutter. After a few hundred I found my brain releasing the shutter everytime things were right WITHOUT even consciously thinking about it.

For those shots where track location is critical its the old prefocus method. (the jump shots) This works best in manual focus. Just set the focus where you know the pic will be, then pan with the care up and through that point. When the car enters the preset focus zone your muscle memory will hit that shutter release.

I'm sure this stuff is old hat to pro photogs.
09-30-2007, 07:56 AM   #7
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Thank you for the tips! Those are GREAT photos!!
09-30-2007, 08:27 AM   #8
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Jason, could you share the EXIF information such as shutter speed, aperture, focal length, etc for the first shot? Did you also use Action program mode instead of shutter priority?

Your flickr photo say aperture is 0 and focal length is 0mm.

Thanks


Last edited by raider; 09-30-2007 at 08:34 AM.
09-30-2007, 08:39 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by JasonS Quote
I'm sure this stuff is old hat to pro photogs.
Maybe...... but you've described it very well -
thank you very much.

I recall in the days before auto-focussing there used to be a series of interchangeable lenses - I think called Novoflex - that had a special focussing aid/mechanism called "follow focus" - which aided sports/action photographers to literally follow focus -

I believe follow focus was not just for the still photography world -
but used much more in the film/video world - the Wikipedia describes it well -

Follow focus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Here's a description from 35.htm (about 1/2 way down the page)

"NOVOFLEX FOLLOW FOCUS TELEPHOTO LENS SYSTEMS
Novoflex is a high quality German manufacturer that made equipment to fit many different cameras. Novoflex is best known for making a fantastic long focus lens system similar to the Leitz Televit system with interchangeable lens heads, interchangeable camera adapters, rifle stocks, tele-extenders, extension tubes, etc. The Novoflex follow focus system is unique and most effective. ...<snip> ... Novoflex follow focus hand grips are spring loaded for fast operation. Normally focused at the closest focusing distance, you pull on the handgrip trigger to focus towards infinity. Leitz offered a similar modular slower focusing system called the Televit, but Leitz also had Novoflex make focusing systems for Leitz lenses; now that's a recommendation! Leica Telyt lenses made for use with the Televit and Novoflex lenses made for use with the follow focus handgrips are lightweight, sharp and contrasty acromats. They are superb for widelife photography. Most importantly, Novoflex systems are useable with modern film and digital cameras."

Here's an index page of scans of pages from what looks like a Novoflex manual in German (but they's got lots of pics) -

NOVOFLEX Follow Focus lens

EDIT to ADD -

I found the Novoflex website and there is a page on their -

Rapid Focus Lenses (click on lenses)

Last edited by UnknownVT; 09-30-2007 at 09:05 AM.
09-30-2007, 09:37 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by raider Quote
Jason, could you share the EXIF information such as shutter speed, aperture, focal length, etc for the first shot? Did you also use Action program mode instead of shutter priority?

Your flickr photo say aperture is 0 and focal length is 0mm.

Thanks
About half of those were taken with an old M135 lens - so no EXIF except maybe focal length if I set it in the SR menu. I think that one was with that lens.
Full manual mode. Most of the time I was F8 and shutter between 500 - 1000 and ISO 200. Early morning and late evening I opened up to wide open on the M135/3.5. I didn't use the Sigma except full sun. Usually F8-11 with 1/750 shutter. Tried to stay under 200mm as well for sharpness.
I THINK you can get more exif data in flickr under a "more info" tab.
09-30-2007, 09:42 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by UnknownVT Quote

I recall in the days before auto-focussing there used to be a series of interchangeable lenses - I think called Novoflex - that had a special focussing aid/mechanism called "follow focus" - which aided sports/action photographers to literally follow focus -
YEP, when shooting in what we call "studio" config, we aways use remote focus and zoom controls. On high end cinema shoots, an operator is devoted exclusively to running the focus. You can put tape marks on the control wheel to indicate focus points. On a baseball game for ex, you'd have marks for all the bases and major positions. You just snap to that mark an you know you're good.

You can do the exact same "follow focus" without the remote connection - however it can't be done by anyone but the cam op and it doesn't have the gear reduction benefit of the controller. More sensitive and you can't make marks you can see when your eye is on the viewfinder.
Now that we are moving into HD focus is becoming more of an issue again. Many cameras feature "focus assist" circuits that introduce a kind of artificial sharpening circuit that boosts detail in picture elements that are in focus. They also do this for exposure too. Features like this could be introduced in "live view", but I much prefer an SLR arrangement anyway... Its REALLY expensive to produce a high res small viewfinder. An HD Pro Video camera viewfinder can easily cost $8,000 alone.

Last edited by JasonS; 09-30-2007 at 09:47 AM.
09-30-2007, 11:19 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by JasonS Quote
YEP, when shooting in what we call "studio" config, we aways use remote focus and zoom controls. On high end cinema shoots, an operator is devoted exclusively to running the focus. You can put tape marks on the control wheel to indicate focus points. On a baseball game for ex, you'd have marks for all the bases and major positions. You just snap to that mark an you know you're good.

You can do the exact same "follow focus" without the remote connection - however it can't be done by anyone but the cam op and it doesn't have the gear reduction benefit of the controller. More sensitive and you can't make marks you can see when your eye is on the viewfinder.
Thank you so much - I really appreciate you sharing this knowledge.

Using pre-set focus points is a really good technique - but it is really comes down to the pre-focus technique - with the relatively fast auto-focus on modern dSLRs, one can pre-select focus points along the track and very quickly focus on those points and hold that pre-focus until the subject comes into frame, and then using "instinct"/muscle memory to trip the shutter.

I never tried follow focus before - only used pre-focus - although I just realized Pentax lenses seem to be the opposite to your mnemonic for follow focus......

QuoteOriginally posted by JasonS Quote
I'm was using a Pentax-M 135/3.5
QuoteOriginally posted by JasonS Quote
When you shoot pro video, you constantly roll the focus so you are in focus all the time. For video lens, clockwise (right) is for subjects closer (tight) to you. Counterclockwise (left) is for subjects further (loose) to you. Thus you can use the same numonics that mechanics use for bolts. Righty tighty, leftly loosey.

What i've found, some photography lens focus this way, some are opposite. Its REALLY hard for me to focus this way when its opposite of my video experience. I've got 20 years of muscle memory that runs righty tighty.
I guess since the manual focus Pentax M135 has clockwise to infinity, and counterclockwise for closer - this must have been difficult for you?



Manual lenses have good sized focussing rings so are more useful for follow focus techniques,
whereas most autofocus lenses seem to have almost a token/narrow manual focussing ring.
09-30-2007, 12:36 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by UnknownVT Quote
I guess since the manual focus Pentax M135 has clockwise to infinity, and counterclockwise for closer - this must have been difficult for you?
Yep! I mostly used the preset focus technique with the M135 . It primarily comes out at dawn and dusk when I need some more sensitivity. DOF is too shallow then to follow focus anyway, at least with it backwards for me!
Granted, 3.5 is not great - but the M135 stays pretty sharp open. The Sigma gets soft below f8.
I would LOVE a fast 2.8ish Long lens, but I'm a cheapskate.
I bought into Pentax for the Cost/Quality ratio. People that don't know Pentax always assume I've got thousands in my kit. Quite a few of them have point and shoots that cost more than my K100D body. Gotta love that.
09-30-2007, 08:12 PM   #14
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I love shooting motorsports and knew that Pentax wasn't an ideal choice for this, but for my budget at the time, Pentax was the best choice. However, I've found that it's more than capable of capturing action shots. From my experience, I've also learned that AF should be turned off; manual focus is a whole lot easier once you get the hang of it. With motorsports, it's a bit easier since cars take a certain line and you can pre-focus on the track.

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Those were shot with my DS using the Sigma 24-135mm, not a fast lens at the long end It just takes a bit of practice and patience.

Last edited by Toshi; 10-02-2007 at 01:33 PM.
09-30-2007, 08:57 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Toshi Quote
With motorsports, it's a bit easier since cars take a certain line and you can pre-focus on the track.
YEP! I shot the A feature (top 10 qualifiers in own race) of the premier class today. I found that the cars that placed well were also the ones I happened to have the best pics of from the qualifying days. As a photog, I wasn't really aware what the qualifying times were.
Just so happens that the good drivers are also smooth and hit the same lines consistently. Which also makes them easier to shoot!

The results:
RC Pro Series BuggyA - a photoset on Flickr

Last edited by JasonS; 09-30-2007 at 10:35 PM.
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