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04-28-2007, 08:32 PM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
(A)Didn't mention this myself on purpose - wanted to see if someone else would. In addition to the points made already by Beth and wethphoto, I suspect that the problems I have with quick auto-focus may also at least some times be blamed on dark spots in the gyms. When I started doing this last year, I didn't realize this. Now I can see the bright and dark spots pretty clearly, so that's a bit of progress. Unfortunately, I don't see them through the viewfinder as well as I do just looking at 'em with the ol' eyeballs. So far, I've not noticed a correlation between the camera balking on me and me trying to shoot at a dark spot. But I've suspected that it's a possibility, at least in a few cases.

The variations in the gyms I've been shooting in are pretty dramatic, actually, and this is one of the reasons why I find TAv mode on the K10D so much more useful than M. If I shoot M, the camera has to think a bit less, but some of the shots come out underexposed. Shooting TAv, the exposure is more consistent.

(B)Sigh. I'm trying to work my way up to a batting average that good. I have a way go to.

Will
(A) Will,

I have a 3 inch 3-ring binder with maps; lighting maps, of all 13 local high schools-gyms, auditoriums, theaters. During Beth's four years playing basketball I even kept track of light type and color temperature.

I'd go 45 minutes or so before the first game (usually a 'C' team-freshmen or a JV event) and walk right out onto the court to take light meter and color temp readings. Then use a wax pencil to write onto an overlay sheet in the notebook.

This kind of thing will drive you crazy-I spent a summer with TurboCAD and made actual draftsman quality diagrams. Superimposed flash distance too! Then they outlawed flash-it wasn't just the players cussing!

So you like Tav? Hmmm; early on I stated somewhere that this would be the next best innovation since the toaster. Then I fell back into old habits-time to play some, I think.

(B)One evening, some time back, I was crossed legged (one totally a sleep) down under the basket at a tournament, with a friend. It's the usual banter: chimping and bragging. The game starts and we get to work.

After one particularly exciting play: several shots, misses and rebounds--all with much clicking and straining on our (photographers) part, we both hear the other guys click at the crucial shot. The action drifts down to the other end of the court.

My friend leans over and deadpans:" we make this look easy!" I missed the next several minutes play while laughing till I thought I hurt something. And that darn leg was still asleep!

Happy snapping...

04-28-2007, 09:37 PM   #17
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QuoteOriginally posted by jfdavis58 Quote
I'm not going to analyze your situation-too complex.

I've shot these sports for money or fame

....

There is one simple reason why you had trouble: not enough practice.
There is one simple fix to make it work in the future: more practice.
Excellent post. I have many years of landscape photography experience and have only recently ventured into some sports action photography at my son's soccer game. I'm gradually learning how to capture the shots I want. It has everything to do with technique and anticipating what is going to happen, and little to do with equipment.
04-28-2007, 10:21 PM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by GaryML Quote
Excellent post. I have many years of landscape photography experience and have only recently ventured into some sports action photography at my son's soccer game. I'm gradually learning how to capture the shots I want. It has everything to do with technique and anticipating what is going to happen, and little to do with equipment.
Yes, that's true - once you've got more or less the right equipment.

Will
04-28-2007, 11:43 PM   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Yes, practice is important. That is precisely what I'm doing out there. I've been out shooting for a couple hours nearly every Saturday for the last eighth months. I took 400 shots today...
You missed the point. My suggestion wasn't really about practice, or your skill level. It was about an alternative method of focusing in response to your suspicion that the camera may be focusing too slowly in a particular situation.

I see from your response that manual focus hasn't worked for you, so you'd prefer to use AF. Fine. Have you read page 66 of the manual - subjects that are difficult to focus on? After mentioning AF isn't perfect, it suggests manual focus, but have you tried locking the focus instead (pg 134)?

Most sports photographers use longer lenses, but I see you're using a 50mm. Are you close enough to the athletes to actually give the camera an object large enough to easily focus on? If not, it shouldn't be that difficult to figure out why the camera often hunts for a focus point.

Good luck with the problem, Will. I do hope you eventually resolve it to your satisfation.

stewart

04-29-2007, 12:03 AM   #20
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I don't know if this will help you, but an ex combat/war photographer once advised me to change from using my left eye to the viewfinder.

Because the eyepiece is located well to the left of centre of the camera body, using the right eye frees the left one to see the broader view.

With a little practice one can use the usually out of focus left eye view to help anticipate the next action and duck the flying ball/bat/body/bomb or what ever.

Flicking your attention from the viewfinder eye to the left one and back again becomes a kind of reflex behaviour.

It certainly helped in following the antics of the performers, especially the frequently improvised (mis-)behaviour of the clowns, during the making of a long doco on circuses.

Since then I've found the technique to be valuable in all sorts of circumstances where there is a need to be aware of ones general surroundings whilst primarily concentrating on a narrow field of view.
04-29-2007, 12:32 AM   #21
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Back in the old days (do the 60's mean anything?) when I was shooting football and basket ball with a twins lens reflex - I had similar issues. Basicly what I did was pick a spot that I knew where the players were going to be - set the f/stop and shutter (1/60 x sync - and it depended on the distance for the f stop - the effective shutter speed was 1/2000 of a second - flash duration) and wait for the action to come to me.
In the day before AF, motor drives and high ISO. The flash (I still have it) has a xenon flash tube that is 2in. long and will blind anyone within 10 feet - whines like a siren when charging (6 second recharge).
Anyway - when I was on vacation last Dec. I had the oportunity while walking around to take pictures at a Cricket match (I have a very primitive understanding of the sport). So I strapped my *ist Ds with a 300mm Vivitar TX-K mount manual lens onto my monopod. I focused on the wickets and waited for the "pitch". I was getting 3 shot bursts that worked out reasonably well - by setting the focus point and waiting for the action to take place.

Now for an apology - I know you do not want the hear about de-coupleing the AF from the shutter - but here is what I would do.
Select a spot on the gym floor - something that the focus system will lock onto - set the focus. If you are decoupled shall we say - you can point the camera at an area of your choosing to set the exposure (or go all manual) - put the camera into burst mode - when the subjects get to the spot you focused on (I assume you have a good feel for DOF) blast away. But practice - practice - practice.
With the K10D or any camera - you should be comfortable enough to change the settings on the camera without having to take it away from your eye. Pick your spots for the images - know your sport inside and out - carry 18% grey cards and 90% white cards so you can validate exposure and white balance - one way is to just shoot the grey card an white card for use in setting up any PP that you will do on that shoot.
Invest in fast glass and recognize that you might get a handfull of useable images out of the several hundred that you shoot. The next time you go to a pro sports event - just listen to the frames getting fired off - then look in the newspaper the following day and see the 1 or 2 images that acutally make the cut. Sports photography is sort of like baseball - a study in near failure. (what other business holds people with a 40% success rate as national heros?)

PDL
04-29-2007, 01:03 AM   #22
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I guess it's not that simple that you have a slow memory card in combination with shooting RAW. A full buffer would give you the slow snap, breath, snap, breath behavier you mentioned and the occasional slow shutter.
04-29-2007, 09:51 AM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by stewart_photo Quote
You missed the point. My suggestion wasn't really about practice, or your skill level. It was about an alternative method of focusing in response to your suspicion that the camera may be focusing too slowly in a particular situation.

I see from your response that manual focus hasn't worked for you, so you'd prefer to use AF. Fine. Have you read page 66 of the manual - subjects that are difficult to focus on? After mentioning AF isn't perfect, it suggests manual focus, but have you tried locking the focus instead (pg 134)?
Yes, as a bird photographer, I'm quite aware of that page of the manual. And I use manual focus all the time when focusing on a bird sitting in the middle of tree branches.

But what IS the point of auto-focus? I don't think auto-focus is just a toy feature thrown in for amateurs. The advantage of auto-focus is that it's quicker and tends to be more accurate than manual focus, especially with moving subjects. And auto-focus works for me shooting sports MOST of the time. I thought I made it clear in my original post that I am not having problems with all of my shots or even most of them - just that I was missing a few because the camera was balking on me.

Now, when shooting a basketball game or volleyball game, I have to make up my mind how I'm going to approach things. The focus-type selection button on the K10D is very convenient. I know where it is and how to use it without taking my eye from the viewfinder, because I use it when shooting birds. But I do not have time to switch from auto-focus to manual focus in the middle of a shot.


QuoteQuote:
Most sports photographers use longer lenses but I see you're using a 50mm. Are you close enough to the athletes to actually give the camera an object large enough to easily focus on? If not, it shouldn't be that difficult to figure out why the camera often hunts for a focus point.
"Most photographers use longer lenses"? I would think it depends on the sport, and where the photographer is able to sit. You would need a longer lens to shoot soccer, I understand. But, as I said, I'm right on the sidelines, sometimes close enough that I could literally reach out and touch a player. One problem with the 50mm lens is that it's TOO LONG for a shot when the action gets close to me. In terms of focal lengths, the Tamron lens (28-75mm) is nearly perfect. The ONLY "weakness" of the Tamron lens is that the f/2.8 is sometimes still a bit too slow for the dark spots in these gyms especially.

What I know about this photographic problem now is the following.

1. This is a difficult assignment in part because the lighting in these gyms sucks.
2. This is a difficult assignment because shooting sports is inherently difficult (in other words, it would be hard even if I were sitting in an Olympic gymnasium)
3. I now have pretty much the right equipment, so most of the problems I face are indeed due to the challenges I face as I learn to make the best of a bad situation and a tough assignment.

Will

04-29-2007, 10:37 AM   #24
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If you have a lens with internal focusing, that would probably be the better choice. Such lenses focus faster because there is less mass to move. I have successfully used an FA 24-90/3.5-4.5 AL(IF) for indoor sports (although not for anything as fast paced as basketball).

While brighter at f/1.4, the 50/1.4 has lower contrast full open; perhaps that makes autofocus work slower since autofocus works by measuring contrast. Just a speculation.

In my film days I had to ditch a Canon 50/1.4 and use a 35-135/4-5.6 zoom for sports. The zoom focused much faster.
04-30-2007, 02:27 AM   #25
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Perhaps this has already been mentioned, but are you using Autofocuspoint on automatic? I allways use manual selection and feel the centre point is the most responsive.
04-30-2007, 06:53 AM   #26
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QuoteOriginally posted by baw Quote
Perhaps this has already been mentioned, but are you using Autofocuspoint on automatic? I always use manual selection and feel the centre point is the most responsive.
Yes, I generally use center-point focusing.

Will
05-04-2007, 06:11 PM   #27
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AF doesn't do well in subdued light. I've had it lock, then hunt off and lock somewhere else before releasing the shutter.

I'm using a K100D. My Pentax 16-45 DA autofocuses faster and more reliably than my Tamron 70-300 Di, especially at the Tamron's longer focal lengths. I don't know if this affects all long lenses equally, or is a limitation of the Tamron.

I learned also that AF can be deceived by light coming from directions it doesn't expect. I tried to take a portrait of one of my wife's cousins in his home in Vietnam. Plenty of light coming through an open door for a nice, sidelit head-and-shoulders shot. Unfortunately, AF locked on a table in the next room. Nice looking table, blurry cousin!

I was out shooting every day for a month in VN. After a while, I got better at determining which situations AF could handle and which required manual focus and/or pre-focusing.

Last edited by dndavis; 05-04-2007 at 06:22 PM.
05-07-2007, 10:19 PM   #28
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followup

Thought I'd followup here. In my original post, I reported that I'd missed some shots at a volleyball game because the camera simply hesitated or balked when I tried to hit the shutter.

As suggested, I did make some tests during the last week outdoors in good light - and in those conditions, the K10D was able to focus quickly and easily with both of the lenses I'm using for volleyball (Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 XR Di, and Pentax FA 50 f/1.4). That seems to confirm my suspicion that the problem was, in good part, due to the lousy lighting in the elementary school gymnasium I've been shooting in. As I said, the problem is intermittent. I know that there are spots in the gym that are definitely more badly lit than others. I think now that the balking was probably occurring when (1) I was pointing the camera at a dead spot AND (2) my technique was less than perfect.

I can't do a thing about the dead spots, but I can try even harder to improve my technique. This last weekend, I shot five more games (300+ photos taken over two hours). In line with some of the other suggestions made (particularly by Beth Davis), I tried very consciously to make sure that I'm giving the lens time to focus, and not just mashing the shutter all the way. I've always been fairly careful about how I depress the shutter, but obviously there's room for improvement. I am happy to report that I did not miss any shots this weekend as a result of balking. And I was shooting in the same gym I'd been in the previous week when I had the problem that caused me to start the thread. The only shots I missed were during a very exciting moment when I stopped doing my job dispassionately and allowed myself to get excited about what was happening at the net. I don't do that often, but hey, my kid's on the court, and I'm human (mostly).

In this most recent outing, I used both lenses - the Tamron (which I have been using for months) and the Pentax 50 f/1.4 (with which I have less experience). I'm enclosing two shots. The grayscale shot of the girls falling to the court trying to get to the ball was taken with the Tamron: 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1600. I'm pleased with my timing, but as you can see, the slower shutter and the the higher ISO make for a noisier, less sharp image. The noise is somewhat exacerbated because I cropped the photo. The other (color) picture was taken with the Pentax lens: 1/350 sec, f/1.7 and ISO 800. It is less dramatic, but technically much cleaner. (The entire gallery can be viewed here.)

The playoffs are coming this Saturday. Not sure if I'll bring both lenses or not, but if I decide just to use the Pentax f/1.4, at least I feel more confident now that it will respond. I just have to give it just a split second to do its job.

Thanks to everybody for the responses.

Will
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05-08-2007, 08:33 AM   #29
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP:
P.S. Sorry for the careless misspelling of the subject! Looks like I can't fix it after the fact....
Will,

Slightly off topic. I didn't read every post in this thread, but am glad you have better results now under difficult shooting conditions. Please post some shots from the playoffs.

On being able to edit the subject line text...I think you can. Go to the Edit screen, and press the "Go Advanced" button. The second fill-in box at the top is the title. It will show your current title and it is here you can make any changes, I think.

- - - - -

p.s. I like the high ISO b&w shot. The noise in b&w mode look like it belongs. It doesn't detract from the picture.
05-08-2007, 08:41 AM   #30
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Will,
Thanks for the update. I was wondering how things had turned out. I like both your shots. Regarding your first shot, I have used Neat Image to reduce the noise on my gym shots and I was pleased with the results. If I think of it at home, I will upload a before and after for you.

Good luck with playoffs and thanks for creating and perpetuating such a thoughtful thread that has helped me "sharpen" my autofocus skills.
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