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Old Sep 16, 2006, 8:15 AM   #1
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First, alittle about myself: I've been shooting amateur photography for 30 years. 2 years ago I made the transition to digital. My main focus is kids sports, Baseball, soccer and football. I use a website to sell my photos to parents at a good price so that even low income parents can afford a pic of their kids, thus my business name: Lifetime Memories Productions.

http://printroom.com/pro/memories

My partner and I operate a photo booth on game day, we take turns shooting games, and manning the booth, taking orders onsite after proofs are printed with our laptop and printer, directly after a game. We have catalogs on the tables for parents to surf through, and order anything from montages (our biggest seller) to coffee mugs.

Currently I shoot with a Nikon D70s and a 70-300mm 4-5.6 G Nikkor lens (I have a 4-5.6ED VR lens on pre-order when they are released Oct.25th, woo hoo)

My primary focus is on football. I've been shooting it for 3 years now. Junior football, all the games are during the day, however living in the Pacific Northwest, we get alot of rain.

I've been somewhat successful getting good shots using shutter priority and setting it at around 500, while sacrificing a higher ISO. I try to find a nice balance between the two so that I don't have to spend hours on touch up (noise reduction, etc.) since I tend to shoot about 1200 photos over the span of 5 football games each Sat/Sun. (I avoid flash due to the distance I must shoot from across the field)



Would playing with my EV help reduce my ISO settings?

What would be your "minimum" shutter speed you'd use in rainy conditions?

What would be your "maximum" ISO you'd use in rainy conditions based on your above answer to shutter speed?

I'll admit I'm not too savvy with all the functions of this digital SLR so I'd appreciate any tips you pros have.



Thanks for all your help.

Brian

Lifetime Memories Productions
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Old Sep 16, 2006, 9:22 AM   #2
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Brian,

Everything comes down to shutter speed and DOF. 90% of the time for sports you want the shallowest DOF possible - which means shooting wide open - 5.6 in the case of your lenses. This is independent of rain or shine.

For shutter speeds, you want the fastest shutter speed you can get - 1/500 is typically the minimum you want. Again, this is independent of rain or shine. The players don't slow down or speed up just because it's raining.

Now, given the above I really suggest using aperture priority or manual mode over shutter priority. Why? To keep your dof as thin as possible and blur those distracting backgrounds. Why shoot at f8 1/500 when f5.6 1/1000 will give you better subject isolation? If lighting is fairly constant, expose for the faces of the players and set everything manually (aperture locked at f5.6, ISO set to minimum value that provides 1/500 shutter speeds). Also recommend using manual on bright days with one team in light uniforms the other in dark - again expose for faces. This prevents the camera from underexposing the faces on the team with light colored uniforms (wether using TV or AV mode the camera will try to protect the white jerseys and you won't be able to see the faces). Looking at your galleries, I think this tip will give you the greatest benefit - especially since you don't have time to correct all the underexposed faces. Even if you want to stay in TV mode and don't care about DOF - use positive EC to get those faces exposed.

If lighting is varied, use AV mode (again, dial up ISO until you can get 1/500 - this time use exposure compensation to expose for faces).

OK, so let's talk about high ISO and noise. The key to lower noise at any ISO is proper exposure. A properly exposed ISO 1600 image (and by proper I mean pushed slightly right) can look much better than an underexposed ISO 800 image that has to be adjusted in PP. So, at any ISO - especially 800 and above you want to set your exposure so you're slightly right on your histogram. This will give you the lowest noise signature. Now, assuming you do this, the next question is: what is the highest acceptable ISO for the given camera. Part of that is individual tastes but part is the camera. The D70s for instance has worse ISO 1600 noise performance than the D50. Is ISO 1600 usable on the D70s? Only you can decide that. In any event, I still recommend noise reduction. Most have a batch process - I know Noiseware Pro (what I use) does. But, that's up to you.

In any event, the fact that it's raining doesn't change any of the above. The keys are always the same: What ISO do I need to PROPERLY EXPOSE a photo with aperture wide open and shutter speeds of at least 1/500. When you figure out what you yourself feel is the highest ISO your camera can produce with acceptable quality that's simply where you stop - even if it means slower shutter speeds.

In the end, since you're running a business, the right answer is to get better lenses. Instead of $600 on a new lens still only capable of 5.6 apertures you'd be better off getting something from the following list, in order:

Sigma 120-300 2.8

Sigma 100-300 4.0

Nikon 80-200 2.8 plus 1.4x TC

The extra apertures are really the right answer. Not only will you be able to use lower ISO in all instances you'll also get better subject isolation in any lighting condition.

And, of course if it is rainy the bigger concern is protecting your equipment. Do you have a proper rain cover?
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Old Sep 16, 2006, 10:02 AM   #3
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Thanks John, that is very helpful. Would you suggest sacrficing the 300mm focal length for 200mm with a wider aperture? I'm guessing your answer is yes. I'm on a limited budget so I will consider those options you mentioned for lenses for future purchases.



Regarding the weather, yes, I have a rainhood.
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Old Sep 16, 2006, 12:18 PM   #4
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Tough choice. What i would suggest is get the 80-200 (or sigma's 70-200 2.8 for about $800) and a 1.4x TC. If you go the Sigma route you can get that for under $1000. Again, it's about investing in your business. If money is the driver, get the Sigma 70-200 2.8 only (you were going to buy a $600 lens and this is an $800 lens so not TOOO much more). Then after some additional sales, buy the TC.

Remember you're not just getting 2 stops in aperture you're also getting a better quality lens. And, for sports, I'll take a quality lens over the VR any day.

I just think spending $600 on a lens not designed for sports is kind of a throw-away investment. $300 I can see it. $600 though and you're losing ROI - how much more are you really gaining over your current setup?
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Old Sep 18, 2006, 8:26 AM   #5
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Good points on your posts, John. Thank you.
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Old Sep 18, 2006, 11:05 AM   #6
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Any opinions on the Nikon AF-D Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED?

I understand its about 80% as fast as the AF-S, and I think I could live with that with sports photography.
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Old Sep 18, 2006, 1:26 PM   #7
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Can't help you with that - I'm a Canon user. I'd try asking around in the Nikon lens forum (making sure you get responses from sports shooters - slow AF isn't as noticable when your subject doesn't move :-)).
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