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Old Apr 13, 2007, 9:09 PM   #1
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Here are some shots of my 5 year old's game from last week. I think they are sharper than the ones I posted at the beginning of the season. They were shot at 2.8, ISO 100, shutter 2500. Let me know what you think.



This next one is a cropped version of the same image. For some reason, it is usally my preference to get the players whole body. However, in this case I think the cropped version is better.



This next one was taken 15 minutes earlier. Same settings. However, it is not as sharp. The only difference was focal length. The sharper one was at 190mm, this one was at 165. Not sure if this could be why.



Again, this next one is the same image cropped:



These are not as sharp as the originals, but I had to resize for the website. However, the difference is not that dramatic.

Do you think the cropped images are better? Also, I read in several posts that technique leads to sharper images. I am using the center focal point only. I am trying to get them as tight as I can. I still take a lot of soft ones, so any pointers are greatly appreciated. I am a newbie, so I guess I just need a lot of practice. At least the sun was somewhat cooperative for these shots. The Florida sun and harsh shadows can be brutal on a rookie.

Although I won't complain too much. It lets me do this when the snow is still flying elswhere.



I know the jumper isn't sharp at all. This is cropped all the waybecause it was about 200 yards away. I took the day of from work, the 18-55 kit lens was already on, I had to drive the boat, keep the lines untangled, and pray my 8 year old didn't drop the $500 rod/reel into the water (excuses, excuses). Anyway, it's kinda cool.

Thanks againfor any pointers.
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Old Apr 13, 2007, 9:43 PM   #2
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I would say the first shot is a great one! Nice and sharp and great expression. Either version works well - cropped or uncropped. The second shot is a little too soft for the tighter crop so I would leave it with the original crop. If it weren't for the sharpness I like the framing of shot 2 better (orignal crop vs. original crop). Shot 1 has a lot of dead space above his head (my guess is you were focusing on his face with center focus point).

Generally in baseball/softball I use all focus points - there usually isn't an issue of who the subject is - that is, players aren't getting mixed up like soccer, foorball, lax or other such sports.

Also great pic with the catch on the boat. Man I'd love to try that some time. I'm guessing it's a lot of fun (and probably quite a workout)!

Good job!
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Old Apr 14, 2007, 8:50 AM   #3
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I agree with JohnG. I thinkthe first shot is great. Also, in the cropped shots, the out-of-focus chain link fence becomes distracting.

Also, I think that a fast shutter speed makes the ball look like its hanging there, waiting to be hit. A slower shutter speed would give the ball and bat some motion blur that would give the images more context.

But you're already shooting at f/2.8 to get a shallow depth of field, and with an ISOsetting of 100 you probably couldn't slow the shutter down much.
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Old Apr 14, 2007, 10:47 AM   #4
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#1 is my favorite and the timing in #3 is purfect for me. My question is, what is your camera equipment and do you use focus lock, one shot mode?

Some may argue this point but I had much grief with this one small oversight for my first year of shooting, I wanted fast shutter and lots of light so I pumped up the ISO's and shot at 2.8 and all my shots were soft. How could I do as much research into my equipment then pour all my hard earned money into equipment that turns out soft focus pictures?!!? I was choked!:evil::angry::ak47::X

It took an entire year of being so fed up and mad and posting my anger for someone to say "don't shoot at 2.8. Instead sacrifice some shutter speed and shoot at 4".

Just making that small adjustment turned throwing away 200 - 300 photos in a weekend meet to throwing away about 80 - 100. After a while technique kicked in and now I shoot far less and maybe throwing away 20.

Any lens wide open will shoot soft. Plus at wide open you only have a small radious that is going to be as sharp as being wide open will allow. For example, check out your first picture. I'm going to guess that you centre focused on the letters "CT" or his right shoulder. Shooting at 2.8 will only give you afew inches of clairity about the size ofa footballso as you look toward his nose and teeth thefocus turns soft starting at the side of the helmet. (Zooming right in tight to the letters CT and theright side of the helmet, the lettersare clearer.)

Change your apparture to 4, 6 or even 8and your focus radious will widen to about the size of amedium sized beach ballor even a bit wider, still giving you good DOF. Following that, do some slight unsharp mask and you've got an amazing keeper.

As far as cropping goes, I would crop #1 from top to bottom loosing most of the dead space above his head instead of cropping from left to right. I hope you don't mind that I cropped it as I described.
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Old Apr 14, 2007, 12:30 PM   #5
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Thanks for the suggestions. I have a 20d with a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 NON IS lens. I shoot AI Servo and don't use focus lock. I will try shooting at f/4 to see if I get any better results.

I wonder if you guys can help me with this? When doing multiple shots, sometimes the focus wanders. I know it is me not the lens, but I can't figure it out. I apologize for such a ridiculous question, but I am a weekend warrior with nobody else to ask.

Here is an example. The camera settings were f/2.8, ISO 100, shutter 1000, focus AI Servo. The sun was almost directly above or just a little behind the batter. I had only the center focal point on and kept it on his nose for all shots. I probably should have framed it tighter or held the camera in portrait orientation, but I noticed when i do that and keep the center focal point on his face I will lose part of the bat or the ball. Maybe its just my shotgun approach and I need to develop the skill to get the one money shot.






You can see in the first one his head is to theleft of the light pole. I kept the center focal point on his head and tracked his head to the right of the pole. Now the pole is in focus and not his face (the first shot was the opposite). In the next shot, the focus is correct.



Is it my framing? Should I turn all the focal points on? Although early in the season I used all focal points and it still happened. In little league the kids can get all bunched up which makes it more difficult (for me anyway). Again, I am not blaming the lens and I am sorry for such a simplistic issue. Thanks for any pointers.
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Old Apr 14, 2007, 1:05 PM   #6
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OK - I think I can definitely help you with your problem. I'm going to suggest 3 things:

1. Definitely frame tighter. You mention the kids getting bunched up - when you frame tight enough there is only room for two subjects in the frame anyway. This is the single most important factor that will constitute success in your sports shooting.

2. Use all focus points - not just center focus point - look in this sport you don't have athletes intermixing as much - the focus doesn't get fooled like it does in other sports so using all points allows you to keep a focus point on your subject easier. The reason the focus is getting fooled now is that your subject is slipping off the focal point - you may not think so, but it happens - with loose framing it happens easier.

3. I've seen the light this year. For sports like this, Cfn-4 really shines. I recommend using cfn 4 -3 (i.e. set cfn4 to mode 3). Here's what it does. It switches focus to the * button on the back of the camera. In mode 3, metering still occurs on every frame - so it's good to leave it there. Now, here's how it's a benefit. In your sample shots, you focus on the player with the * - when you get a good focus you remove your thumb. Focus doesn't change from here on out. When you press the shutter you don't have to worry about the focus shifting to the wrong thing. Your subject isn't going to move out of the focal plane with the swing of a bat so you don't need to use continuous. PLUS, you can then change the framing so you don't have the center point on his face. It takes some getting used to, but for a sport like this it works wonders. You just have to remember to use your thumb again when he starts running :G I made that mistake once or twice the first inning I shot.

Here's a sequence using cfn-4 (yes I know the horizon is off but I'm just illustrating a focus issue). I took an initial focu and removed my thumb so the camera would not refocus:







then I use my thumb to achieve focus again when he runs:







Finally - another problem with center point and faces - the focus system needs to detect light/contrast differences to work well. That can be difficult with faces unless the face is filling a large portion of the frame. Target the letters/numbers on the jersey. Your dof is sufficient at 200mm 2.8 that the couple inch difference that can occur as the head moves won't make a bit of difference. Just look at the shot with your boy at the tee - what has more contrast his face or the letters on the jersey?

One other comment. As Spy indicated you'll get sharper shots when you stop the lens down. But the problem isn't just slower shutter speeds - it's disturbing backgrounds as well. Since Spy mentioned shooting meets I'll assume he meant swimming. The backgrounds at the angles in question for swimming aren't nearly as distracting as baseball backgrouns. The lens you're using is plenty sharp at 2.8. When you frame tighter and use higher contrast areas for focus you're keepers will go up. If you prefer, stop the lens down until you get better at your technique - then you can open the lens back up to 2.8. You'll be surprised how much better a sharp 2.8 image will be than a sharp 4.0 or 5.6 because you'll have better subject isolation.





Keep at it. Sports shooting is tougher than people think. You've got fantastic equipment - now you just need to keep practicing.

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Old Apr 14, 2007, 1:25 PM   #7
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Thanks again for all the pointers. I sincerely appreciate the expert advice. It really is great that a forum like this exists.
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Old Apr 18, 2007, 8:53 PM   #8
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JohnGtwo questions for you. When you say use all of the focus points instead of just the center are you talking about automatic AF selection?

Also what AF mode are you using? One shot or AI Servo?

THanks!
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Old Apr 18, 2007, 9:10 PM   #9
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AI-Servo with all focus points active. AI servo uses the center point to acquire and the others to track.

But as I said cfn4 is a definite benefit for certain situations. You could use single shot in those situations but then you wouldn't be able to track the runner when they moved beyond your pre-focused point.

If you're using a camera from another system I don't know if they have a similar function to cfn4 or not. If they don't then my suggestion would be to use ai-servo.
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