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Old Sep 1, 2007, 7:08 AM   #1
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Before Friday night's game, I had only visited our opponents' facilities once--for a basketball game in the 80's, but those memories stood me in good stead. Before the game, I actually found myself counting the light bulbs (There were 52--almost all of which worked) and wishing for a 7:00 kickoff instead of 7:30. My fears were well-founded. My two f4.0/5.6 zooms (Tamron 70-300 & Sigma 28-200) were useless paperweights. As an experiment I had thrown into my bag an old Vivitar 75-250 maual focus that was slightly better at the zoom end (f3.8/4.5) and I was able to get a couple of decent shots with it.

Fortunately, I had also thrown into my kit a couple of "desparation" lenses--a 50mm f2.0 and a Takumar 135mm f2.8--both manual focus. It was the Takumar that saved my bacon.
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Old Sep 1, 2007, 7:15 AM   #2
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The lighting was so poor that I could not achieve anything better than 1/20th shutter speed with the Tamron and Sigma lenses, even with the ISO kicked up to 1600.

What I got with the 135mm is not great, perhaps not even good, but without the advice I have gotten in this forum, I probably would have been completely shut out. I make that point to say thanks to John, Mark, and others who have critiqued and offered suggestions.

Even with the 135mm 2.8, what I got still wasn't good until I knocked the EC down a full step, leaving with slightly dark photos to deal with in post-processing, but less motion blur because of a faster shutter.

(As you might expect, keep ratio was very low--slightly over 1100 shots to get 27 keepers.)

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Old Sep 1, 2007, 7:21 AM   #3
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John, you'll be happy to note that I didn't try to push the shorter lens to the other side of the field through heavy cropping. Thanks to your advice I waited for the action to come to me. This is a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter. I was literally shooting over the line judge's shoulder.

(I was close enough most of the night to have to dodge several times, duck a high pass or two, and get tapped a couple of times at the end of plays.....gotta to learn quicker to read through the viewfinder when a guy is about to run into me, lol)
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Old Sep 1, 2007, 7:26 AM   #4
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On this game, I cannot blame any focus problems (I know #2 is slightly off) on an AF, but I was just happy to be able to keep shooting and not have to shut down because of lens limitations. Had I done so, I would have missed our team's coming from 21 points down to take the lead, only to lose it with three minutes left, and respond with a touchdown drive to pull within 35-34 with 34.6 seconds left. Thus, I was on the goal line for the deciding two-point conversion try.


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Old Sep 3, 2007, 7:27 AM   #5
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After doing some follow-up editing, I have a couple of more to post, along with a question. I tried several times to get decent shots of placekickers. Several problems kept most of my shots from being good....motion blur, referee in the way, etc. I got this one (crop was app. 1350 X 1500 pixels before being reduced for forum), which I thought was decent, but could have been better. It made me think of a couple of questions, though? What is the best angle for shooting a kicker? By shooting slightly in front, you get the chance of the kicker's expressions, but you give up any possibility of a facial shot of a guy blocking the kick. On this sequence, I had a good facial shot of the holder as he caught the snap. Would that have been better timing, even though the kicker was not yet in motion?
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Old Sep 3, 2007, 7:31 AM   #6
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Acting on suggestions from other threads in this forum, I also tried to get emotion shots on the sideline. This was the player who scored the winning two-point conversion.
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Old Sep 4, 2007, 1:04 PM   #7
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Trojan,

I think these are definitely a step in the right direction. You're definitely doing a better job vis-a-vis not cropping so much. Now, the aperture value is not showing up in any of the photos (they all show as zero) so I can't see what you used. But, you were shooting at -1 EC and still had abismal shutter speeds. So you're really shooting in some horrible conditions. Shooting at -1 EC is really hurting your photos. I understand why you did it but by the time you get rid of noise you wash away a lot of the details.

Shot #1 - I'm guessing motion blur is the problem with this one - both #4 and #75 are in decent focus but 14 isn't - and he's the story. Right now the affect is that #75 draws my eyes because he's in better focus and because of he's facing you.

Shot #2 - backfocused

Of all the shots, #3 has the most detail left in it. The only problem there is - the emphasis is on the wrong player. #17 is nice and sharp but isn't really the story. The story is the runner and the player on the ground and in that horrible lighting you had no chance of getting a proper exposure.

on kicker shots - you're right, these can be tough because people get in the way. In general the holder doesn't really provide any interesting subject matter for these types of shots so the question is - do you want the kicker or the block attempt to be the subject. If it's the block attempt you want to be behind the kicker. If it's the kicker you want to be right at the side or in front of the kicker on the open side of the holder. Timing is the key on either. On kicker shots you want to be as close as possible to the ball strike - on contact or slightly after- as long as the ball is still in the frame. In general there isn't a whole lot interesting about field goal or PAT shots of the kicker - if you get one of him all year just as or just after he makes contact it will essentially look like 50 other similar shots.

I think the best approach at this point - given the very poor lighting and lack of options for lenses of the appropriate focal length/aperture is a good external flash. I think that's the best / quickest route to get usable shots in this horrid lighting. Again, I think you're doing as good as you can given the limitations you're forced to work with. The best thing is - you are finding out ways to work within the limits of your gear rather than trying to do something that just isn't possible to do. You've got good instincts but the challenge is too tough for the environment you're in with the gear you have. I'm not all that familiar with Pentax flash offerings, but I'm sure someone in the Pentax forum could help you out. But that's the only way you're going to get decently exposed images with any detail remaining.If it's any consolation, most serious pros use flash for varsity football (although they also have 2.8 lenses so they aren't relying on it for all the exposure but more so from a fill perspective). And most use a flash capable of an external battery pack for more juice and quicker recycling. And, the recommended approach is to have the flash mounted BELOW the camera - so they'll rig up a way to mount the flash on the monopod (so flash is illuminating UP at the subject and gets in better under the helmet) - but if mounting on top it's better to use a bracket so you reduce red-eye (actually monster eye for football - yellow or white blow-outs of the eyes - often impossible to correct in PP when you get it). Unfortunately my flash can't use a battery pack and I hate taking flash shots for sports - w/o the battery pack I'm limited to just 1 shot. I did a few games last year with a flash but I'm hoping to really only use it on the goal line this season now that I have ISO 6400. We'll see.


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Old Sep 4, 2007, 7:35 PM   #8
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John,

Thank you for taking the time for such a detailed critique. I can't find any room for disagreement on anything you said.

I'm hoping that will be the only time I'll see lighting that bad. I knew I was in trouble when I was able to easily count the number of light bulbs, lol. I know the lighting will be much better in our stadium, even if I have to let an assistant do the shooting. Looking forward to what he can do.

I was using a Takumar 135mm f2.8 manual focus prime. Since it was not an "A" model, it didn't return f-stop values to the EXIF, but I had it wide open all night, giving me very shallow DOF. I used center point focusing, but the focus was often "best guess" as plays were developing.

I recently bought an external flash, but had to return it because it was defective. When I get a replacement, I'll see what I can do with it.
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