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Old Sep 7, 2009, 3:11 PM   #1
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Default Night time football action shots

I have been taking night time action football pictures but in order to keep from having blurry pictures I have to use a flash most of the time. I have a Canon 20D camera with a 17-85mm lens. I also have the canon 300mm fixed lens but it is so heavy and it is not digital so everything is way too close. I get wonderful shots when the sun is out but once it is dark I am having problems. Thanks for any suggestions. Betlou
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Old Sep 7, 2009, 4:16 PM   #2
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Which 300mm lens do you have? Basically under the lights 300mm is the place to be but you do need the f2.8 option if it is the f4 then that's not going to be bright enough. You also need to shoot at ISO 3200.

Hopefully JohnG will jump in as he shoots football with flash sometimes so will have a better understanding, I always use available light.
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Old Sep 7, 2009, 7:28 PM   #3
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Default 300mm lens

I have the f2.8 300mm canon fixed lens but it is not digital so when I use my digital camera I have to stay down in the end zone or I am too close
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Old Sep 7, 2009, 7:41 PM   #4
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I think a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens would be ok for night football games and would work well for your granddaughter's cheerleading as well. But from the stands, 200mm won't be long enough to capture much of the action on the field.
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Old Sep 7, 2009, 8:45 PM   #5
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I know some that use Olympus DSLR with Oly F 2.8 90-250...which I believe converts to 180-500 mm.

This is American style football outside arena, with stadium lights.
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Old Sep 8, 2009, 8:17 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by betlou View Post
I have the f2.8 300mm canon fixed lens but it is not digital so when I use my digital camera I have to stay down in the end zone or I am too close
This caught my attention. My initial reaction is you're likely framing way too loosely. A standard football setup is 400mm on 1.3 crop sensor. So 300mm on 1.6 is perfect. Additionally, the 300mm 2.8 (if it's a canon lens and not third party) is one of the sharpest best focusing lenses available - even if it's the older non-IS version. So you really should be using it more. You should also consider shooting in portrait orientation rather than landscape. That will also help with your tightness issues. But you shouldn't be afraid of filling the frame entirely with your subject.

For what it's worth, 300mm is good for about 40 yards of coverage - so barely sideline to sideline. The only action too tight if you're on the sideline is action from close hash toward you. In reality that's also why most shooters with a long prime also use a second body with a 70-200 2.8.

The 17-85 is really pretty much a useless focal length - not nearly long enough. It's also going to be way too slow to focus. Now, an external flash (like 580exII) can help. BUT, you can't do focus assist in ai-servo focus. So you would have to shoot single shot. If you're using the Canon 300mm 2.8 (again - not a third party one) focus shouldn't be an issue. Using a powerful external flash will definitely help.

As TCAV pointed out, a 70-200 2.8 can be useful. But 200mm is short - good for about 25 yards of coverage. If I had to choose between using that lens or a 300mm 2.8 - it's no contest - the 300mm is the better choice. Sharper, better focus and more reach. For the size/weight - when you throw in a monopod, weight isn't much of a factor. And the monopod actually allows for mounting the flash UNDER the camera on the monopod itself.

So, time for some questions:
1) What external flash do you have?

2) Are you planning on buying a new lens or just shooting with what you currently have? If open to buying, what is your budget. If not, then forget the 17-85 it's fairly useless and just use the 300.
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Old Sep 8, 2009, 9:42 AM   #7
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Default action shots

Thanks for all you input. First, yes it is a Canon lens (not a third party) it is probably 10 years or so old. It does take wonderful sharp pictures and I do like the portrait framing, but once the sun goes down and the stadium lights come on then I can't get enough light. Someone suggested I set it at 3200 so I might try that. I am down on the field here in my hometown for local football pictures. My daughter takes the cheerleading pictures at ut and I am trying to help her find a better camera and lens. She does not have a lot of money to spend so we are open for all suggestions. I offered to let her take my 300mm lens but they are not allowed to have monopods and I don't think she could hold it up.....the crowd stands up the entire game :-)

Now on to the questions you asked, the flash I have is Canon Speedlite 420EX, and as I said the lens is a true Canon lens.

My problem also is when I have the 300 mm lens on its harder to move it and keep up with the action and keep it focused on what I want to take....oh I forgot to tell all of you I am an ole great-grandma, not a spring chicken so not as agile as I should be for handling such a heavy lens. By the time I catch up with the move and get it in focus its too late. Thats why I thought maybe a lighter weight lens would help me.

I really do appreciate all the input....Betlou
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Old Sep 8, 2009, 9:46 AM   #8
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Sorry I missed the last question. Yes I am shopping for a new lens, one that I can handle. I am on the sidelines at the games so I can get pretty close. My budget hmmmm depends I guess on what suggestions you have and how bad I think I need it. The tameron lens I thought was a good price and I can handle that so go from ther.
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Old Sep 8, 2009, 9:57 AM   #9
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Betlou,

OK. To clarify - are you using a monopod with the 300? If not, that will certainly help. If so, is the issue speed of panning/acquiring or when you physically have to move downfield as the line of scrimmage progresses?

I fully understand the issue with lighting. In general, in the HS stadiums I shoot in, when I shoot available light I'm shooting at f2.8, 1/400 and ISO 3200-6400. Now your 20d doesn't have 6400 (I shot several years of HS football with that body). I would definitely say flash is the way to go. But not with the 17-85 or any other light weight lens. You're still going to need a 70-200 2.8 type lens - either Canon's or Sigma's for the focus speed (forget Tamron's - it focuses too slow).

But there are several other issues you'll have to deal with:
1) You have to get the flash off the camera to get decent results. Which means either using a bracket or mounting it on a monopod (which is what I do). With the flash mounted on camera there are way too many 'monster eye' shots.

2) Given the above, that also makes your rig more cumbersome so it cuts down on your mobility. But, the monopod does help stability and helps reduce muscle fatigue.

3) Your 420 is woefully underpowered and slow to recharge so you're going to have issues there. If you're going to stick with that flash gun then I would switch out of burst mode and go to single shot.

4) you still need to decide on a lens solution. Everything is a compromise. You could stick with the 300 and simply not move as much. Set up a bit further down field and change your shot selection as the line moves toward your position, and eventually slightly past it. This requires a change in shooting style - rather than staying with the line and shooting anything that happens you're staying relatively stationary and just covering certain types of shots on a given play. Or you could buy a 70-200 2.8.

If you go the 70-200 2.8 route I might still recommend a monopod for fatigue issues as well as to mount the flash. The rig will still be cumbersome but lighter to physically move than the 300mm is.

Personally I use the sigma 120-300mm 2.8. I shoot both available light (on 1dmkIII) but also like to use the 580exII (more powerful and uses external battery pack so recharge is faster and don't have to change batteries as often).
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Old Sep 8, 2009, 10:11 AM   #10
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I do use a monopod and I use a bracket for my flash (no red eye)
How do you attach the flash to the monopod? I will look into the lens you suggested and the flash, thanks again, Betlou
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