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Old Nov 5, 2008, 7:13 PM   #1
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some of the bigger boys playing football:

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Old Nov 5, 2008, 9:45 PM   #2
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Well done, John. Care to share your equipment/technique?
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Old Nov 5, 2008, 11:43 PM   #3
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Lovely job in both cases. The stop action is superb. As Walter noted a few would like to know what you used and and how you did it.

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Old Nov 6, 2008, 5:01 AM   #4
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Thanks Walter and Selvin. I go back and forth for nighttime football between using flash and not. These shots were done with flash. Both have pros/cons.

ambient pros: more natural, full burst rate is available, less equipment

ambient cons: high ISOs (3200,6400) and resultant noise, shadows inside helmets, dull colors

flash pros: reduces shadows inside helmet, you can shoot at lower ISOs drastically reducing noise, colors pop more, can use narrower apertures

flash cons: a different "look", more equipment, flash recycle times reduce bursts, need powerful flash

Specific equipment was Canon 1dmkIII, Sigma 120-300 2.8, Canon 580exII flash with external battery pack and off-shoe cord.

The idea is to mount the flash on the monopod BELOW the lens. Two benefits to this: 1) Pretty much eliminates red-eye and 2) since the flash is lower it does a better job of getting inside the helmet.

Now, for settings. The key to using a flash for football is to overpower ambient light with the flash. You do this by using manual exposure on the camera and making sure it's at least 2 stops below the ambient exposure (so if you didn't use the flash the picture would be very dark). When you get to 2 stops you will stop seeing motion blur / ghosting. The flash and NOT shutter speed is freezing the motion. By 3-stops below ambient ghosting should be gone. AND, since good sports shooting involves subject isolation (i.e. subject in focus, background out of focus) you achieve the isolation not by wide apertures but by light fall-off. So you can shoot atnarrower apertures. The down side to going to 3 stops is it requires a lot of flash power. The more flash power used the less shots in a burst. Once you get over 1/2 power you only get a single good shot.

Normally, proper exposure for that field is ISO 3200, f2.8 and 1/400. For the flash shots I used ISO 800-1000, f4.0 (to get better sharpness) and 1/300 (my flash synch speed).

Two common mistakes when using flash for football:

1. Leaving the flash mounted on the camera - almost certainly results in red-eye or monster-eye (glowing yellow/green). A pain to clean up in post processing.

2. Trying to use the flash for 'fill' rather than to stop the action and continuing to use high ISO. Staying with high ISOs you still get all the noise. Plus now you get the flash 'look' (and red-eye if mounted on camera) - so you get all the negatives of both approaches.

Now - I'll still say this. At least in Canon's system if you are in ai-servo focus (continuous focus) the camera doesn't use a focus assist beam. So, you still want a 2.8 lens so you're letting in enough light to focus with. Using this technique with a 5.6 lens you'll have focus issues trying to use ai-servo. You'd have to use one-shot which is doable but you're REALLY limiting yourself then as that's a very slow method in low light action.

As a contrast, here's a shot without flash:

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Old Nov 7, 2008, 6:06 PM   #5
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Thank you John,
You just gave quite a crash course in sport photography!
I hope I can put it to use one day.

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Old Nov 7, 2008, 6:16 PM   #6
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GW - glad to share. Sports photography is very rewarding. But it's tough. I got better at it by finding other sports shooters willing to share - regardless of the system they shoot with. Each sport has it's challenges though. If you ever plan on shooting a particular sport please stop by the sports forum here. Lots of helpful people there willing to share their experience.
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