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Old Oct 14, 2009, 9:44 AM   #1
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Default Taking pictures of hockey games

My husband bought me the Canon EOS 40D camera and I have no idea how to use it yet. It's mainly for taking pictures of our kids sporting events and I need some help on what type of settings I should use when taking pictures of hockey games. Is it possible to change the ISO when the camera is in sports mode?
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Old Oct 14, 2009, 10:36 AM   #2
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On the 40d I do not believe it's possible to change ISO in sports mode. I believe it stays at ISO 400. But the easiest way to verify is to try.

I'll also say that the camera is only 1/2 the equation for shooting something like hockey. You're going to need an appropriate lens - namely a lens with a max aperture of f2.8 or better (which is NOT the kit lens). What lenses do you have for the camera? If it's just the kit lens you're going to need to invest more $$ if you want to get decent hockey photos. Something in the neighborhood of a 70-200 2.8 ($1200 Canon non-IS version, $850 Sigma EX version). Of course, depending on the light in your arena you may need to shoot at ISO 3200 to get good shutter speeds at f2.8.

I hate to break it to you, but low light sports is a bit more complicated/difficult than taking the basic camera with kit lens and putting it in sports mode. We can help you out. But if you don't already have them, you're going to need the right lens(es) and you're going to have to learn some advanced techniques (shooting manual exposure, setting custom white balance) in addition to shooting techniques. It's NOT a point-and-shoot type of thing. Definitely more challenging than shooting U4 soccer on a bright day.
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Old Oct 14, 2009, 11:42 AM   #3
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I have been told that hockey is probably not one of the best sports to photograph because of the lighting but I have taken some pictures and some have been pretty good after editing them but of course would like to know exactly what I am doing.

I also have another lens that I use for sports. What type of advanced techniques (shooting manual exposure, setting custom white balance) would you recommend?
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Old Oct 14, 2009, 12:07 PM   #4
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Let's go back to - what lenses do you have available to use for hockey?

Second - if you could post one of your favorite hockey shots, that would be helpful. It's much easier to give advice when dealing with specific issues that exist with your current shots. Everyone is different. So it's easier to start with how to improve the areas you specifically are having difficulty with. And that's easiest to determine by viewing your photos. That way I can see where there are framing issues, shutter speed issues, exposure issues, white balance issues, focus issues, etc....
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Old Oct 14, 2009, 1:41 PM   #5
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The lens is the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS

Attached is one of my favorites Name:  232323232%7Ffp53692%3Enu%3D3259%3E4%3C8%3E3%3A%3A%3EWSNRCG%3D32397%3B44%3B%3A764nu0mrj[1].jpg
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Old Oct 14, 2009, 2:05 PM   #6
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OK, this is a nice starting point. THere are some positive things going on here and some things that could use improvement.
First, you've got some action in here - that's good.
Second -it's reasonably closely framed.
Third the focus appears to be OK.

Here are some things that can be improved:
1) Easiest - level of the image - it appears crooked. This is common - use horizontal queues in the back of the image to correct this in post processing. Eventually you want to start using those queues to correct the framing IN CAMERA and not take crooked shots in the first place.
2) Although this is reasonably tight it should be a lot tighter. There are only 2 players of much interest here - the trailing players really don't add to the shot - so tighter framing on the two that are of interest.
3) This is the big problem The shot is very much underexposed. You want faces of the players to be exposed properly. This shot is about 2 stops underexposed. This happens with a lot of white in the frame. The camera gets reflection off the ice and wants to expose that ice as 'grey' and not white. I usually prefer to show my own shots to illustrate points but I don't shoot hockey. Here's a link to another forum where there's another photog who DOES. Now, it's unrealistic to expect you to get the same quality Tim gets. BUT I show this link so you can see what I mean about exposing faces properly.
http://www.dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=146711

Now, here's the problem. To get the exposure correct you only have 2 options - raise the ISO or reduce shutter speed. Your shutter speed is already at the minimum amount to reduce motion blur and even then there's more blur than you'd really like. You can raise the ISO but it's probably still not going to be enough. The issue you've got then is the aperture of that lens - 5.6. It doesn't let enough light in to get good shots of action.
So you're limited there. But here's what you can do to get the maximum out of your current gear (your manual will tell you how to perform these settings):
1) Take camera out of Sports mode and put it on Manual exposure
2) Turn focus mode on to AI-Servo
3) Use the focus point selection wheel to select center focus point only
4) Set aperture to f5.6, shutter speed to 1/250 and ISO to 3200.
5) Take some test shots during warmups - nice and tight of torsos. How do the faces look on the LCD? They should look bright - just like in the photos in that thread I linked. If they're TOO bright then increase shutter speed to 1/320. IF they're too dark then reduce shutter to 1/200. Repeat this step until faces look natural. You now have exposure set.

Remember now - you're only going to be using the center focus point - so you have to keep that center point on your subject. The other points won't help you. We're doing that because the center focus point is more accurate AND because we don't want the camera to switch focus from the player you're following to another player.
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Old Oct 14, 2009, 2:29 PM   #7
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I will be sure to try it out this weekend. I appreciate all your help, thanks!
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 10:58 AM   #8
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Ok JohnG, here's one of the pictures I took with the setting you suggested but was not sure what to use for White Balance so used awb. What adjustments do you think I should make?
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Old Oct 19, 2009, 11:03 AM   #9
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Actually, the white balance looks very good as-is. Auto does a pretty good job. You COULD use the ice itsself to set a custom white balance - the manual will tell you how to set a custom WB in your camera. But if all your shots came out with colors like this I would just leave it in Auto White Bal.

With this photo - if you have not already done so I would suggest applying Unsharp Mask (USM) in photo editing software. That will get the image to pop a bit more. Otherwise it's looking good.
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