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Old Feb 26, 2006, 1:41 PM   #1
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I am trying to improve my action shots of night football games in stadiums that are not well lit with my 300D rebel, a canon 70-210 f4 zoom lens and an EX550 Speedlite. I am on the sidelines and I try to shoot when subjects are hopefully within range of my flash. I have been typically shooting at 1/200 in shutter priority mode with ISO of 1600..
As I understand things, shooting in shutter priority mode using the external flash, the camera works to properly expose the background (in which I am not typically interested). If the maximum aperture value of the camera flashes with a shutter speed of 1/200 (max synch speed of the Rebel) and I take the shot anyway, the background comes out dark, as expected. That's OK since less background clutter is a good thing in this situation but in general the subject is not adequately exposed just because there simply isn't enough light on the subject. Focus may be off also due to the poor light. I really need a faster lens like the 70-200 f2.8 or the 3200 ISO of the 20 D or both.
Since I shoot mostly sports action shots I am in the habit of generally choosing fast shutter speeds. It only recently occurred to me that perhaps I could improve things in this situation-given the equipment I currently have--if I used slower shutter speeds, maybe 1/60 or so, to allow more light on the subject and allow the flash's millisecond illumination to stop the action. I have not tried this yet so I can't confirm that it would be effective. Does anyone think this is a viable option or am I completely missing something?

I have also tried using my flash in the FP (hi-synch) mode without much success. If I go much higher than 1/200 there is even less light on the subject. I assume this is because the flash output is reduced in this mode.

I would appreciate any advice that might be offered to make the best use of the equipment I have in this marginal light situation. I expect to buy the 70-200 f2.8 lens before too long and could use some assurance that it would in fact improve things markedly.

Thanks in advance for any help.
Jerry Norton
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Old Feb 26, 2006, 2:07 PM   #2
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I use the 20D with the Canon 70-200 2.8 USM lens with a 580EX flash to cover high school sports for a Studio providing yearbook coverage. I have since bought myself the same setup with my flash unit coming in April. With the increased range of the 580 flash we get excellant results. We cover football,soccer,baseball,softball,basketball,tenni s,volleyball, and wrestling.You will seea remarkable improvement with the 2.8 lens especially for situations where you can use a flash. We will shoot at 200 to 250 in shutter priority as you mentioned and depending on the field at 800 or 1600 ISO.About 160 is as low as you want to go with the shutter speed and at that you will find some issues with blurr.

From what I understand you will get quality results from the Sigma counterpart as well on the lens.

Good luck!
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Old Feb 26, 2006, 2:48 PM   #3
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Thanks Tirque
I'm glad to hear that things will get better with newer equipment.

I guess I'm a little surprised that the flash isn't short enough in duration to avoid blurring at shutter speeds less than 1/160.

Thanks again
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Old Feb 26, 2006, 11:12 PM   #4
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To some extent you will stop most of the action at 160 depending on the light level of the stadium or the speed of the sport. For instance, I noticed in soccer that you may get the person stopped but not the ball or vice versa. There are a couple of different factors that can affect it.In addition some of the other members have discussed using a 1.8 85mm prime lens to shoot indoor basketball. Of course a fixed lens limits your focal lenght but it sure lets in a lot of light if you can't use a flash.

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Old Feb 27, 2006, 3:32 AM   #5
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One trick you might try is to use the "panning method" when shooting football. Basically you are panning to camera in a horizontal plane in sync with a runner. Obviously this works better when shooting streaking wide receivers from the sidlines.

If you pan correctly focusing only on the runner, it will capture a sense of speed with a very blurred background. Most people use this technique with race cars, and other speed type shots. But you can try it with football too. You will also be able to use a slower shutter speed (and thus allow more light). Try it some time.
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Old Feb 27, 2006, 8:37 AM   #6
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coachjerry wrote:
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I guess I'm a little surprised that the flash isn't short enough in duration to avoid blurring at shutter speeds less than 1/160.
-> This is because of the ambient light and not the flash!

There's not much power difference between the 580 and the 550EX... The GN is almost the same, if you use smaller aperture to screen out ambient, the flash alone would freeze your actions


Your problem is mostly due to P, Av, and Tv - use the camera on MANUAL for automatic flash otherwise it's just a fill!!!
i.e. the -2...-1...v...+1...+2 EV scale in the viewfinder should be all the way to the left... :idea:
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Old Feb 27, 2006, 9:49 AM   #7
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NHL wrote:
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Your problem is mostly due to P, Av, and Tv - use the camera on MANUAL for automatic flash otherwise it's just a fill!!!
i.e. the -2...-1...v...+1...+2 EV scale in the viewfinder should be all the way to the left... :idea:
Why it is in Fill-Flash when camera is in P mode? In Av/Tv mode yes but not in P mode.


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Old Feb 27, 2006, 9:58 AM   #8
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bobbyz wrote:
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Why it is in Fill-Flash when camera is in P mode? In Av/Tv mode yes but not in P mode.
In P mode the camera still tries to expose for ambient light first
-> flash is secondary even if one tries to shift - the EV value remains the same but moves along the aperture (or shutter)...

In manual you force the camera to under-expose and the light comes only principally from the flash (automatically) which will then freeze the movements - Try it!
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Old Feb 27, 2006, 10:14 AM   #9
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I believe NHL is correct-In the P mode,If the ambient is bright then the camera uses it as a fill flash- if the ambient light is low, then the camera ssumes you want to illuminate the subject with the flash-if I understand things correctly.
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Old Feb 27, 2006, 10:22 AM   #10
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Thanks NHL
I guess out of habit I've used only the shutter priority. What you are saying makes sense. I will try using the M mode.

Re: Panning--I tied panning with occasional sucess. It is quite difficult to do on "spur of the moment" action shots where just framing the shot is a challenge.
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