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Old Dec 10, 2007, 5:39 PM   #1
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Good day,

I am taking photos of fastpitch softball with a D30 and, primarily, a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8. Occassionally with a 1.4 extender.

From a practical point of only having 2 hands and 91 picoseconds (slight exaggeration) to have everything set, what is your typical camera set-up for typical semi-sunny day? Read: if I have to adjust one thing, and "all auto" doesn't cut it, what should I be diddling ? If I miss a photo it is usually due to blur/out of focus. Rather than rely on autofocus, which seems tenuous, it appears that using aperture priority, setting ISO to 800 and only diddling focus manually is likely the best way to avoid blur.

The autofocus does not seem accurate or fast enough, even when I have correctly predicted the action location and half-load the shutter. Sometimes gets it, sometimes doesn't. I am less worried about graininess that focus.

It appears when I see pro's on the sidelines of football games they have one hand on the shutter and the other on the focus ring, implying manual focus.Or... I have missed something (again).

As noted, newbie. Any hints appreciated.

Thanks !!!
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Old Dec 11, 2007, 10:48 AM   #2
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its gotta be manual focus as auto could pic up on another player of background resulting in blur

what i would do is to not use aperture priority but shutter priority instead for as high as condtions allow, this will allways give u the action stopping shot, aperture priority could lead to shutter been just too slow

Gary
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Old Dec 11, 2007, 11:15 AM   #3
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thanks, Gary !
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Old Dec 11, 2007, 12:07 PM   #4
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Reanimator wrote:
Quote:
its gotta be manual focus as auto could pic up on another player of background resulting in blur

what i would do is to not use aperture priority but shutter priority instead for as high as condtions allow, this will allways give u the action stopping shot, aperture priority could lead to shutter been just too slow

Gary
As a sports shooter I have to strongly disagree.

1. Pro sports shooters are NOT manually focusing 95% of their shots. What you'll see is a hand ON THE LENS to stabalize it - remember pros also work with zoom lenses - it's only natural to stabilize the lens by having your hand on top of it.

As for AF "picking up another player" that's precisely why sports shooters will select a single focus point to use rather than multiple points. But, for a sports like Softball it isn't much of an issue. Softball and baseball aren't like soccer or football where the frame is cluttered with multiple players. 95% of all softball shotts are going to have 1 or 2 subjects. So, the answer to a cluttered field isn't using manual focus it's using single focus point, filling the frame with your subject and proper focus techniques.

The AF systems in modern Canon & Nikon DSLRs are absolutely up to the challenge of sports photography and will yield MUCH better results than manual focus will. Now, having said that - the D30 is a 7 year old DSLR (or did you mean the 30d and not d30?). I can't speak to how good the AF system was in that camera. But, I would ask: Are you filling the frame (frame should be filled at least 2/3 with yor subject in PORTRAIT orientation if a single player - if shooting landscape the subject should fill entire frame)? Are you using single focus point? Is the camera in AI-Servo mode? (I'm not sure on the D30 if this is selectable or not - I know on the 300d it was NOT and the only way to get it was to use sports mode)?

Now, as far as what exposure mode - I'm going to disagree again. TV is a very poor mode for stop action photography. It's use for sports shooting is primarily when you want to LIMIT the shutter speed to show some blur. TV mode can easily lead to an underexposed shot because you set the value too high and the camera needs a brighter exposure and the aperture is maxed out. If lighting is consistent then manual exposure is the best way to go - it guarantees your shot doesn't get ruined by the camera's metering getting fooled by sunlight glaring off a white jersey and such.

Here is my recommendation for shooting softball:

  • Set exposure FOR FACES not uniforms. Note if there's sun the exposure is likely different if you're shooting a player in the field w/o a hat vs. a batter/runner with helmet. Difference may be 2/3 to full stop.[/*]
  • I prefer manual exposure. If you're not comfortable with that then use AV mode. Adjust Exposure Compensation (EC) to get exposures right for faces. [/*]
  • If not using Manual exposure then use partial metering so the center of the frame drives the metering - not evaluative.[/*]
  • Make adjustments for your position relative to the sun. The angle of the sun can absolutely affect your exposure and how you want to compensate - there's a difference between front lit, side lit and back lit subjects.[/*]
  • Select single focus point[/*]
  • Turn on AI-Servo
[/*]
If you meant 30d (and not d30):
  • Buy a grip - a majority of sports shots are better framed with portrait rather than landscape orientation.[/*]
  • Use custom function 4-3 to switch focusing to back button. This is extremely beneficial for sports like baseball and softball where you can pre focus on a bag or batter using the back button and release focus. Shutter button then just fires the shutter without re-focusing. This is great for plays at a bag - you focus on the bag then reframe the shot so both players will be in the frame and snap the shutter at the right time. You don't have to worry about keeping your focus point on one of the players and the framing getting screwed up.
[/*]
Please clarify which camera you're talking about - the D30 (circa 2000) or the 30D (2006). The 30d's AF system is more than capable of dealing with softball. I shot for years with it's predecessor the 20D.

Also, I would encourage you to post shots in the sports forum - other sports shooters can then give you some hints and tips for how to get better results. I can't emphasize this enough. Sports shooting is TOUGH and takes a lot of knowledge and skill on tthe part of the shooter. Being able to learn from others that have 'been there and done that' will accelerate your learning curve 500%
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Old Dec 11, 2007, 3:52 PM   #5
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Thank you for the extensive response. As you suspected, it is a 30D, not a D30. I use a monopole for reasonable stability.Unfortunately with softball, getting close to the action is often difficult. Most of the time I am using, by necessity,a 70-200mm 2.8 from 150-180 feet.

I will need to try your suggestions and see how this turns out. Most of the time it seems the best potential action is at an unpredictable location. If I am on the 3rd base line taking a picture of the batter and the runner on firstgoes, I have about 1.50-1.75 seconds to turn to the action, frame, focus and shoot the play at 2nd base. Often... for better or worse.

Thanks for the inputs. Any other suggestions heartily welcomed.

enjoy
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Old Dec 11, 2007, 3:59 PM   #6
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I agree with John. Also use the largest memory cards you can and fully charged battwery so you don't run out of space just as trhat key play happens. Also I like to recommend with sports that you shoot as much as you can and delete the bads ones after the game is over. I haver gotten many baseball shots from just the luck of over shooting and get something in the dug out or the stands or in the outfield i didn't see coming.

I usually use a 4GB card for each baseball game I have shot filling it up 3/4 of the way shoot at 5MP fine mode on a Fuji S-9100.

dave
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Old Dec 11, 2007, 4:10 PM   #7
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OK, a couple different points of advice

Altos wrote:
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Most of the time I am using, by necessity,a 70-200mm 2.8 from 150-180 feet.
This is your first major problem. A 200mm lens is accurate to about 25 yards (75 feet). You are way, way too far away to get the action with only 200mm. If you don't have access to shoot from the field or dugout, you need to be right up on the fence. At the least, you should get a TC. But from those distances it won't help much. This is probably the single most common mistake new sports shooters make - shooting action that's too far away. If you want good results you have3 options:

1. Get longer lens

2. Get closer

3. Restrict your shots to action within 75 feet of your position.

You don't have to like it, but unfortunately that's the reality of sports shooting.

Quote:
If I am on the 3rd base line taking a picture of the batter and the runner on firstgoes, I have about 1.50-1.75 seconds to turn to the action, frame, focus and shoot the play at 2nd base. Often... for better or worse.
Ok, here's where you're running into the next mistake new sports shooters make - reacting to action. The reality is, if you want quality shots you need to plan those shots out. That means, if you want shots of people stealing you need to plan for that - and not cover the batter. The unfortunate side affect is - you miss some shots because the runner doesn't steal. But, by trying to react so much you're missing shots anyway. And, the other reality is - shots of the batter are like shooting fish in a barrel. You don't need a shot of the same batter every time they come to the plate. And it's unlikely that everytime they come to the plate there will be runners on base. So, get shots of the batter at the plate when there are no runners you want to photograph. Otherwise, get shots of the players running or stealing. Shots of batters and pitchers are "filler" shots. They're always there for the taking - so take them when there is nothing more interesting going on.

Now, with more practice you will be able to react better. But you'll still get better shots by PLANNING the shot rather than reacting to it. When you do that, you'll be able to capture that play at second base. And if you're using the right lens for the job (i.e. the one with appropriate reach given your shooting position) those shots will be sharp and in focus.






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