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hockeymom02 May 5, 2011 3:28 PM

Hockey photography
I am learning how to shoot hockey games for my son. I take about 800 shots per game and only about 50 turn out with him being seen clearly in the photo. Either the frame is all blurry or it is just fine. What am I doing wrong?

I am using a Sony A-100 camera body and have two lenses that I use. I can post the specifics if that helps later.

Thank you!!!!!!!!!

JimC May 5, 2011 3:50 PM

I'd post a downsized sample or two including the EXIF information if you want members to see camera settings used (which is a good idea so we can help troubleshoot the problem(s), keeping it's longest side at around 800 pixels (but no larger than 1024 pixels).

When I use Windows, I sometimes use the free Irfanview for downsizing images (but, most image editors can resize if you're using something else). You'll just need to use one that retains the settings info in the EXIF.

With Irfanview,after you open an image (File>Open), select Image>Resize/Resample and make the longest side around 800 pixels (and it must not exceed 1024 pixels if you don't want the EXIF to be stripped out).

Leave the Preserve Aspect Ratio box checked. I use the Lanczos algorithm choice for resizing (you'll see a drop down list of choices) and then click OK to resize it.

Then use the "File>Save As" menu choice and give it a new filename (so you don't overwrite your original), selecting jpg as the file type.

I'd set the Quality slider you see come up at around 80% to keep the file size within limits. It will need to be no larger than 260,000 bytes (253.9KB) to prevent the forums software from modifying it, which will cause the EXIF to be stripped out; and make sure the box to "retain EXIF" is checked (you'll see that option on the box that pops up in Irfanview when you save an image using File>Save As).

Then, attach it to a forum post (use the paperclip icon you'll see in the toolbar when making a new post using the Advanced Edit mode) and we can tell things like your focal length, aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed, etc.

Chances are, your shutter speeds are too slow to freeze movement and you're seeing motion blur. You'll need to use high ISO speeds (which will increase noise levels), combined with a bright lens (lower available f/stop numbers) in order to keep shutter speeds fast enough to freeze movement with a properly exposed image when shooting indoors (and when shooting hockey, the ice can fool the metering, meaning you may need to make some settings changes so that the players are not too dark).

Not using an AF mode that tracks your subject (for example AF-C for Continuous Autofocus with your A100) could also be a contributing factor. But, I suspect your biggest issue is blur from subject movement because your settings and lens being used are not allowing fast enough shutter speeds. We'll be able to tell more about what is going wrong when seeing samples that include the EXIF info.

hockeymom02 May 5, 2011 5:30 PM

Hockey Photos
1 Attachment(s)
I need help with learning how to photograph hockey games. I take about 800 photos per game and only about 30 turn out without blur. I don't understand much about the terminology and only use the automatic sports setting. Below is a photo for an example...
The photo's properties are f/6.3, 1/60sec., ISO-800, 0 step, 130mm, no flash, auto.

Thank you for any help that can be given.

JimC May 5, 2011 6:23 PM

I merged your last post with the existing thread on this subject, so that any answers would be in the same thread and not spread out between more than one thread on this subject.

Note that I can tell the forums software resized that image. So, it was larger than we allow for attached images. See my last post for more information on how to downsize an image for posting here so that the forums software doesn't recompress it and strip out the EXIF information (and that happened with the image you posted because it's size exceeded the maximum size allowed). An image must not be larger than 1024 pixels on it's longest side (and 800 pixels would be even better for posting), and it's file size must not be larger than 253.9KB.

Otherwise, the image will be recompressed (which degrades quality) and the EXIF is going to be stripped out of it so that information about the settings, lens, etc. will not be viewable by members. Make sure your JPEG Quality setting is such that the file size is not any larger than 253.9KB (check an image's properties before attaching it) and dimensions are no larger than 1024 on the longest side. You'll see the maximum allowed sizes when you attach an image here (the screen that pops up so you can browse for them on your hard drive gives you that info). We still allow you to attach them. But, expect degraded image quality with the EXIF stripped out if you exceed the allowed sizes.

As I suspected, you're seeing motion blur because your shutter speeds are too slow. As I also suspected, the image is underexposed (too dark) because the ice fooled the metering. I can't tell much about things like Autofocus mode, because the EXIF has been stripped out of the image and you didn't mention those settings. I also can't tell the lens being used (because again, the EXIF has been stripped out).

Here's the main issue... That lens is probably too dim for hockey, as I suspect that f/6.3 was the widest available aperture when zoomed in much (f/6.3 is a relatively common widest aperture with dimmer zoom lenses). You really need *much* faster shutter speeds to freeze rapidly moving subjects, which means you need a brighter lens, combined with higher ISO speeds.

Note that for better exposure (brighter images), shutter speeds would have been even slower (as you'd probably need to have used a +1 EV Setting with Exposure Compensation, but using manual exposure would be your best bet).

I don't shoot a lot of sports. So, hopefully some of our sports shooters will chime in with tips. But, here's the deal...

You're going to need a lens that has a wider available aperture setting (smaller f/stop numbers) for starters if the zooms you have are not any brighter than f./6.3 when zoomed in much.

You really want to target having shutter speeds up to 1/400 second or faster (and faster is better) for rapidly moving subjects indoors. In a zoom lens, that means using one with f/2.8 available throughout the focal range using higher ISO speeds. Even if you were using a lens with f/2.8 available like a Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 SSM (around $1700 now) or Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM (around $900 now) at ISO 800 (the setting the sports mode on that camera would use), your shutter speeds would still be too slow to freeze all movement.

You'd need to be at ISO 1600 with an f/2.8 lens just to get underexposed (too dark) images in that lighting like you have with that one without much blur, and you'd probably need to be at ISO 3200 to get properly exposed (brighter) images without much blur using a lens with f/2.8 available.

So, for best results, you're really going to need a new camera (with higher usable ISO speeds) and a new lens (one that is much brighter and able to maintain f/2.8 throughout the zoom range). There are some things you might be able to do to improve your percentage of keepers with dimmer lenses. For example, using ISO 1600 would give you faster shutter speeds.

But, given that you'll probably need to use a +1 EV Setting with Exposure Compensation with Aperture Priority Mode at ISO 1600 (or better yet, use manual exposure), you'd still only be at around 1/60 second (with a brighter exposure) if you used ISO 1600 at +1 EV Exposure Compensation if your lens only has f/6.3 available (that's very dim) when zoomed in much.

1/60 second is way too slow for freezing much movement. Panning with the action might improve your percentage of keepers, too (trying to keep your subjects so that they're "still" in the frame by moving with them). I don't want to discourage you. But, being realistic, the type of shooting you're trying to do is going to be very demanding on gear (and skill level needed).

So, you can expect a very small percentage of keepers without a pretty good budget shooting in that environment (for a brighter lens or lenses and a camera capable of good results at even higher ISO speeds than you're currently shooting at).

What lenses do you have now? Let's figure that part out for starters and go from there. Then, we'll need to figure out if you can be happy with a lower percentage of keepers, or if you want to invest in a camera system (body, lens) that is capable of better results (provided you practice using it).

BillDrew May 5, 2011 8:46 PM

No argument with anything Jim said.

Originally Posted by hockeymom02 (Post 1224068)
... I take about 800 shots per game and only about 50 turn out with him being seen clearly in the photo. ...

With your gear and experience, one out of 15 ain't bad. Keep trying, pay attention, and the odds will improve. Figure out what the common thread is in the 50 that turn out. Are they mostly standing still? Are they close? Far away? One moving figure in focus and others showing motion blur (you must have panned)?

JohnG May 6, 2011 6:57 AM

As Jim indicated, it's going to be tough if all you have available is an f6.3 capable lens. The shot posted is 1/60 and it is underexposed. Truth is - even with an f2.8 lens it will be tough with such an old camera to get quality shots. You really need to be shooting at ISO 3200 with a 2.8 lens - not something the a100 is going to do. You have to decide how important it is for you to get hockey pictures because both a body and lens upgrade is going to be required.

hockeymom02 May 6, 2011 7:20 AM

The two lenses I have are Sony SAL75300 75-300mm F4.5-5.6 and Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 AF APO DG OS.

JohnG May 6, 2011 7:26 AM

Unfortunately Neither lens is going to be capable of taking hockey action shots - especially not with the a100. Indoor sports is extremely demanding of equipment. Using an 85mm 1.8 at ISO 1600 would get you some shots but you'll still be limited by the focal length of 85mm. But that's the best you're going to be able to do without buying a more modern DSLR with good ISO 3200-6400 performance

hockeymom02 May 6, 2011 7:45 AM

Which systems do you recommend that could accomplish what I am trying to do?

JimC May 6, 2011 7:55 AM

In the Sony lineup, I'd look at the new A580. It's new 16MP CMOS Sensor is going to do much better at higher ISO speeds compared to the 10MP sensor in your A100.

IOW, you could use it at ISO 3200, allowing shutter speeds 4 times as fast for a given lighting and aperture compared to your ISO 800 setting (with visible noise levels for a given print/viewing size that's not far off compared to what you're seeing now at ISO 800).

Then, get something like a Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM lens to go with it for even better results (and at f/2.8, you'd get shutter speeds more than 4 times as fast as you'd see at f/6.3 for a given ISO speed and lighting).

$749.99 - Sony A580 body only (I'm assuming you'll use your existing lenses for most purposes other than hockey)

$949.99 - Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM II

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