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RP33 Oct 30, 2006 8:29 PM

This may be posted in the wrong place but Ithought this group would have the best input.

I just purchased a 24-70 f2.8. to use for basketball this winter. Any suggestions on setup. Av, Tv, or Manual?

In just playing around with the lens I noticed that I will need to get the subject as close as possible to maintain focus. Is this a problem anyone else has run into with a f2.8 lens or is it just this lens. I want a sharp picture.


JohnG Oct 31, 2006 7:53 AM

Not sure what you mean by 'as close as possible to maintain focus'. The problem with any lens is that focus becomes less accurate as you get closer to infinity for that lens. It just shows up more with wider apertures because DOF is so narrow.

But, my question for you is: what type of venue are you going to be shooting at? In my experience, most HS gyms aren't lit well enough to get good results with a 2.8 lens - you end up either being underexposed, not having fast enough shutter or shooting at ISO 3200. Are you shooting for a college or just in an amazingly lit gym? You really should verify you can getproper shutter speeds and still get a proper exposure in your gym with a 2.8 lens (and see below - 'proper' exposure is often about +2/3 whatcanon will meter at).

In general I prefer to shoot in Manual mode if I can - whether you can or not depends on how consistant the lighting is at each end of the court. You'll want shutter speeds of 1/400 or better. You'll have to shoot wide open at 2.8 and likely at ISO 1600 or 3200 to get those shutter speeds. The critical factor is you need to have a good/ bright exposure - meaning your histogram is centered or pushed to the right. I find my 20d typically likes to underexpose by about 2/3 shot in low light - and by that I mean it doesn't really expose for faces it exposes for highlights - as a sports shooter we care more about the faces. If you get that exposure nailed in-camera you'll greatly reduce noise.

If your lighting is not consistant then I recommend shooting AV mode (again, wide open) with EC to get the exposure right. The problem with AV mode is when you get white jerseys they'll really screw up the metering and you'll end up with underexposed shots so be aware of that.

Shoot in AI-Servo mode with center focus point only. At first, target the chest of your subject - at 2.8 the chest and face should still be in the same focal plane and the chest is an easier target.

I suggest trying to set a custom WB. Set it and take some test shots from every spot you're going to shoot from. Check the results and make sure the lighting is consistant and you aren't getting different temperatures as the lights cycle. If you are getting different results, my advice is to shoot auto WB and switch to RAW. You'll have to correct WB individually in RAW conversion - not much else you can do.

I don't recommend TV mode at all for sports - I've found Manual produces the best results and Av is next in line.

RP33 Oct 31, 2006 3:30 PM

I will be in well lighted gym's most of the time. What do you use for setting the custom white balance. I have tried al-servo a lot and seem to get blurry pictures any advice on getting better results there.

JohnG Oct 31, 2006 3:51 PM

I use a grey card. You can use a grey or white that is neutral in nature. Plenty of people have offered advice about how they used a simple household object or paper for this purpose. For myself, I splurged and spent $7 at a local photo store and bought a grey card. The camera manual will explain how to set the WB using a grey/white card.

Getting in-focus shots at shallow DOF takes some practice and patience. There are several keys to success:

1. Your subject should fill at least 1/3 of frame - preferably half the frame. Having a larger subject ensures that it covers more of the focus point and it also alllows the camera to detect the contrast differences needed for accurate focusing.

2. Try to stay away from the infinity end of the focus for your lens - the closer you get to infinity on a lens the less accurate the focus will be.

3. The first shot in ai-servo is shutter priority meaning the shot will fire whether it's in focus or not. This means that you need to acquire your target and give it a 1/2 second to lock focus before firing. If you like, you can fire off a burst of shots - the 2nd shot will usually be better focused. But this is only a stop-gap solution. In the end, you really want to capture peak action. To do that, the 5fps or 3fps of most consumer DSLRs isn't going to capture it unless you time that first shot right. In the end, that needs to be the goal - timing that first shot. There are plenty of instances where a sequence is very beneficial though - someone taking off for a dunk - sequence is good here or a subject running - so you can pick the best looking stride. But you shouldn't have to rely on the burst to get a sharp photo - your first should be sharp the burst should just allow you to pick from 3-4 sharp photos.

4. Use your eye - again, you should be acquiring your target before you fire - use your eye to determine if you've got a good focus lock - if not, release focus button and try again. Sometimes moving the focus point around your subject a bit can help - the camera will suddenly find the contrast it needs to get better focus.

5. Use center point only.

6. depending on your subject you can try using single shot vs. ai-servo. It's been discussed in several threads that some people have better initial success with that method. The problem is, with sports shooting and the apertures and distances involved the subject can often move out of the DOF if you shoot a burst. So, this method isn't recommended for instances where subject is moving toward or away from you. So for bball - it would work well for jump shots but if you're at the baseline I wouldn't rely on it for someone driving the lane.

7. Focus problems can also be an issue with the gear you're using. Especially in low light. Slower focusing lenses will have more problems getting accurate and timely focus in low light. If you've been trying to shoot low light sports without a 2.8 lens with USM, HSM or similar this can certainly contribute to problems.

8. Practice, practice, practice. Sports shooting isn't as easy as people who don't do it would like to think. Having the right equipment is just a precondition to success. You can't succeed without the right equipment but it alone doesn't gaurantee success. Practicing your technique - learning to predict action and acquiring and tracking your subject prior to peak action occuring will greatly improve your success rate.

RP33 Oct 31, 2006 8:36 PM

I use the canon 20D so I should be able to practice a lot of the info you gave me thank you.

What about flash, any suggestions there. I have a Sunpak 383 and a stofen diffuser. Should I use the diffuser with sports and should I point it strait or up. The celling I think is too high for bounce. I wouldlike to stay away from flash but if I have to use it what would you suggest there?


JohnG Nov 1, 2006 7:28 AM

On flash - first you need to find out if it's allowed in the venue(s) you'll be at.

I'm not going to be able to help you much on flash work - I try to avoid it. It's why I prefer to use a prime lens for indoor stuff so I don't need a flash. I just don't like the shadow's it creates, the possibility for red-eye, the recycle times, synch-speed issues on Canon cameras, etc...

Again, I would also recommend you look at photos produced by people giving you recommendations on how to use flash for sports. One of the reasons I've staid away from it's use is I've found very few people who are able to produce natural looking sports shots using it.Most of the serious pros who require extra light willl use mounted strobes. I'm not that serious yet so I have no experience doing it.

So, the 10% or so of flash users that do a really good job must know something the rest of us don't. So my advice is: find one of those photogs or at least view multiple flash shots from someone giving you advice to see if their work is something you want to emulate.

Good luck!

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