Focusing - High Speed, Low Light Conditions (Sports)

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Saddlebreds4me, May 16, 2009.

  1. Saddlebreds4me

    Saddlebreds4me TPF Noob!

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    I've got a question as it pertains to focusing when you are in a lower light (or really bad artificial lighting) and fast action - in my world I'm referring to horses in motion, but it really could apply to any sport especially an indoor sport.

    I need more 'predictability' with my ability to focus quickly. It seems like I can get a few in a row and then they get too soft. Also keep in mind (and I know I've been urged to try a small flash and I do have two speedlights) but my preference is to stay away from any kind of flash. I believe I now have my ISO settings somewhat under control - but this 'just out of focus' or 'soft focus' thing is driving me nuts. (Please don't tell me a flash is needed, please don't tell me a flash is needed...lol)

    My equipment: Nikon D700
    Nikkor f/2.8 24-70
    Nikkor f/2.8 80-200

    I do have my camera on auto focus and at horse shows I shoot in "Manual" mode - and try to keep my shutter speed around 320 - and no lower than 250. My aperture setting usually stays at 2.8 - maybe gets to 3.2 but that's about it.

    Can anyone give some advice? Should I not be shooting on auto focus? Thanks in advance for any information.
     
  2. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    When shooting action, try this:

    Continuous focus

    a1: focus + release
    so that the camera will keep reacquiring focus.
    a3: 21 point just to give you headroom
    a4: off(as long as you have the newest firmware, which you should anyway)
    a5: AF-ON only (and when shooting, keep this pressed down, using teh shutter only as a release. When the shutter does AF too, there's a delay between shots)
    a7: on just to keep things simple
    a8: AF11 again, keep it smile, and faster to go from one side to another.

    Shoot on Single shot, if you need to shoot fast, make your finger move fast, and get your timing better, don't just flail away at 5 or 8 fps, that's usually a recipe for disaster when the subject is moving towards you.

    Using those settings, i've been able to get consistently great results shooting running events in much more close quarters then gaming, and have very few shots that are completely out of focus, and when they are, they're pretty much always my fault.
     
  3. Saddlebreds4me

    Saddlebreds4me TPF Noob!

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    Wow - thanks so much! I am going to try your suggestions today!

    I was playing with my AF-On Only button last night but I really need to be in the actual situation to see if it was working. But thank you very much!

    If I can master what you are telling me, I will post some results.

    Thanks again!
     
  4. Saddlebreds4me

    Saddlebreds4me TPF Noob!

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    Here's what I got with your wonderful suggestions! And the lighting again well, was a bit of a challenge...but I'm pretty happy so THANKS! :) I realize my WB is slightly off but I was really focusing (pun intended) on the focusing. I see what you mean by setting it on single shot - I tried both and the single shot looked much better to me. Will these settings change when I use my 24-70 lens? This horse was MOVING! I do like the way he had one eye on me the whole time :)

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Saddlebreds4me

    Saddlebreds4me TPF Noob!

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    And I shot a couple of head shots that even to me seemed better...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Please ignore the red truck in the background of number 3 - This horse, who is a gelding, looked like a stallion for me today posing for his photos. I loved the look in his eye so I snapped it not really thinking about it.

    I think my focus here even looks sharper with the changes in my shooting menu.

    Thanks again!
     
  6. ottor

    ottor No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Nice pics !! Think you've got it!! Beautiful animal, but ... .what crime did he commit??? He's got Leg-Irons on... I used to slap those on some ruffians when I was in the MP's.. :mrgreen::mrgreen::mrgreen:
     
  7. Saddlebreds4me

    Saddlebreds4me TPF Noob!

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    I knew that might come up...LOL - the "leg irons" you are talking about are just leather cuffs that have a piece of surgical tubing which, when the horse trots, the surgical tubing acts like a resistance band and opens up the use of the horse's shoulder - and develops it as well. :)

    Thanks for the compliments!! I'm really excited and can't thank Sw1tchFX enough for the help!
     
  8. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Don't forget that to Auto Focus the camera AF sensors need some contrast. If your subject and the background are both dark there is llittle contrast and the camera will have difficult auto focusing.

    Check out this tutorial.
     
  9. Saddlebreds4me

    Saddlebreds4me TPF Noob!

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    Good point thank you! I'm going to the tutorial now.

    This might be a dumb question, but if you don't have a major contrast difference, can you create it?

    For example - the grey horse I shot, kind of blends in with the blue background and off white arena walls - is that enough? or would I have been sharper with more of a contrast? It sounds like I would have...although I'm not totally unhappy with what I got for my first time out with the new settings.
     
  10. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    You can move to have a better background but you can't create it in camera.
    A better understanding of how the camera works makes it a more useful tool for you.
     
  11. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    Your welcome, and no, these settings can stay the same with the 24-70, and you'll have much faster AF with that then the 80-200.

    Also, for sharp shots, don't worry about shooting ISO 6400. When printed 8x12, ISO 6400 looks great.
     
  12. gsgary

    gsgary Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Do Nikon make an equivalent to Canons STE2 ? because that can be used to autofocus in difficult situations
     

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